Illness Prevention: The K-12 Cleanliness and Hygiene Lesson Plan Collection

Illness Prevention: The K-12 Cleanliness and Hygiene Lesson Plan Collection

Illness prevention and personal hygiene education begins in the preschool and kindergarten years, but good hygiene practices are consistently reinforced throughout elementary, middle school, and high school education. With a variety of historical and cultural perspectives to explore related to the discovery, manufacture, and evolution of soap, detergent, and cleaning products, students have ample opportunities to reinforce personal hygiene concepts across a variety of subject matter.


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Education on global water and sanitation issues is particularly imperative for modern students, as these issues continue to plague many parts of the developing world and pose substantial consequences for children and families in impoverished regions who lack access to clean, safe drinking water and water for personal hygiene and sanitation purposes, contributing to the spread of illness and disease in many of these regions.

The following collection of lesson plans and teaching resources touches on every aspect of illness prevention, encompassing the history and making of soap and cleaning products, the chemistry of soap, the types of soaps used in colonial times and how they were made, the use of soap throughout history and in modern day times in different cultures, and more. All of these resources serve to enrich students’ understanding of the importance of personal hygiene while simultaneously raising awareness of global issues.


The Chemistry Behind Household Cleaning Products and Basic Hygiene

The following lessons and units provide ready-to-use materials and resources for teachers of students in elementary, middle school, and high school levels. In grades K through 4, students begin to understand the difference between liquids and solids and gain a basic understanding of simple chemical reactions. In grades 5 through 8, students are ready to participate in more complex experimentation and learn about acids and bases, as well as toxic chemicals found around the home and how good personal hygiene habits helps to prevent the spread of illness and disease.

High school students in grades 9 through 12 will use their critical thinking and scientific experimentation skills to analyze marketing claims on common household cleaning products and evaluate their effectiveness, in addition to exploring the world of “green” cleaning products.


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Grades K-4

Lesson: Mix It Up

This lesson plan, contributed by the Integrated Teaching and Learning Program in the College of Engineering at the University of Colorado – Boulder, introduces the properties of mixtures and solutions. Class demonstrations with simple mixtures and solutions make this lesson an engaging, hands-on learning experience for young students. Source:

Safety’s House

An excellent introduction to household cleaning products and the chemicals they contain, this lesson is well-suited for elementary students. Students learn how to identify common hazardous products in the home. Source: CalRecycle

CLEAN GENE Lesson Plans

GOJO Industries offers this comprehensive set of lesson plans that are perfect for K-4 students to learn about the importance of hand washing and basic hygiene to avoid illness. Students learn how germs are spread, why washing hands for a full 20 seconds is important, and other methods for staying germ-free and healthy. Source: GOJO Industries

Health Education Curriculum K-5

Miami-Dade County Public Schools offers this complete health education curriculum for grades K-5. Broken down into useful units by grade level, there are several lesson plans related to hygiene for students in grades K-5, complete with handouts. Source: Miami-Dade County Public Schools

Hand Washing Lesson Plans for Kindergarten – Sixth Grade

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has put together a set of hand washing lesson plans for students in grades K through 6. Each grade level has its own set of lessons, activities, and handouts to teach students the importance of hand washing and good personal hygiene habits to avoid the spread of germs. Source: Massachusetts Department of Public Health


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Grades 5-8

Acids & Bases Around the House

This adaptive lesson plan can be modified for use with students in any grade, but it’s particularly useful for students in grades 5 through 8 who are capable of more advanced critical thinking and ready to begin understanding the process of scientific inquiry. In this lesson, students will learn how common household chemicals, particularly household cleaning products, are acids, bases, or neutrals. Source: Sciencenter

Toxics Lesson Plan

Designed for students in grades 7 and 8, students participating in this lesson will learn that common household products, including cleaning products, may contain harmful chemicals. Students will learn that safer substitutes are sometimes an option. Source: Cornell Waste Management Institute

Handwashing Lesson Plan Grades 5-8

Offered by Algoma Public Health, these lesson plans are targeted to students in grades 5 through 8, reinforcing earlier concepts of the importance of hand washing with more advanced activities, including the use of a special liquid that makes germs glow and a black light to identify where germs populate. Source: Algoma Public Health

Hygiene and Prevention of Diseases

A one-hour lesson on hygiene and the prevention of disease, this biology lesson is designed for 5th grade students, about 10-11 years of age. Students will study how mosquitoes contribute to the spread of disease. Source:

The Chemistry of Soap and Detergents

Lesson plans for grades 5-8 and 9-12 are provided by NSTA, along with comprehensive background information resources. Students learn about surfactants and how they break up the surface tension of water, and older students will explore how soaps clean by observing the interaction of immiscible liquids and comparing the results of adding various surfactants to a mixture of immiscible liquids. Source: NSTA Blog


Grades 9-12

Staying Green while Being Clean – Green Cleaning and Green Chemistry

The Earth Day Network offers this lesson plan on green cleaning products for students in grades 9 through 12. The lesson introduces green chemistry, using this as a jumping off point to teach students about the science behind “green” cleaning products. Source: Earth Day Network

CHEMISTRY OF HOUSEHOLD CLEANERS: AMMONIA (Deprotonation, Brønsted-Lowry Acids and Bases)

This collection of learning resources from NBCLearn provide valuable information on the chemistry of household cleaners that rely on ammonia. With advanced-level subject matter, these resources are most appropriate for use with high school students. Source: NBCLearn

How Clean is Clean? Testing Detergents and Analyzing Product Claims

In this hands-on learning activity, students test a variety of household detergents and analyze product claims. Students will evaluate product labels, conduct tests to determine efficacy, and learn to analyze marketing claims. Source: The New York Times, The Learning Network

Basic Home Maintenance

This comprehensive lesson from the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service is designed for adult education but can be readily adapted for use in 9-12 students. Students learn about the various aspects of home maintenance, such as kitchen and bathroom cleanliness, and discuss who is responsible for maintaining the cleanliness of a home environment. Source: Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service

Fight the Flu Lesson Series

This biology lesson is targeted to high school students in grades 9 through 12. A three-part lesson series, students will learn about warding off the influenza virus in three stages: seeing, mapping, and acting. While the primary lesson plan link directs to Lesson 1, visit the Related Lessons section for links to Lessons 2 and 3. Source:


The History of Cleaning Products and the Evolution of Hygiene

Many students don’t realize that the sanitation practices and hygiene practices they’re familiar with in modern times did not always exist throughout history. The following lesson plans and instructional resources are provided for teachers who wish to foster an understanding of modern day public health awareness and how awareness of disease and public health issues has grown throughout the years.

In grades K through 4, students participate in simple experiments to learn about the process of making soap and begin to learn about the daily life of settlers in colonial times, including daily habits and hygiene.

Students in grades 5 through 8 continue to explore the history of soap making and participate in more complex experimentation evaluating the environments they live in, investigating the presence of bacteria and how it grows. High school students examine the chemical processes of soap and how it works to kill germs and bacteria, in addition to further exploration of soap-making processes.


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Grades K-4

Elementary Lesson for Making Soap

This general science and chemistry lesson offers hands-on learning as students experiment with making their own soap and compare its efficacy against that of commercial cleaning products. As part of the background of this lesson, students will learn that evidence of soap making dates back to Egyptian and Babylonian times, although people have used soap for cleaning clothing and their bodies for a relatively short period of time. Source: Julian’s Science Experiments

Garden of History: Self-Sufficiency and the Community

This lesson designed for students in grades 3 to 5 explores how people in colonial times created self-sufficient communities. The lesson illustrates how historical colonial daily life differed from modern times, including an exploration of the various roles and chores for which different members of the family and societal unit were responsible, including soap making, washing clothing, and cleaning the home. Source: Archdiocese of Seattle

Habitants and Voyageurs

Designed for students in grade 3, this lesson facilitates an understanding of the life and culture of early French settlers who lived in Michigan in the first half of the 18th century. Students explore the daily life of these early societies, including the production and trade of goods and services such as soaps, food, and furs. Source: Detroit Historical Society

Pioneer Hygiene History Lesson Plan

In this lesson, students in grades 3 to 5 will compare the modern-day focus on sanitation and hygiene – such as the use of antibacterial soap – to historical times. Students will learn that pioneers often shared the same bath water among the whole family and bathed with lye soap. Source: Bright Hub Education


Grades 5-8

Making Soaps and Detergents

In this hands-on learning activity, students investigate the process of making soaps and detergents using castor oil, a source of vegetable oil, and observing how it reacts with a concentrated alkali to form soaps or a concentrated acid to form detergents. Source: Learn Chemistry

Backyard Bacteria

This comprehensive unit allows students to explore the many types of bacteria in the environment, beginning with a background knowledge of the history of public health pioneers and how the use of soap and other cleaning products has emerged from a greater awareness of public health. Students participate in a variety of experiments examining the bacteria in the classroom and nearby environments. Source:

Daily Life in a Mission: Making Homemade Soap

Students participating in this lesson will learn about the history of soap and participate in an activity making homemade soap similar to that created and used by Spanish Settlers and Southwest Indians. Students will compare different soaps’ effectiveness on various stains. Source: National Park Service

Squire Boon Caverns Lesson Plan

This lesson plan consists of several units in which students gain an understanding of daily life in historical times. Students explore the history of candle making, the types of wheels found on mills, learn how soap was discovered and understand the different methods used to make soap. While this lesson is designed to accompany a field trip, it’s easily adaptable for the classroom setting. Source: Squire Boon Caverns


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Grades 9-12

CHEMISTRY OF SOAPS AND DETERGENTS (Surfactants, Surface Tension)

These learning resources help illustrate to students the chemistry of how soaps and detergents work by affecting the surface tension of water to break up dirt. Also included in this resource collection is an informative timeline on the history of soap. Source: NBCLearn

Good Clean Fun!

A lesson designed for adult education but also appropriate for older students in grades 9 through 12, students will participate in hands-on learning by making their own soaps suitable and safe for use on the skin. Before beginning the activity portion of the lesson, students read about and gain an understanding of the geographical and practical origins of soap making and how the use and production of soap has changed throughout history. Source: Colorado Adult Education

Making Soap You Can Use

This lesson gets students engaged in making a usable bar of soap using old cooking oil. The recipe uses caustic soda, and students learn about the chemistry of soap making through experimentation and practical application. Source:

Soap and Soap Making

This collection of resources and lesson plans targeted to students in grades 10 through 12 provides an abundance of resources for students to gain an understanding of the history and techniques of colonial soap making. Students then engage in hands-on application through lessons in which they make their own soap by exploring various techniques. Source: Community Learning Network


Cleaning Around the Globe: Societal Practices Explored from U.S. to Asia

The following lesson plans and instructional resources are useful for having students explore differences in cultural practices related to sanitation and personal hygiene. In many of these lessons, students will gain an understanding of the challenges that exist in developing regions in terms of clean water supply for both consumption and personal hygiene, and how a lack of a clean water supply contributes to the spread of illness and disease in impoverished regions of the world.

In grades K through 4, students learn the importance of personal hygiene and develop problem-solving skills to make healthy choices. Students are introduced to the concept of global water awareness and the issues surrounding water supply around the world. In grades 5 through 8, students are able to participate in more engaged and comprehensive exploration of global issues, exploring current events related to influenza, vaccinations, and disease.

Students in grades 9 through 12 participate in thorough exploration of the global water crisis and deep-dive into the issues faced by various cultures, delving into issues such as how the lack of a clean water supply impacts young women in developing regions in all facets of life.


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Grades K-4

Personal Hygiene

In this physical education and health lesson, students in grade 3 learn to recognize the importance of personal hygiene and grooming and use problem-solving skills to make healthy choices. Source: HotChalk

Water and Environment

These units offered by UNICEF offer resources for all grade levels, including PK-2 and 3-5. These age-appropriate resources help young students gain an understanding of the problems children in developing parts of the world face when they lack access to clean water and other sanitation facilities. Source: TeachUNICEF

Hygiene Sanitation Water Toolkit

This comprehensive teaching resource contains twelve examples of lesson plans that teachers can use for life skills-based hygiene education. Six lessons are appropriate for students 6 to 9 years old and six may be used with students between 9 and 12 years of age. The lessons encompass several themes, including food storage, the construction of hygiene facilities, and transmission of malaria. Source: Water and Sanitation Program

Water is Life: Global Water Awareness Mini-Unit

This mini-unit is suitable for children in grades 3 to 5. Students gain an understanding of the importance of water for wellness, including both consumption and use for sanitation purposes. Students develop knowledge surrounding global water awareness through a series of activities and the exploration of facts about water issues around the globe. Other lesson plans are provided for students in other grade levels, as well. Source:


Grades 5-8

It’s a SNAP: Healthy Schools, Healthy People

This cross-curricular resource provides a variety of lesson plan ideas related to hygiene. In addition to several lessons surrounding the importance of hand washing and personal hygiene, as well as inquiries into current events related to the spread of germs, colds, flu, and disease, one lesson concept included in this resource is a social studies activity in which students study and report on epidemics from the past or present in different areas of the world. Source: It’s a SNAP

Dirty Water…So What?

In this valuable lesson from, students explore the dangers that exist in regions in which a clean water supply is not readily available, including impacts on health, hunger, poverty, and education. The core lesson is a jigsaw-based activity, conducted in small groups. Students focus on one aspect (health, hunger, poverty, or education) and then teach other students about their specific sections. There are several activity ideas allowing teachers to expand upon the primary knowledge gained through the core activity, such as having students create their own Public Service Announcement (PSA). Source:

Healthy Girls, Healthy Villages

This lesson for students in grades 6-8 or 9-12 facilitates an understanding of the importance of education for girls in developing countries. Students evaluate the factors contributing to a lack of education among girls in these regions of the globe, investigating the problems of poverty, nutrition, and health that disproportionately affect women and girls in developing countries. The lesson examines Niger, a country in sub-Saharan Africa, which faces issues such as drought and inadequate rainfall, contributing to malnutrition and poor health. Source: Peace Corps

Availability of Clean Water

In this lesson, students learn about the difficulties faced by people in developing countries in obtaining clean water for consumption and personal use, including personal hygiene. Students participate in a group activity in which they determine how much water they consume and use each day. Source: SafeWaterScience


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Grades 9-12

Hand Washing Hang-Ups

In this valuable lesson, students learn how some areas of the world, such as the U.S., take advantage of an abundant water supply and how impoverished regions of the globe do not have the luxury of clean, running water, flushing toilets, or indoor plumbing. Students then participate in an activity in which they are asked to find ways to conserve water, illustrating scarcity situations. Source:

Hand Washing Lesson Plans: Grades 6-12

This lesson plan explores hand-washing habits, with a focus on the inadequate hand-washing habits shared by many American adults, such as not washing hands after using the restroom. Students will learn about the latest study on routine hand-washing practices and explore the consequences of poor hand washing. Source: Oberlin City Schools

Basic Necessities: A Woman’s Right

In this lesson, designed for students in grades 10 through 12, students gain empathy and understanding of women’s issues around the world, specifically as they relate to health, hygiene, and education. After gaining an understanding of the problems that exist for women in different parts of the world, students work to develop positive solutions and discover ways they can help. Source: Institute for Humane Education

Water and Sanitation for All: Bringing the Issue Home

This comprehensive unit is designed for high school students (grades 9 through 12). Students learn about sanitation in developing parts of the world, raising awareness of the problems facing children with inadequate access to clean water and sanitation facilities, exploring how organizations and individuals are working to develop solutions to the problem, and increasing students’ understanding that this global problem is one that affects everyone. Source: TeachUNICEF

The Global Water Crisis

In this lesson exploring water and sanitation issues around the globe, students learn about lack of access to clean water in Ethiopia, unsustainable water policy in Yemen, inadequate sanitation in Kenya, and climate change in Nepal. Students will imagine life in a society dramatically different from their own and consider the consequences of each of these issues facing different countries around the world. Source: Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

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