Staff Report – For The Record

Many Texas schoolchildren are now spending more time outdoors, as their summer vacation hits full stride. With the official start of summer and the longest day of the year upon us, it’s crucial to educate them on the importance of sun protection and sun safety behaviors. That’s why MD Anderson Cancer Center and the CATCH Global Foundation are reminding parents, teachers, and children about skin cancer prevention by announcing the availability of Ray and the Sunbeatables™: A Sun Safety Curriculum for K-1.

“Like all life-long health behaviors, sun safety education and prevention needs to start early. Burns in childhood increase a person’s risk of ending up among the estimated 1 in 5 people who will develop skin cancer in their lifetime,” said Duncan Van Dusen, Executive Director at the Austin-based CATCH Global Foundation. “Throughout the country, melanoma incidence continues to rise and here in Texas, we have the 5th highest rate. That’s why we are working with MD Anderson to provide this valuable educational content to children and parents so they can protect themselves all year long.”

The new curriculum will be available beginning in August – just in time for the upcoming school year – and expands the current Ray and the Sunbeatables™: A Sun Safety Curriculum for Preschoolers to include students in kindergarten through first grade. Developed by MD Anderson Cancer Center, the curriculum aims to educate teachers, parents and children about sun protection and promote sun safety behaviors to reduce children’s lifetime risk of developing skin cancer. The program introduces Ray and his friends, each of whom wields a sun safety superpower to engage with children and keep them sun safe for a lifetime.  (Ray creates and uses shade, Chloe dons protective clothing, Serena applies SPF 30 broad-spectrum sunscreen and lip balm, Stefan styles with sunglasses and Hanna wears protective hats.)   

Over 3,500 Texas preschoolers are learning these skills through the Sunbeatables™ programs in school districts and community organizations around the state including 9 YMCA locations and Crandall, Los Fresnos, Point Isabel, Round Rock and Seguin ISDs. Nationwide, the program reaches 7,000 preschool children in over 120 sites.

“We’ve seen the success in other districts across the state and are looking forward to implementing the Sunbeatables program for our K-1 students,” said Susan Nix, Assistant Athletic Director, Round Rock ISD. Since Texas has enacted mandatory sun safety education requirements in schools, our district needs an evidence-based sun safety curriculum that other districts support.”

Beginning in August, the curriculum for Kindergarten through first grade students will rollout in six districts, including: Brownsville, Los Fresnos, Pasadena, Round Rock, Spring Branch and Ysleta ISDs. These six districts plan to bring the program to an estimated 36,405 K-1 children in 176 elementary schools.

“As an educator, I recognize the importance of practical and knowledge-based education and its many forms. Through the Sunbeatables program, we’re excited to experience a hands-on curriculum where our students learn how to protect their skin from the sun,” said Sonia Noriega, Lead Teacher Health and Physical Education, Ysleta ISD. El Paso is loved for it’s great weather, but in a place known as the ” Sun City” we recognize the harmful effect of UV rays and believe strongly that education, sun protection and prevention begins early in life.”

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. The number of new cases of melanoma, the most fatal type of skin cancer, continues to increase each year, with over 76,000 new cases expected in 2016. Meanwhile, being sunburned at least once during childhood doubles the risk of melanoma. At least half of children and adolescents report one or more sunburns per year.

To promote sun safety behaviors, the Sunbeatablesprogram offers the following tips:

  • Cover up by wearing wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses and protective clothing.
  • Use SPF 30 broad-spectrum sunscreen and lip balm and reapply regularly.
  • Stay in the shade.
  • Be super-protected or avoid sun exposure when shadows are shorter (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.)

The CATCH Global Foundation disseminates the Sunbeatables progrm to early childhood centers, in-school and after-school locations. The preschool and K-1 curricula align with the Texas Education Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards for health and physical education. To learn more, visit www.catchinfo.org/sunbeatables or email sunbeatables@catchglobalfoundation.org.