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Teacher helps inspire germ-fighting posters

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Matt Boucher's science teaching leadership experience has helped the government create a new national student poster competition about fighting germs.

The competition, a joint initiative between the Ministry of Health, ACC and the Health Quality and Safety Commission, encourages Year 5 to Year 8 students to create a poster highlighting either antibiotic resistance or hand washing.

Matt, who teaches at South Wellington Intermediate School, says that the aim of the competition is to help people realise how simple things like not washing our hands or using antibiotics (medicine to kill bacteria) properly can play a role in spreading dangerous bacteria.

The downloadable competition pack [PDF, 3 MB] also provides teaching resources and information about antibiotic resistance and hand hygiene in New Zealand, as well as curriculum links to science levels three to five.

The competition closes on Friday 28 September 2018.

The winning posters will be used to promote Patient Safety Week from 4–10 November and World Antibiotic Awareness Week from 12–18 November 2018.

Poster by Holly Bowman at South Wellington Intermediate School

Matt's bacterial journey began in 2017, when he took part in the Science Teaching Leadership Programme (STLP).

As part of his placement at the University of Otago Wellington (which has links to Wellington Regional Hospital) Matt designed and ran a small scientific study in collaboration with infectious diseases expert Dr. Ayesha Verrall.

Matt and Ayesha's study looked at how widely the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus was carried by medical students and students at South Wellington Intermediate, and whether there were factors that made some groups of people more likely to carry it than others. Staphylococcus aureus is common and normally harmless, but it can cause dangerous infections under certain conditions and is notorious for becoming resistant to antibiotics (which is then called MRSA: Methicyllin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus).

Back at school, Matt created a learning programme around antibiotics, with enduring connections between himself, the school and practising scientists at Wellington Hospital. Through these connections, the Ministry of Health approached him for help on shaping this national competition.

"Antibiotic resistance is a very real issue that can affect anyone, of any age," Matt says. "The idea [in this competition] is to help students learn about simple hand hygiene and why it is important to stop the spread of bugs that cause infections. We want them to learn about antibiotics too, and how they only kill bacteria – not viruses, which cause colds and the flu.

"Students then have a think about it, make recommendations for action and communicate their ideas through creative visual messages."

Artwork credit: Holly Bowman at South Wellington Intermediate School.

Download the competition pack [PDF, 3 MB]

Find out how to take part in STLP in 2019/2020 (closes Mon 3 September)

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