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You Can Catch Me, You Dirty Rat
(from Lesson 3 - Health Concerns)

This teacher demonstration introduces the concept of vectors in disease transmission and shows students how easy it is to be exposed to a vector.

Use of the book:
Teacher background on health concerns: p.62-64.
Teacher notes for activity: p.65-70.

Materials Needed:
4 rubber bands, 2 cotton balls, 2 pencils, 6 cotton-tipped swabs, liquid detergent that whitens without chlorine bleach (ie. Tide), UV light (with batteries and extension cord), Stuffed animal “rat”

Opening Strategy: p.66-67
Scenario - During a break, some teachers noticed a rat walking through some spilled liquid laundry detergent near the hotel laundry room. Then, they saw the rat scurrying toward the conference rooms. Some laundry detergents contain a special chemical that make them glow under a UV light, so we can try to look for “rat tracks” this way. We will use a UV light to detect if the rat has been in our room.

Procedure: p.66-70
Before the class arrives:
1. Make 2 rat feet using rubber bands, cotton balls, cotton swabs and pencils – diagram on p. 66. Dip the rat feet into the detergent, redipping as necessary.
2. Make “rat tracks” around the room. Be sure to include highly used areas such as backs of chairs, desk tops, garbage cans (in a classroom, the pencil sharpener and faucets).
After the class arrives:
3. Describe the scenario.
4. Use a UV light to search for the “tracks”, then look on participants’ feet and hands to see if any “pathogens” may have spread as participants moved around the room. Ask if anyone touched something, or passed something to someone else - other ways that pathogens may spread.

  • Extension and Cross-Curricular Integration: p.68.
  • Discuss different types of pathogenic transmission (water, airborne, parasite, direct contact, etc.).
  • Life Science/Health – turn into a lesson on hygiene.
  • The Garbage Gazette: p.94-97 (previously discussed with Name That Disease).
    “ A Thousand Years Without A Bath” – hygiene
    “ Toxic Waste and You” – Love Canal”

Rats & Garbage bib

Courtesy of Wild Norway Rats

Plush Rat Tide detergent

Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center
University of Arizona College of Pharmacy, Room 244
PO Box 210207, Tucson, AZ, USA 85721-0207

Funded by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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