By Suzanne Schmidt
With summer here, Oakstead Elementary School is helping to teach their kids how to stay safe from the damaging rays.
Over the next year, a team made up of the school’s physical education coaches, a guidance counselor, the school nurse and assistant principal Megan Hermansen will work together to incorporate more sun safety education into the curriculum.
At the end of the 2010-11 school year, Hermansen said she will be applying for the 2010 American Academy of Dermatology Shade Structure Program. She said there are a few things she needs to do over the next year to apply for the program like getting a dermatologist to sponsor the school.
“We have to get all these things in place for a year before we can apply for the grant,” Hermansen said. “Our goal is for our kids to understand and have the knowledge of what could happen to their skin. We are teaching them to wear sunscreen, stay properly hydrated and to wear a hat. Not just a baseball cap either, a floppy hat that keeps them well covered.”
Currently the school does have a permanent structure over their P.E. court, but the school needs more covered space to accommodate its more than 1,000 students.
“The way the (grant) program works, is for the structure to benefit all the kids,” Hermansen said. “Our covered court can’t fit everyone. We know it will be expensive, but right now we are still in the planning stages and don’t know how much it will end up costing.”
The curriculum will teach students about sunspots, sun damage and cancer but in a not-so-scary way.
“The curriculum will be focused on health and wellness,” Hermansen said. “Depending on their developmental level, we will teach them about what happens to their skin as they go out into the sun. We need to let them know because now is the time.”
Lois Rendina is the supervisor and coordinator for the Melanoma and Cutaneous Oncology division at the H. Lee Moffit Cancer Center in Tampa. As part of the new curriculum, Rendina visited with the students at the school and taught them about sun safety.
“It is important to teach them about sun safety because the most damage is done when they are children,” Rendina said. “Every time a child gets a bad sunburn, it is a risk factor. Just tanning the skin is damaging it. A lot of the damage that causes skin cancer later in life happens when we are children. ”
Rendina said she thinks it is important to teach children proper sun safety especially now due to the new legislation that requires children to be outside playing for 150 minutes a week while in school.
“It is something I think we do need because there is a childhood obesity problem,” Rendina said. “Now that they are out marching around in the sun for 30 minutes a day, they need to be taught how to protect themselves.”
Rendina said there are a few things people of any age can do to protect their skin like to remember to slip, slop, slap and slide. Slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, slap on a hat and slide on some sunglasses. She said sun damage can happen at any age so everyone should protect his or her skin.
“It is highly important to put sunscreen on at least 30 minutes before going out in the sun and to put it on dry skin,” Rendina said. “The most important thing to remember is to get sun block that is 30 SPF (Sun Protection Factor) or higher and that it is a broad spectrum meaning it blocks UVA and UVB rays.”
Some other tips Rendina suggests are to avoid the sun completely if you can between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun is the strongest. Even if it is cloudy, 75 percent of UV rays still come through the clouds.
Sunglasses are also important because they help to prevent ocular melanoma and glaucoma. She said the state of Florida has the second highest rates of melanoma in the country.
Rendina manages the mole patrol for Moffitt. She and her team will go out into the community to places like the beach or a Rays game and check people’s moles for skin cancer and melanoma.
“Skin cancer is highly curable if it is caught early so that is why it is highly important to examine yourself,” Rendina said. “It is important to keep watching your moles. I check to make sure that the mole is symmetrical, the edges are smooth and if it is all one color. If it is larger than an eraser on a pencil or if there are any changes, that means it is time to see a dermatologist.”
For more information about Moffitt, visit www.moffitt.org.
For more information or to help Oakstead find a dermatologist, call the school at (813) 346-1500 or visit otters.pasco.k12.fl.us/oes_web/Home.html.
Sun safety tips:
–Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat and slide on sunglasses
–Sunscreen needs to protect against UVA and UVB rays
–Sunscreen needs to be 30 SPF or higher
–Avoid sun completely if possible from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
–Even if it is cloudy, 75 percent of UV rays come through