Coronavirus safety: Kristen Bell urges parents to watch viral video using 'pepper trick' to teach kids to wash hands

Suzy Byrne
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment

Schools may be shuttered across the country due to the coronavirus, but important lessons for little ones continue amid the pandemic.

A cool science experiment — using the easy-to-find home ingredients of pepper and dish soap — has gone viral in an effort to teach kids the importance of washing their hands. Kristen Bell shared a video of a Miami teacher’s video demonstration, calling it an “important” lesson, and urged her followers to “tag a parent” to share it with. And a young Instagram star made his own version, talking directly to his peers, which has been racking up fans.

Over the weekend, The Good Place actress, who has two daughters with Dax Shepard, shared the video of pre-school teacher Amanda Lorenzo doing the so-called “pepper trick” with her students. In it, the educator urged a student to dip her finger into a bowl containing pepper (serving as the “virus”) in water. The pepper didn’t react to the child’s finger, and when she removed her hand, she noticed pepper on her finger.

Lorenzo then had the child dip her finger in soap to clean it and then put it back into the peppered water. Immediately, the pepper scattered away from her soapy finger.

“You see how important it is to wash our hands?” Lorenzo is heard asking her students who are clearly excited by the results.

Lorenzo, whose video now has over 4 million views (450,000 on the one she posted and 3.5 million views on Bell’s re-share), tells Yahoo Entertainment she was scrolling through TikTok when she saw someone doing the experiment and decided to bring it into her classroom. It’s been a true learning experience for her students.

“After the experiment, my kiddos were non-stop washing their hands,” she says. “I think this is beneficial to kids — and even adults — because it is a visual representation of what happens to germs when you wash your hands.” 

Miami teacher Amanda Lorenzo did an experiment with her students showing them the importance of hand-washing during the coronavirus pandemic — and it caught actress Kristen Bell's attention. (Screenshot: Amanda Lorenzo via Instagram)

As for having her efforts recognized by Bell, Lorenzo says, “I was ecstatic!” And she knows her students are even more so “because I know how much they love Frozen.”

She said Bell, who voices the character of Anna in the mega-hit Disney animated flicks, has since followed her on Instagram and she’s “super excited” about that. However, she’s even more happy “that my video is getting across to all other students and teachers and families out there.” 

There are many different variations of the so-called “pepper experiment” making the rounds over the last few days as people self-quarantine in their homes, including one from Tom Fletcher of the British pop group McFly, who did it with his kids — Buzz, 6; Buddy, 4; and Max, 1.

But perhaps the most adorable version comes from 6-year-old Leo Kelly, who’s known on the interwebs as “the Shirley Temple King.” Not only is he a connoisseur of the kid-friendly drink — which nabbed him a guest spot on the Ellen DeGeneres Show last month — but he loves science. So he did the experiment articulately speaking directly to kids.

Kelly’s mom Lisa tells Yahoo Entertainment that the first grader first did this “experiment when he was in preschool” and “always remembers how ‘scared’ germs are of soap.” So “this visual representation of the germs ‘running away’ has always stuck with him and he wanted to share it with others.”

It’s “a great way to remind children and adults of how important proper hand washing is, today and always,” Lisa added.

Young Leo — whose video has 125,000 views — will have more time to tape his favorite science experiments because, like many, his school is closed in an effort to slow down the spread of the virus.

“Like the rest of our country (hopefully), Leo will not be going out to restaurants to taste test Shirley Temples,” Lisa says. “However, we will continue to have fun and make the best of what we do have here at home to make reviews with.”

And this big change is not easy for anyone — even mini internet stars. “While we know it will be difficult” to self-quarantine, Lisa says, “We will try our best to embrace this time together as a family (Leo’s younger brother and sister are thrilled to have him home with them all day). In addition to all of the amazing work our teachers have prepared for their students, we will be sure to keep busy with crafts, snacks and ‘recess.’”

And, Lisa added, “As for mom and dad... lots of coffee.”

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