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Park Rec UV

When I was in sixth grade at Central Middle School in Quincy, MA, Maryellen Maguire Eisen and the Children’s Melanoma Prevention Foundation came to Mrs. Ahearn’s science class and presented about sun exposure awareness. I listened attentively and answered questions, as I always did in classes and assemblies; however, it wasn’t until I got to see my reflection under a black-light that I really understood what was being said. My face lit up in an electric blue, which worried me. I knew I had freckles and got sunburns, but it wasn’t until seeing the sun damage strewn across my 11 year-old face that I was closer to really getting it.
Today, July 21, 2015, Maryellen and I visited a Scituate kids’ day camp, where she gave a similar presentation to the kids. These second through sixth graders were gathered at cafeteria tables, listening as the presentation began. As Maryellen bounded into science and math questions pertaining to the topics of sunburns, UV rays, peak exposure times, and understanding SPF, the kids got more and more excited about the topic. I was amazed to hear kids as young as eight answering questions about earth’s planetary position and how this affects UV indices throughout the year. Every student who correctly answered a question was tossed one of our SunAWARE UV bead bracelets, which change from white to rainbow colored when exposed to sunlight (at the end, all of the kids received a bracelet). When a few counselors followed Maryellen outside to get their UV photos taken, the kids raced to the windows, climbing onto the counters to see their “magic” bracelets transform. The others went outside with the counselors, all grouping together on their tiptoes to get a good view of their camp leaders’ photos. One young woman joked about how her dermatologist said she needs to wear a wetsuit when at the beach, which was understandable considering her strawberry blonde hair and freckled face. These high school to college aged kids saw a similar kind of image that 11 year-old me saw: highlighted areas in which they have the most freckles. Even these older audience members reacted to the images and presentation, and seemed compelled to interact in answering questions along with their much younger campers.
After seeing the UV photos, everyone reconvened inside to conclude the presentation. All of the kids with July birthdays were called up and given their very own sun protective equipment, including wide brimmed hats and sunglasses. With a few closing questions and answers, the presentation was over and all of the kids got out their lunches. I went around the tables, handing out stickers adorned with our very own mascot, Norbert the dog, telling the kids how cool he looks with his UV protective shades. Although the students were most enthused about their tangible treasures (bracelets, stickers, pencils, etc.), I was most excited to know how much knowledge they had both gained and shared.
For those of us who loved school as little kids, do you remember the feeling of shooting your hand up before the question was even complete, holding it up indefinitely just dying to be called on? You felt like it was entirely detached from your shoulder as you enthusiastically waved it around, leaning your body on the table and even propping the limb up with your other arm, begging to be called on. Watching these kids get excited to answer questions about sun awareness reminded me of those times in school, and the way it felt to be on the other side of this foundation. To them, this presentation was a fun and educational pre-lunch hour, during which they jumped up and down to answer questions and received some unexpected gifts. To me, their enthusiasm is indicative of the progress we are making toward our goal: to educate kids in a fun and interactive manner that embeds lasting knowledge. Preventing skin cancer one child at a time really is possible, with a good group of kids, an amazing presenter, and, of course, some enticing goodies.
Alicia Walker
Summer Intern

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