They get to play with black lights. Their mission is spreading through Charlotte. Their motto is “Don’t get sick, wash up quick”. Meet the Scrubby Bears!
The Scrubby Bear program, an initiative introduced by the Red Cross, was discovered by two Queens University nursing students looking to fulfill an academic requirement. What began as a one-time volunteer experience has lead to an evolving partnership between the Red Cross, the Nursing program at Queens University, and several schools within the Charlotte area.
Julie Siragusa, a senior at Queens, said they began looking for willing participants. “We sent an overview to a list of 45 Title 1 schools in the Charlotte area,” said Siragusa. “Two of them, Idlewild Elementary and Briarwood Elementary, have already participated and we have a list of additional schools who are interested as well.”
The reason so many schools are willing to participate is because of the way in which the program is taught. Nursing students don’t just teach kids to pump soap into their hands and rinse. They also experiment with a product known as Glow Germ, a lotion that includes fake germs – cinnamon – and dye, that when lit under a black light, shows up on the children’s skin. The kids then use proper handwashing techniques – taught by Queens’ nursing students – to remove as many of the “germs” as possible.
“It provides a visual in addition to an explanation,” explained Siragusa. “The kids love it, and so do the teachers!”
Ryan Plesher, a senior in the Queens nursing program, said the program was just a vital to teachers as it is to the schoolchildren.
“As nursing students, it is really important to engage in health teaching,” said Plesher, “A large part of our job will include educating our patients.”
Hope Martin, Regional Volunteer Manager for the Red Cross, explains that the program specializes in teaching children – ages 4-7 – about germs, proper handwashing techniques, and prevention. “We can’t say that the Scrubby Bear program prevents illness,” Martin said. “But scientific studies have shown that through proper handwashing techniques, illness does decrease.”
One study in particular, conducted by Patel et al. (2012), found that students in schools that received a school-based hygiene program improved their overall hygiene knowledge and had a decreased risk of respiratory infections compared to students who had not yet received the program.
The Scrubby Bear program is now a favorite among students at Queens when choosing a community outreach program.
“We wanted to make it bigger and raise awareness so, now, the program is part of the curriculum and other students are hoping to become trained as instructors as well,” said Plesher.
Hope Martin from the Red Cross encourages all interested volunteers to contact her directly firstname.lastname@example.org.