Inspired by Public Health courses at Brock University, Medical Sciences student Azaan Adnan and Biomedical Sciences student Alvin Jaimon have put their learning into practice by creating a pixel colouring book to help increase awareness on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The pixel colouring book is aimed for school-aged children from Grades 5 to 8 and contains 16 pages of age-appropriate, fact-based information and activities designed to aid parents and educators who may be seeking a suitable resource to engage children about healthy practices and activities during all phases of the pandemic.
“The idea first came to us in March, as resources about COVID-19 were plentiful, but not child-friendly,” says Adnan. “Both Alvin and I live at home with younger siblings who had a lot of questions. We realized that if our families could benefit from a creative, engaging resource, other people might find this valuable too.”
The students created the main character Spotless Sammy the Sanitizer who helps his friend Billy learn the facts about COVID-19 and preventative measures in a safe and enjoyable way.
“Knowledge is empowering,” says Jaimon. “We wanted to find a way to help children and youth be less afraid, as well as answer questions at a level they can understand.”
Initially, the pair set out to make a traditional colouring book, but realizing they didn’t have the artistic talents to fulfil their vision, they brainstormed remotely to come up with a creative solution. They used their love of video games to look at pixel art as an alternative.
Using technology to stay in contact with each other, the pair began to assemble content through a public health lens and with information available from the World Health Organization.
“I was taking a third-year Medical Microbiology class with Health Sciences Instructor Carolynn Pietrangeli when the pandemic hit,” says Adnan. “Everything we were experiencing encompassed our classroom learning. Our professor became our guiding light.”
They approached Pietrangeli with the content they created, who was impressed and saw value in its public and child health implications.
“We are at an important moment in history with the need to move forward with good, healthy habits,” says Pietrangeli. “This colouring book is full of facts intended to comfort children. It wouldn’t surprise me if the kids who learn from this begin to teach their siblings and peers how to spread accurate information and not COVID-19.”
Seeing the potential reach of this resource, Health Sciences Assistant Professor Karen Patte was brought in to provide her child health expertise.
“We often have a tendency to want to protect kids,” she says. “Providing them with more knowledge at a level they understand can help children and youth feel more in control and move forward with less anxiety.”
In consultation with Pietrangeli and Patte, the resource was expanded and modified to include a read-only storybook version, address common fears and answer some of the more complicated ‘why’ questions children might have.
“Children are very curious,” says Jaimon. “When parents tell children to wash their hands, they need to understand there is a good reason. Now that we are expected to wear face coverings in [many parts of] Niagara, children may have a lot of questions about this too. Our colouring book can help with this.”
To inspire children to become actively engaged, the colouring book includes a section on some of the lesser known research about COVID-19.
“Hoping to nurture a curiosity of public and global health, we incorporated carefully vetted information on the zoonotic origins of how the virus is believed to have started, passed from a bat to humans,” says Adnan. “As aspiring medical students, we often look at origin studies. This becomes an important piece to share for enhanced understanding.”
The COVID-19 prevention colouring book is intended for English-speaking children and youth in mid to senior elementary school. The resource is available for free download online and also comes in a printer-friendly and storybook version.