Scientists help primary pupils banish the bugs!

Published: 15 December 2021 at 11:54

Children looking into a microscope

ARU academics promote handwashing at schools in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk

Children at primary schools in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk have been learning all about bugs, bacteria, and antimicrobial resistance thanks to experts from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU).

Academics and students from ARU visited Paddocks Primary School, Ditton Lodge Primary School, Cheveley Primary School and Burrough Green Primary School to run special sessions for the children, aged 4-6, focusing on the importance of handwashing. 

Supported by an Education and Outreach Grant from the Microbiology Society, the pupils were introduced to micro-organisms, viewed bacteria under a microscope, and then made their own ‘bacteria’ using Play-Doh.

Antimicrobial resistance occurs when a micro-organism becomes resistant to medication, and it is a growing issue around the world. The ARU scientists hope their sessions helped to reinforce the importance of handwashing for keeping us healthy, at the same time as sparking an interest in science amongst the children.

Amanda Thompson, Headteacher of Paddocks Primary School in Newmarket, said:

“The children really enjoyed the sessions and the variety of activities on offer. They especially enjoyed having access to a real microscope. The sessions really reinforced the importance of good handwashing.”


Dr Caray Walker, Senior Lecturer in Microbiology at ARU, said:

“As a result of the current COVID-19 pandemic, there has been increased awareness of how important it is to perform regular and correct handwashing.  But this has not necessarily translated to children, who may be shielded by adults.

“We have a ‘handwashing training kit’, which uses a UV light to show the areas of the children’s hands that haven’t been properly cleaned.  There is a clear moment of surprise when they see that their own handwashing technique may not be as effective as they think, and the children get very competitive about this!”


Miss Rodrigues, an Associate Lecturer in Life Sciences at ARU, added:

“The Wellcome Trust reported last year that a significant proportion of children who engaged in informal learning experiences displayed an increased interest in science afterwards. 

“On our school visits we were joined by ARU students Khadidja Hamze and Maria Baptista, who, as well as being strong advocates for important topics such as antimicrobial resistance and hand hygiene, are also excellent role models for the children, and particularly the young girls as we try to encourage more women to consider STEM careers.”