It’s cold and flu season! And for many people, including your students, that means pesky coughing, runny noses, sore throats and itchy eyes. A common cold is considered a virus, and one way to keep it from spreading throughout your afterschool program is to fight the germs!

There are four major types of germs: bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa. Not all germs are bad; however, bacteria and viruses are the two types of germs that can enter our bodies and make us sick. Colds and flu, for example, are caused by virus germs which infect the nose, throat and lungs.

In an environment where students are playing closely and sharing books, supplies and toys, it’s important for them to understand how germs work and how to keep them at bay. From actually spreading “germs” to learning proper handwashing, the experiments shared below can help

Before you get started, watch the video below to help students understand how germs spread and how to prevent them from spreading to others.



1. Spreading Germs

For this first activity, you can use glitter to demonstrate how easily germs are spread. The goal is to emphasize the importance of washing your hands often to prevent students from passing germs to each other.

What You Need:

  • Glitter
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sink or large bucket
  • Soap
  • Water
  • Paper towels

What to Do:

  • Divide students into pairs.
  • Squeeze 1-2 drops of hand sanitizer in one of the students’ hands.
  • Holding their hands over a sink or large bucket, pour a small amount of glitter into the hand with the sanitizer.
  • Have them rub their hands together. What happens to the glitter?
  • Then have them shake their partner’s hand (without glitter)? What happens to their hand?
  • Once the glitter (or germs) has been spread to the partner’s hand, have the pair wash their hands with soap and water.

Check out STEM Starter Kit, Slides, & Microscope Accessories to get an up-close look at germs and bacteria.

2. Repelling Germs with Soap

Do you want to see soap’s germ-fighting power in action? This activity will demonstrate why students must wash their hands with soap in order to get rid of germs and avoid the cold and flu.

What You Need:

  • Hand soap
  • Black pepper
  • Bowl
  • Water
  • Paper towels

What to Do:

  • To begin, fill the bowl with water.
  • Sprinkle a moderate amount of black pepper into the bowl of water.
  • Have students dip one finger into the water. What happens?
  • Ask students to wipe off their finger with a paper towel and cover the same finger with soap.
  • Have them stick their finger back into the water filled with black pepper. What happens? Similar to germs, the black pepper is repelled by the soap and instantly scatters in the water.

3. Learning Proper Handwashing

Your classroom can become a germ factory with students touching various surfaces, sharing u,. and even touching each other. By learning proper handwashing techniques, students can help prevent the spread of germs and reduce colds and flu. This experiment idea from Science Bob is a great way to teach proper handwashing and it’s an activity students will never forget!

What You Need:

What to Do:

  • As students enter your classroom, squeeze a bit of lotion into their hands. (Don’t let them know what type of lotion it is or why you’re giving it to them)
  • After they’ve played for 30 minutes, turn off the lights and power on the UV light. What do you see? Students’ hands will glow, but every object they’ve touched will also glow under the light. This helps to demonstrate how easily germs are spread.
  • To get rid of the lotion (or germs) on their hands, have students wash their hands with soap and water.
  • Once finished, power on the UV light again to see how well they washed off the lotion. This is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate when and how to wash your hands to prevent germs from spreading.