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Germs are not for sharing

VIC award winner

Early STEM Award 2020 - VIC winner

Professor Lynn Corcoran Early Learning Centre (FROEBEL)

The germ research project emerged naturally during the COVID-19 pandemic and was an honest and accurate way to support children in making sense of their world and to minimise their anxiety or fear. Professor Lynn Corcoran Early Learning Centre is attached to a hospital, which may explain the children’s astounding prior knowledge of germs. Some children already knew that, “some germs are good, and some germs are bad”, “they make people sick”, “they live in the toilet”, and “they are having a party in our bodies”. Building on this, the children grew and observed germs in their lab and engaged in drama, visual art, music and literacy, which all helped to promote their understanding of current events.

Starting out with questions such as what germs look like, what they do, what they eat and whether they sleep, the children and educators decided to grow germs in three different conditions – washed hands, sanitized hands and unwashed hands – with the children taking the lead in setting up a lab and requesting specific equipment such as petri dishes, pipettes and goggles.

Every day the children observed how the germs were growing in the sealed petri-dishes. They compared and documented the speed, amount and types of germs that grew, multiplied and perished in the three conditions and concluded that they had documented the least organisms growing from sanitised hands. The parents and the wider community were very involved, donating equipment, resources and technical know-how and even arranging for the germs to be analysed in a top research lab.

Sharing ideas, not germs

The award panel was impressed with the systematic long-term approach, which actively integrated the children’s interests, skills and abilities. The thoughtful educators paused to understand children’s knowledge as a place to launch learning and continuously analysed and adjusted their own roles in this co-constructed learning environment. The project contributed to children’s deeper understanding of germs, gender stereotypes, inquiry skills, hygienic practices and emotional wellbeing and was concluded in a display showcasing the children’s innovative ideas and unique understanding of the pandemic.

We’re grateful to the inquisitive lab crew for sharing this inspiring project with us!

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