Memorial Day marks the end of another school year and the unofficial start of outdoor summer fun. Public pools open and slip ‘n slides are rolled out to the soundtrack of ice cream truck jingles and kids’ laughter. Along with accidental belly flops, dropped ice cream cones, and unseen rocks under the slip ‘n slide, are the nasty sunburns.
Sunburns might seem like just a temporary pain or discomfort, but there are more dangerous effects that aren’t always immediately apparent.
Did you know that being sunburned at least once during childhood doubles the risk of melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer? An estimated 1 in 5 people will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
While you can’t “undo” a sunburn, there’s plenty that can be done to prevent them in the future. Teachers, parents, and caregivers can take steps to help protect kids, and importantly, teach them to protect themselves.
“I wish I would have known about this stuff as a kid,” says Jennifer Bartholomew, a pre-K and ESL teacher at Caldwell Heights Elementary School in Round Rock, Texas. The issue of sun safety is particularly poignant to Ms. Bartholomew who has a family history of skin cancer and had her own brush with the disease this past year. “I had a growth removed right here,” she says as she points to her left arm. “So, I’m really excited to teach the kids what they can do to be sun safe.”
Caldwell Heights is one of more than 1,000 sites across the country that have begun implementing a new sun safety program called Ray and the Sunbeatables™: A Sun Safety Curriculum, which was created and developed by experts at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
The Sunbeatables Program educates children, teachers and parents about sun protection and promotes sun safety behaviors in an effort to reduce children’s lifetime risk of developing skin cancer. Featuring superhero characters, each of whom wields “sun safety superpowers” to share with children, the program includes sun safety songs, science activities, puppet shows, art, and more. The Sunbeatables Program is disseminated by CATCH Global Foundation and has just been made available online for free.
“The characters and activity guide are very kid friendly and the children really enjoy learning how to be sun safe,” says Tara Chaney, Education and Special Services Specialist at Community Services, Inc. “I also love that it aligns with the Head Start Framework!”
The Sunbeatables Program targets preschoolers, kindergarteners and first grade students and has been disseminated nationwide in childcare centers, schools and community-based organizations. It has been adopted by numerous Head Start centers, including seven sites in Missouri with Community Services, Inc.
Ms. Chaney says parents have been supportive of the sun safety lessons and appreciative of the extra care taken to ensure kids are sun safe year-round. “The teachers have also received great support from organizations out in the community that have helped by donating sunglasses and hats for the children to wear when out on the playground,” she adds.
Sun safety policies and educational efforts can help protect kids today and ensure they develop the skills needed to protect themselves in the future.
So, whether they’ll be outside at the pool, the park, a summer camp or daycare, it’s important for kids (and adults!) to practice proper sun safety. When you’re enjoying the great outdoors this summer, and all year round, remember these sun safety tips: