Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.” Sounds terrific, doesn’t it? In Colorado, we are blessed with over 300 days of sunshine a year, which gives us little choice but to live in it…literally. That’s why the Administration, Staff and Governing Board at St. Philip Early Learning Center are excited to tell you about our newest program – Sun Safety!
We understand that the sun is necessary for life. It helps us grow, provides nourishment for our raised bed pumpkins in front of the school, and gives us a good excuse for Popsicle socials. Yet we also know that too much of it can be harmful, especially for young children. Overexposure can lead to sunburn, wrinkles, eye damage, and skin cancer. According to Healthy Childcare Consultants, Inc.…1.2 million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed annually. A child born today has a 1 in 5 chance of developing skin cancer in his or her lifetime. If there is any silver lining, it would be that 80 percent of skin cancers are preventable by practicing sun safe behaviors such as:
We believe that introducing sun safe practices early can make a difference for the children in the long run, and SPELC has chosen to take a proactive stance on the issue. We began by assessing our sun safety in terms of shade provided, outdoor play times, sunscreen use policies, and staff and child sun safe clothing habits (hats, glasses, etc.). The assessment taught us that some of the policies we have encourage these behaviors, but that we have room for improvement in the following areas: staff and student sun safety and the school environment.
To address staff sun safety, we covered sun safety during a staff in-service. SPELC staff and teachers reviewed statistics, visited sun safe practices in-depth, and practiced classroom curriculum ideas. One important learning point that emerged during the training was that sun safety in early childhood involves more than avoidance of harmful rays. It also includes protection from heat, avoiding sunburns and dehydration, and maintaining comfort.
The heart of the program is student sun safety. Given that many of our students are very young; this includes sun safety education for the whole family. You are likely to see posters in the hallways and activities in your child’s backpack. Undoubtedly, you’ll be reminded to apply sunscreen on your children before dropping them off; to send them to school wearing a wide-brimmed hat, long-sleeved shirts and sunglasses; and to talk to them about playing in the shade.
In the classroom, our teachers incorporate sun safety into the things they do every day – like talking about the weather. If it’s sunny, the penguin gets a hat and sun glasses! All teachers have committed to spending classroom time promoting awareness of sun safe behaviors during the school year. If you are interested, you are welcome to check out the Sun Safe Toolkit available to teachers to see what they might be planning.
We schedule a special “sun safety show” designed especially for our Ruby, Emerald and Pre-K children during the month of April each year.