For Sepsis Awareness Month this September, the American Federation of Teachers has partnered with the Rory Staunton Foundation for Sepsis Prevention to bring sepsis education to preK-12 classrooms across the country, with a new sepsis prevention curriculum. Read the message from Rory's mother below and explore our free resources on surviving sepsis and prevention.
Message from Orlaith Staunton, co-founder of the Rory Staunton Foundation for Sepsis Prevention, sepsis education advocate and mother of Rory:
My son, Rory, died on April 1, 2012. He was just 12 years old. Rory died from sepsis, a preventable condition that, if recognized early enough, could have been treated successfully.
Rory dove for a ball in gym class at his school and cut his elbow. Instead of sending him to the nurse on duty, the teacher applied a bandage without cleaning the wound. Unfortunately, a deadly toxin entered his body. Four days after the fall, Rory died.
At the time of his death, I remember thinking that Rory must have died from something really rare. How else, I asked myself, could a strong, healthy, 5-foot-10, 158-pound boy die so fast. It just didn’t make sense.
Alas, I discovered that Rory died from sepsis, which kills more Americans than AIDS, breast cancer, prostate cancer and stroke combined—up to 500,000 annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. My husband and I soon learned that most Americans, like us, did not know sepsis was a leading cause of death—many had never even heard of the life-threatening condition. So we founded the Rory Staunton Foundation for Sepsis Prevention to educate every family and child about the signs and symptoms of sepsis.
We are incredibly proud to collaborate with the AFT to produce this sepsis curriculum, which promotes a “back to the basics” approach to preventing infection, educates students about the risks and signs of sepsis, and encourages young people to assume responsibility for sepsis education in their communities by devising public health awareness campaigns.
We believe that if our son had learned about sepsis in school, he would be alive today. There would have been a discussion around the dinner table about sepsis, and we would have learned along with our kids. We believe in the power of education, we honor our teachers and we look forward to all children having conversations about sepsis. This curriculum will save lives!
Surviving Sepsis: A Preventative Curriculum
Leading health organizations and experts agree that lives can be saved when patients and healthcare professionals are able to recognize sepsis symptoms early on and receive or provide the right treatment. It’s important to make sepsis a household name so that when symptoms strike, people know to ask, “Could it be sepsis?”
This sepsis prevention curriculum will help you educate your students about this major health issue. Not only will today’s children be responsible for their own healthcare decisions as they grow up, but they will also become the doctors, nurses and other medical professionals of tomorrow.
The lessons below, which are aligned to various national standards, were created by teachers with experience teaching about sepsis in their own classrooms.
We urge you to share this sepsis prevention curriculum—full of engaging, standards-aligned preK-12 lessons—with your students during Sepsis Awareness Month and beyond, and join the coalition of educators, health professionals, legislators and families dedicated to spreading the word about sepsis in order to save lives. Get started with this two-minute sepsis tutorial, and then check out the lessons below, available at Share My Lesson and the Rory Staunton Foundation for Sepsis Prevention.
Surviving Sepsis and Prevention Resources: Grades PreK-2
Students will learn the importance of cleaning their cuts right away and covering them with bandages. This lesson teaches the first-aid approach “cut, clean, cover” as a way to help prevent infection, control the spread of germs and disease, and reinforce hygienic practices. Students will learn how infection occurs and identify safe practices through a read-along story, “Ouch! I Got a Cut!” written by Orlaith and Kathleen Staunton and illustrated by Cecilia Mandrile.
This lesson teaches students how our skin protects us from bacterial infections. They’ll learn that a person’s body can become infected from an abrasion/cut, so we must clean our cuts and cover them to stay safe and avoid getting sick. The lesson begins with the abstract concept of germs and how they enter our bloodstream and make us sick. We use a fun song, a demonstration with a banana and a cool craft activity—germ gem necklaces—to help our youngest students learn about bacteria.
This lesson teaches ways that we can help prevent infection and control the spread of germs and disease. Students will learn about how infections occur, identify safe practices through a read-along story, and build a model to help them understand the abstract concept of germs and how they are spread. Students will learn that a bug bite is a cut, make a cute tick and hear a story about a tick bite with a happy ending.
Surviving Sepsis and Prevention Resources: Grades 3-5
This lesson teaches students how easily harmful germs can spread and introduces the subject of sepsis. Students also have the opportunity to see what bacteria actually look like, using microscopes or photographs. PowerPoint slides are provided to help facilitate visual concepts.
As a class, students will read the book “Nurse Nancy” and then discuss who to tell when we aren’t feeling well or have symptoms of sepsis (trusted adults like parents, teachers, nurses and doctors). The class will then use kinesthetic methods to reinforce the “cut, clean, cover” method of first aid by acting out both teacher-directed and student-created scenes.
This lesson teaches that washing our hands helps to protect us from getting and sharing bacterial infections. The activity models how one can become infected with bacteria and how infections can be shared. We begin with the abstract concept of germs and show how one sick person can share his or her illness and make others sick. During a hands-on activity, students will wet their hands, dip them in flour and shake hands with other students, demonstrating how germs are spread.
Surviving Sepsis and Prevention Resources: Middle School
Students will establish criteria for identifying a public health emergency and discuss sepsis as an example. Throughout the lesson, students will complete summative tasks that demonstrate their understanding. Students will watch two videos, "What Is Sepsis” and “Sepsis: A Hidden Crisis Exposed.”
After learning about the basics of sepsis, students will review prevention strategies. Throughout the lesson, students will complete summative tasks that demonstrate their understanding. To culminate the lesson, students will develop an informational brochure or poster on sepsis. A printable bookmark is also provided for students to share with family and friends.
Surviving Sepsis and Prevention Resources: High School
Students will learn new vocabulary and information on the topic of sepsis. After a reading assignment and informal formative assessment, the students will play a reinforcement card game, further strengthening their understanding. This is a culmination of all previously scaffolded lessons. It reviews and builds self-advocacy, decision-making and communication skills, and includes puzzles for vocabulary review.
After the class has learned about the importance of civic responsibility and the ways in which citizens contribute to the common good, students will be ready to establish a position on an issue that involves conflicting social values and interests. Students will use logic to state and defend a position on the issue of sepsis.
For more information about surviving sepsis and prevention, please visit the Rory Staunton Foundation for Sepsis Prevention.
This article was originally published on September 12, 2017.