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Featured GraphicTeach Students to Be "Sun Savvy"

The summer sun offers teachers an important opportunity to talk about sun safety. Many Internet sites carry strong sun safety messages or offer teachers valuable lesson plans for teaching about the science of the sun.

Dr. Patrick Hybarger is worried. He's seeing more skin cancers in younger people than he's ever seen before.

Hybarger -- who works in a skin-cancer clinic at Kaiser Permanente in San Rafael, California -- says that although few children develop skin cancer, many children get heavy exposure to the sun. Just one or two blistering sunburns during those years can increase the likelihood of developing the most deadly form of skin cancer later in life, he adds.


Dr. Jon Starr of Kaiser Permanente's dermatology department in San Jose, California, says: "I tell parents they need to religiously protect their children from sunburn. Put sunscreen on them every day. It should be a routine, just like insisting that children brush their teeth or wash their hands.

Doctors praise teachers efforts in Australia, where schoolchildren are not allowed out for recess unless they are wearing sunscreen and hats. Should U.S. schools adopt such rules? That might be a good idea, but in the meantime, teachers can play an important role in sun safety education. They can teach about and reinforce precautions that can be taken to avoid skin cancer later in life.

Between 800,000 and 1 million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year, and more than 9,000 people will die of the disease, the American Cancer Society estimates. The society offers these facts, warnings, and recommendations:

  • Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15. Reapply often.
  • Avoid being out during the peak sun-exposure hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Wear hats, sunglasses, and protective clothing.
  • Did you know that the sun's rays can pierce clouds and water?
  • Being fair-skinned and red- or blond-haired can increase the risk of getting sunburn and skin cancer.
  • Some medicines increase the body's sensitivity to sun.


Brainstorming: Bored this summer? Divide students into small groups, and invite them to brainstorm a list of fun things they can do this summer if they're feeling bored. One person in each group can act as secretary and record the group's list. Give students ten minutes to do this activity. Then give them a few more minutes to review their lists and place a star next to each entry that can be done indoors or in a place that is safe from sun exposure. Finally, invite the groups to share their ideas. Create a class list that students can post in their homes and refer to during the summer when they're feeling bored.

Language: ABCs of Summer Safety. What can students do to stay safe in summer? Invite students to work in small groups to talk about things they can do. Challenge students to come up with an action they can take for each letter of the alphabet. For example, Stay Away from poison ivy.; wear helmets when Bike riding; Close the gate behind you when you leave the pool area so no small children can get into the area unsupervised.

Science Fun Facts. Did you know that more than one million Earths could fit inside the sun? Invite students to search for and to share other amazing facts about our sun.



Article by Gary Hopkins, Education World® Contributing Editor
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