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How Clean is the Scene?

Prep 10 minutes Activity 45 minutes
To have students conduct an experiment to determine germ hot spots throughout the classroom.
• How Clean is the Scene? Handout • Clean knife and fork • Soap
• Raw potatoes • Petri dishes or plastic baggies
Education Standards:
Health: 1.5.3 Describe ways in which safe and healthy school and community environments can promote
personal health.
3.5.1 Identify characteristics of valid health information, products, and services.
Science: A.1.b Plan and conduct a simple investigation.

Instructions in a relatively sterile environment. When completed, have

1. Have students read the How Clean is the Scene? handout and students wash their hands an additional time to remove the
identify the research question Harry, Ella, and Johnny want “collected” germs.
to answer. Brainstorm some ways they could use scientific 9. Set the sealed, labeled baggies or Petri dishes aside in a cool, dark
experimentation to test which “hot spots” in the classroom have area where they will not be disturbed.
the most germs. Remind students that germs aren’t visible and ask
for ideas of ways they can tell if significant numbers of germs are 10. Have students observe and record the changes to each potato
left behind after cleaning. sample after 3, 7, 10, and 14 days. Students should begin to see
growth of bacteria or fungi on some of the slices after 3 days. If
2. Explain to students that, though germs are too small to be visible the growth is slow, the experiment can be extended.
without a microscope, under certain conditions, microbes such as
fungi and bacteria can grow so numerous that they can actually 11. Have students summarize the results of the experiments in the
be seen as a group. Case Report section of the handout.
3. Preview the experiment with students. Ask them to identify the Caution: Do not unseal the baggies or Petri dishes after bacteria
independent variable they will be testing (area, or “scene,” from or mold begins to grow, and have students wear gloves when
the classroom such as the surface of a desk, a computer keyboard, handling the specimens as a precaution. At the end of the
or a door handle), the variables they will need to control (how the experiment, throw the specimens away without unsealing them.
germs are “collected,” and the environment they’ll be kept in.), and
the experiment’s control (the potato that isn’t swabbed).
4. Ask students to make a hypothesis about the research question: Interactive Whiteboard
Which ”scene” will result in the most germs? After students have
created their own hypotheses, divide them into three groups­–one
for each of the “scenes.” 1. Show students the video clip: http://www.schooltube.
5. Before beginning the experiment, have students thoroughly wash com/video/77d531786599ace937f7/Seeing-is-Believing
their hands. While they are doing so, clean the potatoes and slice 2. Discuss all the places where germs live and hide and how
them so there is one slice for each student and several for the germs are spread.
control. Place each slice into a sterile Petri dish or plastic baggie
3. Have students plan and conduct another experiment to
using a fork. Do not touch the potatoes with your hands. Label
show how germs spread.
each bag with Control, Scene #1, Scene #2, or Scene #3.
4. Use the following prompts on a whiteboard to guide
6. Seal the control and set aside. Remind students not to touch the
students through the planning process:
potato since it will serve as the control.
- What question do you want to answer?
7. Have each group of students rub their hands over the surface of - What do you think the answer will be?
their assigned scenes. They should be sure to “collect” as many - How could you test your idea?
germs on their hands as possible. - What variable will you change in your experiment?
8. Then, have each member of each group handle one of the - What variables will you need to make sure stay the
potato slices in order to transfer the germs to the potato culture. same in your experiment?
Students should then put the slices in the appropriately labeled - What will you use as a control for your experiment?
bags. Remember, the control sample has already been created - How will you communicate your results?

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How Clean is the Scene?

Harry, Ella, and Johnny were helping their chimed in. “Just because you can’t see dirt doesn’t mean that
teacher straighten the classroom one afternoon. the desks are clean.”
Harry was sorting supplies into bins, Ella was Johnny was sure he was right. “Sure it does! What you can’t
erasing the chalkboard, and Johnny was wiping see can’t hurt you.”
off the desks with a paper towel. Ella, feeling more and more sure about what she was saying
“Johnny, that’s not going to get the desks clean. said, “Would you clean your hands with just a paper towel?
You should use a sponge with soapy water,” Ella Would that keep you from getting sick from cold germs?”
said as she erased some multiplication problems. Johnny realized that Ella had a point. But he really wanted
“It’s fine,” Johnny said. “Look, there is no dirt on to know for sure. “I have an idea! Let’s see if we can come up
these desks.” with an experiment to test which areas of the classroom have
Harry was listening to Ella and Johnny and the most hidden germs!”

Help Harry, Ella, and Johnny determine which scene will result in the most germs.
Use the data table below to record your observations from each investigation.

Day 3 Observations Day 7 Observations Day 10 Observations Day 14 Observations


Scene #1

Scene #2

Scene #3

Case Report: Now that you have investigated how clean three difference scenes are, it is time to write your case report.

1. How did the results from the “control” slice compare with the slices from the three different scenes?

2. How did the results from each of the scenes compare with each other?

3. Which scene had the most observable results? What does this suggest about the cleanliness of that scene?

4. Did this match your hypothesis? If not, what could have caused the results you got?

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