Sun Safety In A Warming Climate

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Check out the biggest sun safety concerns bringing change to schools and how these things can help kids appreciate sustainability. Kacey Mya shares how children can still have outdoor fun in the warmer months without risking their health or safety.

Playing outdoors is incredibly important for children. It gives them space to utilize their imaginations and invent new games,  all while learning the value of nature. As the climate continues warming at an alarming rate, everything from animal populations to weather patterns transforms. This phenomenon also affects how children interact with and learn about the world. While kids play during recess, they can connect with nature and care more about it - but we need to ensure they do so safely.

Rising temperatures and longer periods of sunny weather pose a few extra risks even if students spend only a half-hour outdoors, which is why sun safety has become a primary concern for many school systems that prioritize environmental studies. If children think of sunburns and sweat when they picture the outdoors, they'll be less likely to care about the environment and the drastic effects of climate change.

Check out the biggest sun safety concerns bringing change to schools and how these things can help kids appreciate sustainability. Children can still have outdoor fun at the beginning and end of their school year, without risking their health or safety.

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1. Sunshine Risks Sunburns

Everyone knows that spending time outdoors on a sunny day makes sunburns more likely. During school, kids won't pause to put on sunscreen before recess because they're young and not thinking about their physical health. It's up to school administrators and teachers to remind kids to use eco-friendly sunscreen and take breaks in the shade to reduce the risk of sunburns on the playground. 

As they begin this new safety routine, administrators can reflect on how chemicals in traditional sunscreen wash into oceans and waterways, contributing to issues like water pollution that harm wildlife.

2. Hot Temperatures Dehydrate Kids

Many schools are educating their teachers to detect dehydration in kids outside for recess or gym. Children may forget to drink water when they feel thirsty and experience irritability, drowsiness or even dizziness due to the heat dehydrating them. Teachers may choose to call their kids over for a cup of ice water from the cafeteria halfway through recess or provide them once they return to class.

Students can learn a few different sustainability lessons surrounding the idea of hydration. Administrators could connect everyone's need for water access to how climate change intensifies droughts around the world or how the students drink water from reusable cups to minimize plastic bottle pollution. 

3. Direct Sunlight Heats Equipment

Most people have experienced the pain of sliding down a metal slide that's hot from direct sunlight. It's why playgrounds have transitioned away from metal equipment, but other materials can still overheat before recess begins. A recent Arizona State study found that the rubber playground surface meant to cushion kids when they fall heated to 87.2 degrees Celsius (188.9 degrees Fahrenheit) by noon on a standard school day.

Skin begins to burn at 44 degrees Celsius (109.4 degrees Fahrenheit), which makes even rubber surfaces a danger for kids. Schools may choose to invest in shaded coverings for their playgrounds to prevent direct exposure to the sun. School leaders might also select products consisting of sustainable or recycled materials to go along with their eco-friendly standards.
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​​​​​​​4. Heat Makes Play Difficult

Even if the playground equipment isn't hot, sunny afternoons make play difficult because kids overheat and get uncomfortable. They won't want to use the swings or slides if they feel miserable, but schools can change that. Sustainably made sun shades protect the entire playground from the sun and create a safer environment for kids to play. They also double as a rain shield for cloudy afternoon recess time. 

​​​​​​​5. Teachers Must Treat Health Conditions

Some school districts can also train their teachers to recognize and treat heat illnesses in kids of all ages. Depending on the severity of their dehydration and sun exposure, kids can experience heat cramps, exhaustion and strokes at school. Training will make kids safer if these events happen in the future because teachers can keep their students comfortable while a school nurse or ambulance arrives.

​​​​​​​Always Think Ahead

Kids will run around on the playground at recess, no matter how hot it is outside. They want to have fun and take a break from class, and these tips will make their daily recess experiences safer and teach them more about how sustainability can help them and the planet. Water breaks, sun shades and even all-natural sunscreen will keep kids safe in eco-friendly ways during one of their favorite parts of the school day. 

Posted by Kelly Harding on Jul 14, 2020 12:48 PM America/Chicago

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