The Big Question

How clean are your hands?

How clean are your hands?

Classroom view

Activity overview

30 mins+
Ages 5 – 7

Science topics:

Animals, including humans , Topical science

Planning an investigation will really get your class thinking like scientists. How will they investigate how clean their hands are?

Run the activity

1. Plan an investigation around a Big Question. What do the pupils already know about hand washing?

  • Why do we wash our hands?
  • What do we use to wash our hands?
  • What might happen if we don't wash our hands?

2. How will the group explore the question? Prompt pupils to explain their ideas, qualify them and refine them based on views expressed by other people. What is their plan for the investigation?

3. Ask the class to imagine they had to present their investigation at a school assembly or to their family, how would they show their action plan?

Background science

Skin is our first barrier to infection yet skin, and especially our hands, are naturally home to thousands of different bacteria. Most of those bacteria are harmless but some bacteria might cause us illness if they are transferred into our bodies, through our mouths or eyes for example. As we touch objects, other microorganisms, including viruses, may get on to our hands that can then enter our bodies when we eat, touch our faces or rub our eyes. Washing our hands thoroughly helps to prevent this from happening.

Most children will understand that we need to use some sort of soap and hot water to clean our hands, but the process of washing thoroughly is a little trickier. When we wash our hands, research finds that most of the time we don't do it very well. If we paint our hands and make hand prints, all of our hands do not show up in the print. Similarly when we wash our hands, we frequently don't wash every bit of our hands, especially between the fingers or the dent of the palm.

Use secondary enquiry methods to explore how we can wash our hands effectively. Can children think of a way to investigate practically how effective they are at washing hands? What might show up if they could devise a test?

Take it further

Understanding how hygiene can help us to prevent infection is very important. E-bug has additional information and activities for teachers to use with pupils to investigate aspects of hygiene and the spread of infection further.

We have written this article on Microorganisms to help equip you with enough knowledge about them and how they affect us and our bodies, to be able to respond with confidence to any tricky questions that you may encounter.

Wellcome has also created an information hub about COVID-19 vaccines.