CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Bodyboarder Mike Stewart, left, and Jeff Bedard, of Del-Ray Dermatologicals, helped Iolani School students understand the importance of sun protection.
Sun safetyIolani School kindergartners slather on sunscreen and wear specially designed bucket sun hats when they go outside.
goes to school
Students are learning howSafety tips
to protect their skin and
eyes in the outdoors
By Helen Altonn
They've learned those items are essential to keep their skin safe from the sun's damaging ultraviolet rays. They also know sunglasses, long-sleeve shirts and Lycra swim shirts are protective.
The school's science department launched a pilot Sun Safety project two years ago for K-3 students. The project is a collaboration with the Hawaii Dermatological Society, Hawaii Opthalmological Society, Cancer Coalition and John A. Burns Medical School.
Last year, sun safety education was included in Iolani's kindergarten and fourth-grade science curriculum.
"We want sun protection to become a habit with our students," said Laurie White, K-3 science teacher. "We really hit it hard in kindergarten."
The kids are given solar beads that change color when ultraviolet rays strike them so they know they need protection, she said.
She said the idea of sun hats came up when she and Beth Burda, Iolani health education director, realized students were going outside for recess and physical education during the most harmful hours of sunlight.
The initial design was modified last year by a committee of parents, teachers and students working with Trase Hawaii. "They wanted something light, washable, that didn't shrink and had a little pocket for lunch scrip and a ponytail for girls, or air conditioning for boys," White said.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kindergartener Madison Darcey mixed up some sunscreen.
They're available in red or black (Iolani colors) and sold to students for $10. "Our big thrust is to get kids to wear them in the sun as much as possible," she said.
That's more difficult with the older students, so the Upper School drama class was asked to put on a skit to spread the sun safety message, she said.
Reinforcing the need for sun protection at a school assembly last Friday was Mike Stewart, nine-time world champion bodyboarder, eight-time national champion and 21-time Pipeline champion.
Jeff Bedard of Tennessee, president of Del-Ray Dermatologicals, also went to kindergarten classes to show them how the company makes Blue Lizard sunscreen.
Dr. Carla Nip-Sakamoto, whose two sons are in kindergarten and sixth grade at Iolani, spearheaded the school's Sun Safety project while president of the Hawaii Dermatological Society. She also arranged the visits of Stewart and Bedard.
She and other dermatologists are dealing with the rising rate of melanoma -- most dangerous of all skin cancers. The Skin Cancer Foundation predicts the risk will increase to one in 50 people by the year 2010, compared with one in 1,500 in 1935 and one in 71 last year.
About one-fourth of cases occur in people under age 40, with women in the majority, and dark-skinned ethnic groups are not immune, according to the foundation.
Nip-Sakamoto said Punahou School teaches sun safety to lower grades, and she'd like to see a program integrated into public school health education.
State Rep. Cynthia Thielen introduced resolutions in the last session asking state health and education departments to look into "a sun protection policy and education program."
But the measures weren't adopted. "I don't think people understand the importance of prevention," Nip-Sakamoto said.
Stewart, 39, one of the world's top bodyboarders and bodysurfers, showed students that the gear he travels with throughout the world includes items to cope with the sun. "All the top pros in the world travel with the same equipment," he said.
Besides his board, he said he always takes swim fins, a yellow Lycra vest that covers his arms, sunglasses to protect his eyes and sunscreen.
"It's really, really important to get in the habit of putting it (sunscreen) on before you get into the water" or participate in any other outdoor activities, he said.
He also packs a hat, and "today I got upgraded," he said, putting an Iolani sun hat on his head. "It's pretty nice, with little pockets on it."
Stewart, whose home is at Hamakua on the Big Island, said he makes sure his 14-month-old son, Kaimana, is always covered with sunscreen.
"The good news is, skin cancer caught early is 95 percent curable," Bedard said, advising, "Wear sunscreen, and check your body for unusual spots."
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>> Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. during its strongest rays.
Sun safety tips
>> Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.
>> Reapply sunscreen every two hours when outdoors, even on cloudy days.
>> Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeve shirt and pants.
>> Wear a 4-inch-wide, broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
>> Stay in the shade whenever possible.
>> Avoid surfaces that can reflect up to 85 percent of the sun's damaging rays.
>> Protect children by keeping them out of the sun or minimizing sun exposure and applying sunscreens starting at 6 months of age.
Source: American Academy of Dermatology
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