WHEN children at an outside school hours care centre in Bli Bli started saying they might die from coronavirus, director Isaac May decided to “change the script” on the pandemic with the help of glitter.
Mr May said older children from Good Samaritan College, located in the rural Sunshine Coast town of Bli Bli, were passing on fears to younger students about the highly contagious nature of COVID-19.
Those fears ended up at the college’s outside school hours care centre, open for students from Prep to Year 7, and operated by Catholic EarlyEd Care.
“The older kids were saying things like, ‘We’re all going to die’ – there was some pretty full on stuff,” Mr May said.
“It’s been spread like wild fire – the word ‘coronavirus’ – between the kids, so we wanted to jump ahead of that and change the script a little bit on it.”
To do that, the centre designed an kinaesthetic experiment using glitter to teach the children about the transmission of viruses in a “good visual way”.
The children were split up into four groups and given different coloured glitter on their hands, then were asked to shake hands with other students, resulting in a shimmering, glittery mess.
“Everyone had multi colour glitter hands, and when we asked what they meant to the group, one preppy piped up and said, ‘It’s germs’,” Mr May said.
“We talked about the transmission of germs and when you’ve got them on our hands and shake them on someone else’s hands, it’s transmitted by physical touch a lot of the time.”
When it was time to wash the mess off their small palms, the children noticed how difficult it was to remove all the glitter, providing a second opportunity to discuss the importance of handwashing.
“I think it was a really good visual way and a kinaesthetic way to show them what germs are, how they’re transmitted and how we can stop them from transmitting, and how it relates to current issues and try to get ahead of that negative narrative that’s going around with some of the kids that don’t fully understand it,” Mr May said.
Mr May said the glitter experiment had been timely because several days later, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced new social distancing measures, which included avoiding handshakes and keeping 1.5 metres away from another person, in an effort to protect vulnerable people especially the eldery from contracting coronavirus.
For child care educators like Mr May, it will be difficult to completely implement the social distancing strategies because they “can’t physically restrict a child from giving another child a high five”.
But he said the centre at least had proof that social distancing measures like avoiding handshakes worked in stopping the spread of germs.
“We’re never going to stop it altogether when you’re running a service with little people – they’re social butterflies, little people,” Mr May said.
“It’s difficult but we do our best to educate.”
While closures may be imminent for child care centres nationally if Australia is to be put in lockdown, Mr May said at this stage, working mums and dads had no other options but to rely on centres.
“We’ve seen research that children can be asymptomatic, so leaving then with elderly grandparents could be quite dangerous,” Mr May said.