When it comes to the importance of sun-safety and how we make it part of our everyday lives, the science is definitely in. Our old, dangerous, sun-worshipping Aussie culture is now almost completely transformed. We all know the mantra; Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide by heart and these days, most of us live by it. Schools take sun safety seriously and implement a range of strategies to support school environments that protect students from the damaging effects of the sun. It’s frightening, but the truth is that much of the sun exposure that causes skin damage occurs during childhood and adolescence. By the age of 15, many children have developed irreversible skin damage from their exposure to the sun.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Australia. It is estimated that 95% of skin cancers can be prevented by simply reducing exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Each school has a responsibility to provide a safe environment for students and staff and this includes providing adequate protection from the sun. Providing shade, designing and building protected areas and covering your spaces to grow is what we do every day at Greenline. Achieving good sun safety in schools requires the whole school community to get on board. With our students, particularly younger ones, teachers usually take on that extra duty of care, reminding kids to apply sunscreen and to top up throughout the day. Parents are usually applying it first thing in the morning and popping a small tube in the school bags. Parents are at school carnivals checking that their own children and their children’s friends are wearing hats and covering up. Bigger kids are reminding the littlies to put their hat on. It’s a team effort and there are some great ways you can get everyone involved in your sun-safety program.
Have a conversation with your local pharmacy about perhaps sponsoring a sunscreen station at your next sports carnival. It would only cost them a bottle or tube or two of sunscreen, or even some fun, coloured zinc cream, and could give them some great publicity. Or they could offer some sun hats or sunglasses as prizes. Your local supermarket could probably get on board too and be part of your sun-safety strategy. Perhaps you could implement a rewards system which recognises students who consistently wear their hat and who encourage others to do the same.
Spend some lesson time showing your students how to access weather sites online and how to read and utilise the information provided. You can make this part of your lesson planning, getting your students involved with looking at forecasts to plan your outdoor lessons in advance and have the kids be part of the decision-making process. The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) website, http://www.bom.gov.au , is a great place to start and can lead into understanding the science around ultraviolet radiation. Importantly, the UV Index is available on the BOM website and explains the numbers and strength of UV radiation – so your students can actively participate in planning for outdoor lessons and activities to minimise exposure to UV radiation – and this is knowledge that they will use all their lives.
Your school could even have a student-led, daily communication about the weather conditions and UV rating with the students having input and responsibility for sun safety. On your school PA system, your school captain could announce sunscreen top-up times, reminders about your no hat-no play policy, and kids working together to make sure everyone is sun-safe. As we know, most children thrive when they are given some responsibility and the opportunity to help others and the good sun-safety habits they need will be formed and cemented to firmly establish those habits for life.
Another way you can contribute to sun safety continuing well into the future, is to have a targeted fundraising period for the purchase of some shade trees. Students can take part in the locations for planting and perhaps research the type of trees needed to achieve the best shade. You could plan your fundraising for the first half of the year to lead up to a Spring school event where the trees could be planted. Invite a valued school community member to launch the planting process and if you can afford it, buy an advanced tree or two for instant shade.
Of course, the ultimate instant shade is with one of Greenline’s custom designed shade structures. The safest action you can take to avoid the dangers of high UV ratings and the burning sun, is to get away from it and we can help you do that quickly, efficiently and within your budget. From our single post star structure, which offers maximum shade with minimal disruption, to a covered outdoor COLA, where learning and play can occur in tandem, Greenline can get you outdoors and sun-safe.
Greenline’s interest in sun safety goes more than skin deep. We have partnered with Melanoma Institute Australia https://www.melanoma.org.au/ and our commitment to sun-safety is real. We provide the shade needed, but that’s only half the battle. Melanoma Institute do the research, which has led our whole nation to rethink the way we spend time outside and we are so proud of what we have achieved together. We all want our future generations to enjoy our great Aussie climate, in a safe way.
Whatever your school’s sun safety strategy, the most important thing is that you have a strategy and that you are committed to it. Encouraging participation with your parent/carer body and engaging your wider school community to comply with the strategy and to act as role models is a great start. Regularly communicating your commitment to sun safety and any changes to your policy through your newsletter or during assembly and finding ways to continue your outdoor education program that complies with your strategy means that good sun safety education will continue. Contact us for further information at https://greenline.com.au/ and let us help you plan for your spaces to grow.
Author: Stephanie Plane