Sunburn fess up

Encourage students to discuss sun health and take part in a class debate. 

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  • > Good for ages: 11 - 14
  • > Supports: English, PSHE, Language and Literacy, Personal development and mutual understanding
  • > Time needed: 1 lesson

a) Ask students to share times when they have been sunburnt: what happened and why.

b) Talk about why it’s important to avoid sunburn (the potential consequences) and how different skin types are affected by the sun.

The key information is:

  • Sunburn in the short term leads to red, sore and itchy skin
  • Severe sunburn can cause blistering and swelling of the skin plus heat exhaustion and sickness
  • The long term effects of sunburn include scaly spots on the skins (keratosis), melanoma (skin cancer) and eye problems

Sunburn affects the body as follows:

  • The body’s natural defence mechanisms react to UV damage to the skin. This causes the redness, soreness etc.
  • UV photons can damage the DNA in our cells
  • Too much radiation essentially destroys cells – this why dead cells come off as our skin peels
  • Some sun-damaged cells can mutate and go on to multiply causing aggressive skin cancers
  • Sunburn in childhood increases the risk of cancers in later life

c) Discuss the different options for sun protection: sun cream, covering up and staying in the shade.

d) Briefly ask how sunglasses can also protect us from the sun. Here are the key point to stress:

  • UV can cause damage to our eyes
  • Eyes are up to ten times more sensitive to UV rays than skin
  • Children’s eyes are especially vulnerable to UV damage
  • Not all sunglasses offer the same UV protection (for example darker tints does not mean greater UV defence).

This might be a good opportunity to show the short film accompanying this resource. It features two teenagers finding out about the science of sun care to help them plan a camping trip.