Kansas Students Take on Food Safety Bad Guy

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Teaching pre-school and early elementary children about healthy habits can be challenging.  In Cowley County, Kansas, I engage children with a puppet show, hand washing activity, and taste test at “Dinosaur Diner.”  During the 30 minute presentation, students learn about the benefits of eating a variety of foods, the importance of food safety, and personal hygiene.

The program features “Dino,” an alligator puppet who loves dinosaurs.  “Dino” is concerned that his fellow alligators might someday be extinct because they do not eat a variety of foods.  Dino’s goal is to open a restaurant and invite all alligators to be customers.

The children also meet “Chef,” who greets participants with a handshake while reviewing expectations for food safety. However, “Chef” informs the children there is a “bad guy” in the room! The “bad guy” (the BAC Puppet from the Partnership for Food Safety Education) uses a spooky voice to talk about germs and how bacteria will make the students feel “ucky and yucky!”

Students get rid of the “bad guy” by pretending to wash their hands and counting to 20.  “Dino” praises the children for their hand washing skills but reminds them they must use real soap and water to kill germs.  I utilize UV disclosing lotion and a black light to demonstrate the effectiveness of their real hand washing skills.

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The final activity is a taste test of dinosaur dip with a slice of raw sweet potato. “Chef” has participants give a thumbs-up (they like it) or thumbs-to-the-side (please change the recipe) after the taste test.  No “thumbs-down” are accepted because if might make “Chef” cry!

The presentation has been offered for PreK-2nd grade classrooms for the past three years.  Last year, I visited 558 students (30 classrooms) with “Dino,” “Chef” and the “bad guy.”  Some students request to see the “bad guy” again, but I explain that we wash our hands to get rid of the “bad guy” so we can be healthy!  Teachers respond that the students demonstrate improved hand washing skills following their “Dinosaur Diner” experience.

Becky Reid is the Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent for Kansas State University Research and Extension in Cowley County, Kansas.  She can be contacted at bkreid@ksu.edu or620)221-5450.  Follow her on Twitter @TechieHomeckie.