Homeschool 101: Exploration of Germs

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Somehow I have been accepted into a homeschool science group with three other moms…who I might add, are all amazing ladies. We have children that are all similar in ages and we’ve been wanting to add more to our curriculum as well as give our children more interaction with their friends.

One of the moms and I had already been doing various science experiments with our kiddos together. It helps because she has her degree in secondary education emphasis in science. I’ve come up with quite a few primitive science experiments for our children, but this mom has created a whole science homeschool curriculum for our kiddos through the rest of the year.

Our first get-together involved germs, how quickly they spread, and how long it takes the bacteria to grow in a petri dish. You could complete these activities together or split them up. The first activity involves glitter and lots of handshakes. If you are a person who doesn’t care for glitter, be sure to do this outside so you can hose off the glitter when finished.

Spread of Germs with Glitter

Prep Time5 minutes
Active Time5 minutes
Total Time10 minutes


  • 1 glitter color per child
  • Goggles specific for science experiments


  • Explain to the children that you are going to track how quickly and easily germs can be transferred to others.
  • Begin by sprinkling a small amount of glitter in each child's hands. Be sure to use a different color of glitter for each child. This is so they can track their own 'germs' with their glitter.
  • After each child has been given glitter, have them rub their hands together to spread their 'germs' all over. Then tell the children to go give each other high-fives and handshakes. Have them do this over and over for several minutes. If you are really courageous and glitter doesn't bother you, you could have them play in the backyard for 20 minutes or so with the glitter on their hands.
  • Then have the children sit back down and tell them to look at their hands. Explain how their germs spread to each other and ask how many different colors of glitter are on their hands. Ask them to observe where the glitters went and explain that the glitter represents germs and then explain that if they aren't thorough in washing their hands the tiny germs on their hands will spread to anything they touch, including their food, faces, etc.
  • Lastly, teach them the proper way to wash hands to rid the germs. The CDC recommends using antibacterial soap with warm water while singing a song that would last at least 30 seconds. Most sing the birthday song, the alphabet or Twinkle Twinkle LIttle Star also works.

You can do this petri dish experiment at home. We didn’t do our hands, instead of the children each picked a surface to swab. Some swabbed things outside like the pool waterfall, the bottom of a shoe, an outside faucet handle. Others went inside and swabbed various surfaces including door handles, garbage disposals, stair banister.

My kiddos chose to swab the pool waterfall, the garbage disposal, and the on/off handle to the pool waterfall. Documenting over the first 2 weeks of how the bacteria multiplied was a fun activity for the boys to do. As you can see, the first one on the left (the pool waterfall), remained rather bacteria-free. The middle one was the garbage disposal one and the bacteria had a party growing. The last one on the right (the on/off handle) was slow to grow but then took off.

Petri Dish Bacteria Collection


  • Plastic Petri Dishes with agar
  • sterile cotton swabs
  • tape
  • paper labels
  • permanent marker
  • eye protection (science goggles)


  • Be sure your hands have been thoroughly washed and dried so no bacteria from your hands contaminates the petri dish. (Unless you are following along with the YouTube video and swabbing your hands before and after you wash them).
  • Take a cotton swab, which should be in it's own sterile packaging, and take it out by the handle not the swab part. Swab the surface you have chosen.
  • Then take the same swab and lightly swab it over the agar solution at the bottom of the petri dish. Don't disturb the agar solution, just lightly swab over the top.
  • Seal the petri dish with tape and place a label on the bottom of the dish. Label each dish either with the child's name or what was swabbed…or both.
  • Place in a location in your home that isn't in direct contact with sunlight, but is in a warm place. Not too warm and not too cold, I just left ours on the countertop away from sunlight and not close to any a/c vents. Some petri dishes will show growth quickly, within a few days. Others may take a couple of weeks. You could have your children document along the way the changes they observe. I had my older boys write a small paragraph of what they saw with a drawing of the petri dish.

While these are simple experiments, I wanted to make sure my children learned proper science experiment etiquette right off the bat. Wearing goggles at all times and a lab coat or apron for protection is important and a good habit to get into. Having goggles on hand that are easily sanitizable is a huge plus. I wanted goggles that I could spray Lysol over and let them dry to use again.

Are science experiments something your children enjoy doing as part of your homeschool curriculum? What did you decide to swab for your petri dish? Hope y’all are having an amazing week. Stay safe and hug your loved ones.

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