Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Healthy Schools Day

Today is the 15th annual Healthy Schools Day. Apparently I wasn't paying attention the previous fourteen years because when I heard about it, I had to look it up to understand just what it is.
I learned much of the emphasis concerns the school environment - chemicals, asbestos, toxic products, indoor air quality, lead in the water, moulds, building maintenance, etc.

My first thoughts about health in the schools went to the health of individuals which made me think about health as it was addressed when I went to school in our local one-room country school.

Part of the morning routine, after the pledge of allegiance to the flag was recited and while we were still standing beside our desks, was the teacher walking down the rows and examining our hands. We had to hold out our hands, palms up so she could see if they were clean and then turn them over so she could see if our fingernails were clean. I know our hair was supposed to be neatly combed but I don't recall ever being checked for head lice - although that was a problem many years later when I had children in elementary school.

I also remember an outbreak of ring worm in one family and being warned not to touch those kids. Then there were the usual childhood illnesses. If one kid had the measles or mumps you could expect everyone else to catch them, too. Interestingly even though the measles went through the student population more than once in my eight years of grade school, I never caught them until after I started to high school.

Drinking water came from a well on the school grounds. The water tasted kind of funky, but I don't think it was ever tested. One of the older kids would pump a bucket of water and carry it up to the school house. We had a crock like this one that sat on a shelf just inside the door. It seems to me, when I first started to school, we all used the same glass when we wanted a drink. Later I think we each kept our own cups or glasses to use.

We were also supposed to carry a handkerchief to cover coughs and sneezes but our teacher usually kept a box of tissues on her desk which we could use. Desks were probably only wiped off if they got sticky from paste or our lunches - water was sufficient for cleaning - no Lysol spray needed! And who can forget the smell red sweeping compound sprinkled on the wood floors?

How healthy was our one room country school? How might we have celebrated Healthy Schools Day if it had been a national day back in the 1940's and 50's?

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