Going Viral*

Written by: Courtney King, Lisa Myers, & Cortney Marshuetz
For grades 1-2

Objective: Students will describe how germs spread from one person/thing to another.

Materials: Cornstartch/flour, Large plastic bag, paper, pencil, crayons

Prerequisites: Students should have some background knowledge of being sick, viruses, and basic writing skills. As a class they should also understand a concept map.


Teacher will ask opening question: “what do you know about germs?” Allow students 2-3 minutes to think, draw and write all of the ideas they have in their daily journal.
Ask students to pair/share their ideas with a partner. The teacher should walk around and listen to students’ conversations.
As a class, create a concept map about germs including descriptions and drawings based on students’ initial thinking.


Provide a scenario by saying, “sometimes when you get sick, you may be allowing the germs in your body to spread to other people without knowing it. Today I’m not feeling so well. I have a cough”.
Then, cough into your hands that are secretly filled with flour or cornstarch. Students will see the flour spread. Show the students the flour left over in your hands then shake hands with a student sitting near you.
Instruct the student to shake hands with the student sitting next to them. The students will continue this process until everyone has exchanged handshakes.
Each student will wash their hands to get rid of the flour and germs.

Facilitate discussion about the experiment by asking questions such as:
1. What did the flour represent?
2. Where did the “germs” originate?
3. What did you notice once we started shaking hands?
4. How could this be prevented?
5. What would have happened if I had touched the doorknob with my “infected” hand?
6. What happened after we washed our hands in the sink?


The next day, students will write a story about the journey of a germ. They will write 3-4 sentences about how a germ is spread and draw a picture to go with it.


Informal assessment: Teacher will observe student stories and ask individual questions for further clarification. This will allow the teacher to have a better understanding of where each student falls at the end of the lesson.

For a future lesson, students might consider how they could use the corn starch model to conduct other investigations.  While we wouldn’t have students conduct the sneeze test, we might show them the video below and discuss both the process and the results.




Atlas of Scientific Literacy


*Editor note: yes, “germs” and viruses are not necessarily the same, but it’s an interesting title 🙂

This entry was posted in Elementary Science - Life Science and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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