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Assembly point - Hot and bothered

The sun has got his hat on, but have your pupils? Show them how they can enjoy summer safely for Sun Protection Week

The sun has got his hat on, but have your pupils? Show them how they can enjoy summer safely for Sun Protection Week

The leaves are turning the trees green again and it's the final stretch before the summer holidays. But whether your pupils will be seeing the pyramids in Egypt or lounging in the park, it's worth reminding them that the sun can be a deadly enemy.

Sunburn, sunstroke and eventually skin cancer all lie in wait for the careless. Some pupils may aspire to look like perma-tanned celebrities but be unaware of the best ways to protect themselves.

An assembly to mark Sun Protection Week (from May 11) could be a good opportunity to deliver the solar safety message with the mantra, Wrap, Splat, Hat: cover up, wear sunblock and wear a hat.

For younger children it's an easy message to spell out visually. You could come in dressed for the beach, with sandals, sunglasses, a hat. A cold drink, maybe a bright parasol. Explain that you have a good reason for everything you've got with you and invite children to suggest why you've got them.

Comment on the colours of summer clothes. Why are they bright? What does it feel like to wear dark clothes on a hot day?

If you didn't have any of this equipment with you, what risks would you run? PowerPoint could be used to list the different perils of spending too long in the sun. Ask children if they have ever had sunburn and get them to suggest some adjectives for how it feels.

Produce a bottle of sunblock and explain what it is. Project a picture of it, and point to the SPF number. Do they know what it means? SPF 2 only blocks half of UV rays; SPF 20 blocks 90 per cent. Explain that sunlight has ultraviolet light in it that can be bad for your skin and can even cause cancer.

It can take as little as 15 minutes for sunburn to occur. Explain who's most susceptible to sunburn: people with freckles, light skin, or ginger hair. Some pupils may think that if they have naturally dark skin they won't get burnt. Maybe they won't, but they're still vulnerable to many of the other harmful effects of UV light, and also to overheating, like sunstroke.

The charity Cancer Research UK has found that instances of skin cancer have tripled in women and quadrupled in men over the past 25 years. Using a sunbed regularly has also been proven to increase the risk of cancer. Older pupils, more likely to be tempted by a sunbed tan, might be put off when they learn this.

For them, it's a good chance to tie in with the biology of the skin, as well as the body's self-regulating mechanisms. There are surprising facts: for instance, the reason why sunburn feels hot is because the immune system delivers more blood to heal the affected area, not because it's been "cooked". For a physics tie-in, perhaps this could be a chance to talk about the properties of light outside the visible spectrum. The experience of being too hot (or even too cold) could also be a good subject for some first-person writing in English.

Ask how your body helps you to cool down, and get pupils to suggest signs that you're too hot: sweating, feeling dizzy. Give out advice on what to do with someone who has sunstroke: cool them down, get them plenty of fluids, put them in the recovery position.

The National Schools Partnership is giving away free information packs on the Wrap, Splat, Hat theme, which contain activities from foundation to Year 6. Register for a pack at www.nationalschoolspartnership.com2009_Sun_Protection_Week.php.

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Stay safe in the sun

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