Teaching Summer Safety May 13 2010

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The end of the school year is near, and there's no denying to your excited group of youngsters that summer is almost here! Take advantage of their excitement and interest in the subject to teach valuable safety skills before they head off for summer fun.

Personal Safety Tips: C-A-T!

One of the challenges of teaching summer safety is acknowledging the probability that many kids will be out in the community far more, to a certain extent unsupervised. There are many risky situations I can dream up as a parent that will only serve to scare children unnecessarily should we talk about them in-depth. I find that I need to balance my fears for my own kids and classroom kids with the knowledge that those risky situations rarely happen. However, I need to prepare kids the best way I know how to protect themselves when away from adult supervision, no matter how brief, and no matter where they are or what they're doing.

With that in mind, I've decided that most situations involving personal safety can be covered with a simple acronym: C-A-T! This is what I teach my kids:

C - CHECK with a trusted adult when you want to go somewhere, hang out with someone, or do something. CHECK-IN with a trusted adult while you play.

A - ASK a friend to play, and travel together or in groups. ASK a trusted adult before going somewhere or doing something.

T - TELL a trusted adult about where you have been, what you've been doing and what happened during your time away, no matter what.

Some points of discussion that arise from teaching this acronym include:

  • Who is a trusted adult in your life? Who will you be spending time with this summer?
  • What kinds of activities will you be involved in during the summer?
  • What does "travel together" mean? What kinds of places should you and your friends avoid? (bodies of water, home alone, busy streets, vehicles, etc.) Where are safe places to play?
  • What are some common-sense strategies for staying safe? (wearing helmets while skateboarding or riding bikes, watching for traffic when crossing streets and obeying traffic signals, Check/Ask/Tell, etc.)

I like C-A-T! as a personal safety acronym because it's easy to remember and review. Also, the principles including in the acronym get straight to the point - for kids to begin using common sense and personal safety skills to stay safe over the summer.

Sun Safety

I live in the Pacific Northwest, where the sun is a hot commodity (pun intended). When the sun comes out, so do the people - we have to soak up the warm rays immediately because we can't be sure when we'll see them again.

Consequently, I have fair skin, which means I don't really tan. I burn first, which then resolves itself into a tan color that fades as quickly as the sun's rays up here. I've had a couple of pretty bad sunburns in my time, or at pink-enough skin that I regretted not protecting myself a little more.

Sun protection in the form of prevention is important information to pass on to kids. Plus, they already have background knowledge about how sun exposure can be good and bad.

Open the discussion with notes how sun exposure is good and bad on a t-chart. Have any of the kids had a really bad sunburn? If they have, they'll be delighted to share all of the gory details. Continue the discussion by asking your kids how they protect themselves from the sun; possible answers include sunblock or sunscreen (this is a good time to talk about high SPF), sunglasses, hats, long-sleeve shirts, and staying out of the sun during the hottest part of the day, from noon to three in the afternoon. One good rule of thumb is to stand in the sun and observe if your shadow is shorter than you are tall - if it is, it's time to protect yourself from the sun or get out of the sun altogether! For more discussion or review, use this Sun Safety Sheet with your students.

Summer Safety Project

Here are three possibilities for students to work in partners or small groups and present what they've learned about summer safety.

  • Posters - Drawing is a great way to see what's going on your kids' minds when it comes to Summer Safety. Give them a large sheet of white paper (11"x17") or a square of butcher paper. Have them create a "Summer Safety" poster to present to the rest of the class that includes what they consider to be the 5 most important tips that kids should know to stay safe on their summer break.
  • Safety Brochure - Using the information you and your class have discussed, have students create a Safety Brochure. Use an 8 and 1/2" by 11" or larger sheet of white paper and fold it into thirds in a brochure format (if you have any brochures from traveling, pass them around to show your students what they look like and what kind of information is included). Students can then group their tips for Summer Safety together and decorate, making a fun brochure to take home to parents. If you have the technology, space and time, students can make these brochures on the computer and print them out to take home!
  • A Puppet Show or Skit - Groups of students can write and perform a puppet show or skit about Summer Safety, performing it for the rest of the class!

Summer Fun Craft: Summer Hats!

I like these Sun Safety Hats, and the two pictured here are the examples of the two sizes you can make from sheets of newspaper. Two or three newspapers should be enough for each student in your class to make a hat since the small ones require a single sheet and the big one requires a double spread sheet.

Making the Smaller Hat

Use one single-spread sheet of newspaper (if you have a double-spread sheet, tear or cut it vertically down the center to get two single-spread sheets). Fold the single sheet in half horizontally ("hamburger"). Fold the top corners down about halfway.

At this point, you'll notice that the bottom part of the page is long. It will need to be folded up twice in order to make the brim of the hat. The brim should fold slightly over the bottom of the two folded corners. Flip the hat over and fold up the other brim.

Staple the corners of the brims together, folding them over for a neater edge.  Pop open the bottom and you have a hat.

The hat, however, is for a smaller head, which I do not have. I experimented to make a larger hat, and discovered that the larger version makes a pretty fun pirate hat!

Making the Larger Hat

For the larger hat, you're going to want to start with a double-spread sheet from your newspaper, folded in half horizontally ("hamburger"). Fold the corners down almost to the very bottom, then fold the edge up to make a brim. Because there isn't as much length on the bottom, you only need to fold the brim up once, but you can also experiment folding it more.

Flip the hat over and fold up the other brim. Staple the edges, folding them over neatly. Pop the bottom open and you have a larger hat!

For more fun with hats, experiment beforehand with different paint and other decorating options, then have these available when it's time to make the hats!

As the school year comes to a close, take advantage of your students' excitement about Summer Safety, and help teach them to have a safe and fun summer break!