Famous People Mini-Unit

Sub Topic:

Florence Nightingale

Authored by Katrina Argyle

Suggested for Grades 1-3


Background Information






Background Information:


Florence Nightingale was born in 1820 and was named after the city of her birth, Florence, Italy. She was the second daughter of wealthy parents from England. Florence and her sister, Parthenope, were educated by their father, William Nightingale, and private teachers. She excelled in her studies, especially math. She loved to read books from her father's library and she also loved to write. Florence was always scribbling notes, writing letters or writing in her diary.

Florence was a wealthy woman in the early 1800's. During this time period, her "class" of women were expected to get married, have children and throw parties for the other wealthy families of England. Florence was not happy with the way her life was supposed to be, and she knew she could make a difference in the lives of people, if she could serve.



In 1844, Florence decided to go into the nursing profession. This decision greatly upset her family. Her parents refused to let Florence become a nurse. Nurses in England had a reputation for being drunken, untrained and uneducated. Nurses were people who cooked for the sick and sometimes bathed them. Hospitals were dirty, smelly, over crowded places that were full of diseases. The only people in the hospitals were poor people who could not afford a private doctor. Florence was heartbroken when she was told she could not become a nurse. She fell into depression. Her parents finally approved, and Florence began caring for the sick. She started by visiting them, bringing them clean cloths, good food and medicine. Her focus was on the patients' health. She realized that once the patients were clean and genuinely cared for, their health improved.

Florence learned basic nursing skills while volunteering in hospitals around Germany and France. After receiving formal training in Alexandria, Egypt, she became the head nurse at a hospital in London. She made sure that the conditions of the hospitals were very clean. Everything was washed. This helped to keep disease from spreading and the patient's health improved faster.


THE CRIMEAN WAR (1853-1856)

Sidney Herbert, who sent British soldiers to fight against Russia in the Crimean War, had heard of Florence Nightingale and admired her work. More wounded soldiers were dying from disease and infections they acquired in the field hospitals, than died from the wounds of battle. Sidney sent for Florence and her nurses to help. Florence came at once with a team of trained nurses. When they arrived, they had very little to work with. There was no access to water and no medical equipment. Florence organized a kitchen and a laundry and worked very hard to improve the terrible conditions. She worked up to 20 hours a day. At night she would carry a lantern to the bedsides of the wounded to check on them. The soldiers began to call Florence, "The Lady with the Lamp". The wounded would often kiss her shadow as it would pass over their beds. Thousands of soldiers were saved because of the work of Florence and her nurses.



*In 1856, after the war, Florence returned to London a national heroine.

*In 1859, Florence wrote two books that were published. Notes on Nursing and Notes on Hospitals.

*In 1860, she opened the Nightingale Training School. Every time a "Nightingale" nurse was sent to a far away nursing job, Florence would have a bouquet of flowers waiting her arrival. "Nightingales" were in great demand and came highly recommended.

*In 1861 she advised the United States Secretary of War on setting up army hospitals for the northern soldiers, wounded in the Civil War.

*In 1872, the International Committee of the Red Cross' founder, Henry Dunant, testifies that his ideas were influenced by the work of Florence Nightingale in the Crimean war.

* In 1907, at the age of 87, Britain's King Edward VII bestowed the Order of Merit on Florence Nightingale. She was the first woman to receive this award which honors civilians for their services to Britain.

*August 13, 1910, Florence Nightingale died in her sleep.


Florence Nightingale will always be remembered for her endless work to help the poor and especially the sick. She could have lived an aristocratic lifestyle with no worries, but she chose a different path. She saw a need for someone who cared, and did everything in her power to make a change. Florence is the mother of modern nursing and was the driving force that reformed military medicine.



Brown, P. (1989). People Who Have Helped the World; Florence Nightingale. Milwaukee, WI: Gareth Stevens, Inc.

Adler, D.A. (1992). A Picture Book of Florence Nightingale. New York, NY: Scholastic.

Mosher, K. (1996). Learning About Compassion From the Life of Florence Nightingale. New York, NY: Rosen Publishing Group.

Tames, R. (1989). Florence Nightingale. New York, NY: Franklin Watts.


1. The students will be able to describe the contributions made by Florence Nightingale to the medical profession and to her community. The students will write these contributions in their "Nightingale Journal".

2. The students will be able to describe ways they have helped or could help people in their community.

3. The students will identify a person in need of service and devise a plan to serve.

4. The students will be able to identify at least one way to help stop germs and disease from spreading in their own school or family.

5. The students will be able to identify places in their school or home that have the potential to spread germs.


Time allotment: Approximately 7 class periods.


Resources Needed:

Map of Europe

Nightingale Journal @ 1 per student (Activity 9)

Guest speaker (school or community nurse)

Arrange hospital visit

Glow Germ Kit (see Appendix A) and/or

Germ Busting (flour and soap)

Hospital / doctor equipment for dramatic play




1. Values Whip: Ask the students, "What have you done to make someone else's life better today?" or "How have you helped someone today?" Give them time to think about the question, then rapidly go to each child allowing each child to answer the question or pass, if they do not want to share. Ask all of the students to listen carefully to the responses. When everyone has had a turn, ask the children to recall what the students of the class did for others. Write the answers on the board and discuss how they made someone's life easier or better. Have students write in their Nightingale Journals how they personally made someone's life easier or better.


2. Mini-Lecture: Tell the students the next famous person they are going to learn about is famous because of what she did for others. Share that Florence Nightingale did a lot of work to help the sick and the poor live better lives. She cleaned up the hospitals so infection and disease didn't get in the way of patient recovery. Explain that she is the mother of modern nursing, she showed much compassion for the sick and did all she could to make their stay at the hospital a better one. Be sure to locate Britain, Italy and the site of the Crimean war (Ukraine peninsula of Crimea) on the map. Journal entry should include important contributions Florence Nightingale made to her community.

3.Guest Speaker: After reminding students that Florence Nightingale was the mother of modern nursing, invite a medical professional (preferably a nurse) to come to class and explain how clean hospitals, schools and homes can prevent the spread of sickness and disease. Have the speaker identify possible areas in the school where germs could be spread. *If possible, have the speaker talk about what Florence Nightingale did for the nursing profession. Journal entry should include places where germs could be spread at school and at home.

4. Science Extension: "Show Them The Germs!" This activity is designed to show students how easily germs can be spread from one person to the next. It also stresses the importance of hand washing to prevent the spread of germs. After completing this activity, have the students brainstorm what they could do in their school or home to help stop the spread of germs. Teacher needs to read "Show Them the Germs!" in Appendix A. Have students record in their Nightingale Journals how or if this activity will affect the way they go about their lives. Will they wash their hands more? Will they be more careful about what they touch?

*If you do not have access to the Glow Germ Kit, use the Germ Busting activity provide by the National Dairy Council, also located in Appendix A.


5. Hospital Visit: Prior to going to the hospital, check to see if there is a sick person the children could visit or send get well cards to. Prepare the students to go on a field trip to tour the local hospital by asking them to look for conditions that promote health. Also have them look around the hospital environment for cleanliness or areas that are unclean. Have a student write down any questions the students have, so they don't forget to ask them when they arrive at the hospital. Have the person giving the tour reemphasize the necessity for cleanliness and how it relates to better health. If possible, while the students are at the hospital, visit a person who could use some cheer. Have students record their observations of the hospital environment into their journals.


6. Think-Pair-Share: Individually have the students remember their hospital tour. Then pair the students and have them discuss what they observed and what their thoughts were. Have them recall what conditions were like during the time of Florence Nightingale and what contributions she made to modern medical conditions. Then ask each pair of students to share with the class what their thoughts and feelings were. These thoughts and feelings could also be recorded in the Nightingale journal.


7. Service Project: Have the students brainstorm ways they could be modern Florence Nightingales. Ask them to think of ways they could serve anyone in their community or school. Ask the principal if anyone at the school has been sick or out for any reason that the students could help with. Possibilities include: Get well cards, home visits, rest home visits, yard work, grocery shopping. Journal entries could be kept of feelings and thoughts as they served.


8. Dramatic Play: If time permits, have a hospital set up in the classroom. Allow the students to role play as the doctors, nurses and patients (free or elective time). Have this area available to the students the entire week of study on Florence Nightingale.

9. Nightingale Journals: (learning logs) During the entire week of study on Florence Nightingale, have the students record what they have learned about Florence in their "Lady With the Lamp" shape journals. Have them include their questions and feelings. At the end of the Florence week of study, have the students include three important things they learned about Florence Nightingale. *Include at least one sheet of lined paper for each day you plan to study this topic. To make a Nightingale Journal, find a picture of a lamp, preferably and old fashioned one. Make one copy of it for each student. The picture needs to fill an 8 1/2 X 11 sheet of paper. This will be the front of the journal. Make another copy of the lamp shape for the back of the journal. Fill the journal with lined paper and staple together.


1. Student contributions to Values Whip will be assessed informally through teacher observations and will also be assessed from entries in the journal.

2. Students willingness to participate in the service project will be assessed anecdotally along with journal entries.

3. Science Extension responses will be assessed in the Nightingale Journal when it is collected.

4. Think-Pair-Share contributions will be assessed anecdotally.

5. Dramatic play will be observed and assessed anecdotally.

6. Nightingale Journals will be collected and assessed periodically throughout the week.

7. Nightingale Journals will be collected at the end of the week to assess the three important things they have learned about Florence Nightingale.

Appendix A

"Show" Me the Germs!


Glo Germ

This is an exciting activity that demonstrates, with ease, how germs are spread. It also emphasizes the importance of proper hand washing and cleaning. Glo Germ helps students visualize that germs can be spread from one person to another, and to everything that is touched.

Glo Germ is made from tiny particles that are only visible under ultraviolet light. These glowing particles represent germs.

Prior to class, the teacher applies the Glo Germ liquid or powder to his or her hands. As students arrive to class, choose two or three students, and shake their hands. When you are discussing how germs can be spread, have the class "scan" their hands under the ultraviolet light. The students who shook your hand, will have a glowing hand. Also scan your hand and tell the student you transferred your "germs" to the students who shook your hand. Scan objects that the glowing students have touched. Those objects will also glow, indicating germs are present.

To teach proper hand washing, have students apply Glo Germ to their hands. Then vary the washing times of the students' hands. Scan all the hands under the ultraviolet light to see how long you should wash your hands to remove all the germs.

Glo Germ is a product of the Glo-Germ Company of Moab, Utah. You can contact them for the product and information at 800-842-6622.


Germ Busting! provided by the National Dairy Council

Materials: bowl of flour soap


What to do: Dip your hands into the flour, completely covering them. Explain to students that when you sneeze, you cover your hands with invisible germs. The flour on your hands represents the germs. Then touch several surfaces. Ask students to observe what happens when you don't wash your hands. (Flour, germs are left behind.) Now have students touch the floury surface. Ask the students if the germs were spread. (Flour, germs stick to their skin.) Ask the students with flour on them, what would happen if they stuck their fingers into their mouth, or onto their food. (Germs, would go into their mouth.)

Explain to students you can get rid of germs on your hands the same way you could get rid of the flour...by washing them!



**Both activities were adapted from a class handout provided by Debra M. Spielmaker, State Agriculture in the Classroom Project Coordinator, Utah State University Extension, Logan, Utah 84322-2315.