Germ Swarm (COVID-19)

We know germs make us sick – but what are they really?


  • Identify the two types of germs that make us sick
  • Understand why it is important to wash your hands

Materials Needed:

  • Washable colored paint (3-4 colors work great)
  • 1 bowl for each color
  • Water
  • White paper (watercolor paper recommended)
  • Straws (one PER participant)
  • Markers, Sharpies, or pens
  • Recommended: paintbrush
  • Recommended: newspaper, tablecloth, or other work space covering
  • Recommended: smock


  • Germs are organisms that can cause disease in the body (for example, E. coli)
  • Most of the germs that make us sick are either bacteria or viruses
  • Germs can get into the body through the nose, mouth, breaks in the skin, or eyes
  • Once they are in the body, they can cause disease when they:
    • Produce toxins (small poisons that can damage tissues and disable the immune system)
    • Increase their number by breeding rapidly and stopping the body from working properly
    • Attack/damage a certain part of the body
  • The body’s immune system helps fight off the germs. Different types of white blood cells have different roles in fighting germs:
    • phagocytes destroy the invader organisms
    • lymphocytes help the body remember the invaders
  • Most of the time diseases caused by germs will go away after a day or so. Sometimes, the disease may be more serious and require treatment from medical professionals.
  • Vaccines help introduce the body to different kinds of invader organisms so that the body can recognize them in case they ever come back later in life.
  • The easiest way to stay safe from germs is by washing your hands using warm soap and water for at least 20 seconds


  • Coronavirus is a word you might have heard lately at school, at home, or on the T.V. The coronavirus is a newly discovered virus that doctors are still learning about.
    • Coronavirus is nicknamed “COVID-19,” which just stands for coronavirus disease 2019.
  • This virus has made a lot of people sick lately, but scientists and doctors think most people will be okay, especially kids.
  • Most people who get sick just feel like they have a really bad cold and need to stay home for a while, but some people have gotten really sick and need the help of doctors. Doctors and health professionals are working hard to help everyone stay healthy!
  • You are probably staying home for a while and won’t be able to go back to school. Doctors and researchers think this is the best way to make sure lots of people stay healthy, and the germs don’t get spread to you or your friends.
  • It’s totally normal to be feeling worried or stressed out about the coronavirus. When routines (things we do every day) have to change, it makes a lot of people feel worried.
  • Make sure you talk about these feelings with your family – they’re probably feeling the same way. We can do research together to be sure we have the most updated true information.

Activity Plan

  1. Connect to prior knowledge:
    1. Ask: Have you ever gotten sick before? Why do you think causes us to get sick?
    2. Explain: We get sick because of germs. Germs are tiny little living things that, when they get into our bodies, can give us coughs and colds. Our bodies are built to fight off germs using our immune system. The white blood cells in our blood have a big role in helping to fight the germs.
    3. Ask: What do you think we can do to fight germs? (Sample responses: wash hands, eat healthy foods to improve immune system, etc.)
  2. In separate bowls, mix about paint and water at about a 1:3 ratio.
  3. Using a paintbrush or straw, drop a dime size amount of the paint/water mixture onto the paper.
  4. With a straw, blow gently on the drop of water until it starts to expand (NOTE: younger children may need to practice blowing air through the straw. Be sure they are not sucking air up into the straw) (NOTE: this is a great opportunity to explain why it is important each child only uses his/her own straw to prevent the spread of germs. You could even label the straws with different colored tape or Sharpies if you are working with multiple kids).
  5. Once the paint splotches are dry, use a pen, marker, or Sharpie to add eyes, “arms” and other spots to the germs.
  6. Discuss how the art is similar or different to what germs actually look like

-Sup with Soap? Why should we use soap when we wash our hands? Here’s an easy demonstration to show what happens to germs when you add soap.
1. Fill a small bowl or cup 3/4 of the way with tap water. Sprinkle a layer of pepper (whatever kind you have at home will work) onto the top of the water and imagine the pepper flakes are actually small germs. Your child can even stick their finger in the bowl and see the pepper germs stick to their finger.
2. Either cover another finger with dish soap or add a few drops to the water, watching carefully.
3. Observe what happens to the pepper “germs” when the soap touches them.
-Healthy Tunes: Hand washing is important for the whole family! Try to think of new songs or tunes to sing while you and your family wash your hands. The best way to wash your hands is to use warm soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Some 20 second examples include singing Happy Birthday twice, humming the ABCs, or singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star! What other hand washing songs can you think up?