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Dorsett Shoals Elementary's 2 Thumbs Up for Healthy Hands program wins National Award

Dorsett Shoals Elementary School’s (DSES) 2 Thumbs up for Healthy Hands program has earned the 2014 National Award for Healthy Schools, Healthy People, It’s a SNAP (School Network for Absenteeism Prevention). The winning program was implemented by Nick Epstein, Physical Education Teacher, and Shannon Hendrix, Health Services Coordinator/School Nurse.

2 Thumbs up for Healthy Hands has become a popular trend around the school. The programwas conducted during normal physical education (PE) class time because hand washing ties in with health and wellness. The integration of the program into regular PE gave the opportunity to include every student in the school. Epstein and Hendrix led a school assembly on the importance of hand washing as a kick start to the program. Dorsett Shoals’ catchphrase, 2 Thumbs Up for Healthy Hands, was introduced during the assembly, as well as the hand washing guidelines provided on the It’s a Snap website. Due to program popularity, Dr. Kacia Thompson, principal of Dorsett Shoals, currently shares messages regarding hand washing on the daily morning announcements.
 
Epstein and Hendrix began the 2 Thumbs Up for Healthy Hands campaign with a science experiment that demonstrated the impact that germs may have on apples. PE classes were given a peeled apple, and each student in the class rubbed the apple and passed it to another student until all students had placed their hands upon it. Once all students had touched the apple, they were sealed in a Ziploc bag, and placed in a stable location for two weeks. During this two week process, Epstein and Hendrix set up a hand washing booth at Dorsett Shoal’s fall festival to promote the health benefits of hand washing within the community. At the festival, students and parents were able to participate in hand washing information sessions, receive awards, and were given resources on hand washing that they could take home to share with family members. All of the key hand washing messages presented on the It’s a Snap website were used at the fall festival. Additionally, the fall festival booth contained computer monitors that were used to promote hand washing informational videos, such as the webisodes shared at the Scrub Club website.


The 2 Thumbs Up for Healthy Hands program took place at Dorsett Shoals over a three day period, and utilized four activity stations to accommodate the different learning styles of students. Local high school students currently in a human growth and development class volunteered in assisting with the operation of the stations. The first station featured the apples. The apples were pinned to a bulletin board and students attempted to guess which apples belonged to their class, to food services, to the custodians, and to other faculty members. The apples represented what germs can do over time and provided a visual example of the importance of hand washing. The second station was conducted in the restroom, as students were able to practice appropriate hand washing steps. The steps were written on the mirrors in the restrooms as a reminder. This station was specifically geared towards hands on learning. The third station utilized a “glow-germ” black light and glitter bug lotion. The students went to this station after the hand washing station, and were able to see a visual representation of how well they washed their hands. The fourth and final station contained pictures of faculty members’ hands, and the students tried to guess whose hands belonged to which faculty. Upon completion of the three day program, students were awarded healthy hands honor roll certificates found on the It’s a Snap website. The local newspaper wrote an article highlighting the program, and the article was featured on the front page of the Sunday edition of the paper. The sign at the front entrance of the school had the program’s name, 2 Thumbs Up for Healthy Hands, to publicize the program with visitors. Epstein also spoke at a school staff meeting to inform faculty of the importance of hand washing, and the impact that early intervention can have on students’ futures. The hand washing program then extended into the classroom, and utilized the following activities: a fourth and fifth grade essay contest regarding the importance of hand washing, a second and third grade student picture contest, where students drew pictures that incorporated all hand washing guidelines, as well as an activity where kindergarten and first grade students were read hand washing books by their fifth grade peers.

Dorsett Shoals is currently planning to analyze the percentage of student absences following the hand washing program in correlation to the previous year to determine if there has been decreased frequency of absences. As gratitude for teacher participation in the program, each teacher was given a bottle of hand sanitizer for their classroom. The main goal of 2 Thumbs Up for Healthy Hands is to reduce the number of student absences and sicknesses throughout the school year. The program has reached students, faculty, and the community through various activities. 2 Thumbs Up for Healthy Hands may also be used by any school, as the resources used were either inexpensive or free from the It’s a Snap website. We are planning to present our project to the school board in an effort to implement our program at every school in the county. If Dorsett Shoals were to receive funding, it would be used to ensure the continuation of the program for the future and would also help to solidify the request to incorporate the program at other schools. Many positive benefits came from the 2 Thumbs Up for Healthy Hands program, including the opportunity to educate all students in the school of healthy hand washing practices, purposefully educating learners via their learning styles, and bringing an awareness to the community of healthy hand washing practices. Our students, staff, and community appreciated the opportunity to participate in a healthy hands program.

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