The Improvement of Public Health through the Teaching of Hygiene in the Elementary Schools

By Stern, Frances | Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, January 1, 1999 | Go to article overview

The Improvement of Public Health through the Teaching of Hygiene in the Elementary Schools


Stern, Frances, Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences


THE IMPROVEMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH THROUGH THE TEACHING OF HYGIENE IN THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS.1

Frances Stern, of Massachusetts, was a member of the Association from 1910-1930. This article was taken from the Journal of Home Economics, Volume II, No. 6, December 1910. Do you know of Frances Stem? Can you tell us of any institution affiliations? Write and let us know!

The scientific laboratory has been studying conditions and causes of disease, and new ways and means must be devised to apply this knowledge for the creation of right living conditions. Perhaps all that can be done for the adult is to give him the means of knowledge-point the way how to use it, and let him accept it if he will-but for the children, parents and citizens of the future, there is a deeper responsibility. The state has taken it upon herself to educate these children.

It certainly seems reasonable that as much attention should be given to the building up of a healthy body as to the development of the mind. During the early years of school life the growth of the child should be given the foremost consideration.

The body has withstood the ravages of civilization so wonderfully that not until aroused by the leaders in the campaign against tuberculosis or those investigating the health of the school children have we realized the number who are suffering from physical ills, due to lack of wholesome food, fresh air, or proper clothing, and shelter.

Attempts to teach the simple principles of hygiene have been difficult, owing to lack of provision for such teaching in the public school. The school house and school room should themselves be examples of cleanness and afford every means to help the child to live under the conditions that make for right living. As has been said, "a most essential part of modern education is the early formation of such habits with regard to environment as shall conduce to the best living," but it seems almost useless to teach the lessons of hygiene and sanitation when the child has but to look about and see the laws violated, or to ask him to clean his hands if he is denied hot water. At least the school-room dust can be cared for with a dust-less duster, if a vacuum cleaner is out of the question. After a scientific lesson with Petri plates, the children will be interested to keep the room free from dust as far as possible.

Treating the subject of hygiene through such interest, it can readily be made an integral factor in the following group of topics: The care of the home, the furnishing of the home, food and its care and preparation, personal hygiene, and the hygiene of clothing. The essentials common to the above topics that make for the health and well-being of the child, are cleanness, pure air and sunlight, exercise and rest, and the beauty of the environment.

The child has little direct influence on these, for the adult chooses the home, limited in choice, perhaps, by a meagre income and the type of building found in the large cities. But in the early period of life the child does not apprehend his environment. His imagination, stimulated and fostered in play, seems to create experiences that are as delightful as they are real. The doll of wood is hugged as closely as the most expensively dressed French doll, the gold house set with diamonds to be won in "London Bridge" is in imagination not far away. Subways may be dug in sand, and temples erected with sticks and stones. Cannot educators striving to improve the health of the child make use of this play, and translate it into a directive force for the child's good through this means?

The scheme must be clear in the teacher's mind-she must study the child, and adapt the work to the child's growing need. And, further, she must be so familiar with the scientific facts that their application is, like art, concealed. In the building of a house, for example, the first lesson in ventilation is that there must be an outlet for the foul air at the top of the room. …

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