CHEMICALLY SAFE ENVIRONMENT AS A GUARANTEE OF SCHOOLCHILDREN’S HEALTH
Objectives of the research: to establish primary school students’ and their parents’ and teachers’ knowledge of hazardous chemicals and their attitude to the choice of various things and hygiene products, as well as to develop a methodology for teaching and learning the theme in the basic school. Good health is a major resource of social, economic and personal development and an important aspect of life quality. An individual’s health is influenced by a number of factors, like genetics, the global environment, age, etc. However, health is influenced by the individual’s habits in an essential way. The rapid development of chemistry and the application of chemicals in industry and everyday life have changed the environment. This is why holistic understanding of health by the individual, their development of healthy lifestyle habits and a skill based on competences to assess the risks to health are so important for the individual when taking decisions about what is best for their health.
Adult and child health may be negatively affected by a number of environmental factors – polluted water, air and soil, noise, as well as man-made hazardous chemicals used for producing various household appliances. The chemical composition of building materials and household objects make the indoor and outdoor environment worse and this can provoke a variety of health problems, such as allergies, sleep and concentration disorders, coughing, sneezing, asthma-like symptoms, etc. Chemicals are also cancer-causing agents that in interaction with the individual’s genetic factors may provoke malignancies. Children grow and develop more intensively, so they are more sensitive, they intake more food and water per kilogram of weight and consequently more harmful substances, too. The child’s nervous system, their endocrine system and reproductive organs are highly susceptible to environmental chemical pollution. In order to protect the child’s health, it is important to identify and assess these environmental factors and make them less harmful.
A lot of life skills which ensure the child’s welfare, health and safety should be developed as early as the pre-school and the primary school. Although students are going to acquire the basics of chemistry later, in primary school they have to learn about the most common chemical elements and get the notion of their importance in nature and human life. While implementing learning based on competences, students should be prepared for responding to real-life situations. They are to learn to choose goods and products harmless to health. After analysing the content of the primary school curriculum, a variety of possibilities for acquainting schoolchildren with hazardous chemicals in each subject have been revealed.
The best results can be achieved by respecting the psychological characteristics of junior schoolchildren through effective teaching materials, practical work done by children themselves on studying various substances and household objects, clarifying problem issues, role plays, business and didactic games, and visits to production companies and shops producing and selling different goods. In this way the student will learn to think critically, analyse, and choose the safest course of action.