It's germ warfare in cosmetology class at Washington County Tech High

Students grow theirs in germ farms

Students grow theirs in germ farms

October 20, 2008|By JANET HEIM

For Cosmetology Level 1 students at Washington County Technical High School, familiar tools of the trade might be scissors, styling products and a comb. They traded those tools in for something out of the chemistry lab for a recent lesson in infection control and salon ecology.

Instructor Marie Bikle had her students take cultures of a variety of surfaces, including the students' work stations in their classroom, door knobs and their shoes. The petri dish germ farms were allowed to grow three to five days, then observed.

"It's basically to make us aware of germs all around us. There are more than we ever knew," said student Christina Thompson.

"It was a wake-up call," said student Heather Gue.

Since that lesson, students started using hand sanitizer after eating lunch, said student Toni Bernhisel. They are more aware of how they could be spreading germs and are consciously trying to reduce behaviors, like sharing water bottles.


A real-life case in point was a California salon which in 2000 was shut down when a client got a foot fungus from a pedicure because the salon employees didn't disinfect their foot baths between clients.

"Salons need to maintain a high level of standards," Bikle said.

Students learned that a culture that develops compact white spots contains bacteria, while a mold shows up as a greenish-white growth in a petri dish. A dark brown, black or orange growth indicates a fungus, Bikle said.

They also learned that bacteria grows well in warm, dark areas, such as a foot bath, which is why cosmetology students at WCTHS disinfect foot baths twice between clients.

"We really focus on this unit because it's so important. If we don't do a good job teaching this, we aren't preparing them for the real world," Bikle said.

This year's class of 16 juniors are required to have 350 hours of experience before they can hone their skills on human clients. In their two years at the technical high school, they will also be paired with a mentor in a local salon, where they will visit regularly to get a salon perspective.

Students said the germ farms helped them realize the importance of protecting the health and safety of clients, their co-workers and themselves.

"It goes so far beyond cutting and styling hair. You have to provide a clean area for clients and yourself," Christina Thompson said.

By Kelly Hahn Johnson/Staff Photographer

Cosmetology students at Washington County Technical High School hold up their petri dish germ farms as part of the salon ecology unit. The unit shows examples of the prevalence of germs and teaches students how to protect themselves and their clients from the spread of bacteria. On left, from front to back, are Shawnee McMahon, Toni Bernhisel and Cassandra Burkhart. On right, from front to back, are Myrna Sanchez, Heather Gue and Christina Thompson.

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