By E.G. Yan and Vanessa deGier
Seventy-five students were among those attending the dedication ceremony of a new sun shade structure at the KIPP San Francisco Bay Academy last Friday.
"Our outdoor courtyard had no sun protection, so the kids used to eat lunch in the basement cafeteria. This was clearly not a very fun option for kids who wanted to be outdoors getting fresh air," said Lydia Glassie, founder and principal of the Bay Academy. "The shade structure is a welcome addition to our existing facilities while our kids participate in outdoor activities."
Made from an industrial-strength mesh fabric strung across six steel poles, the freestanding structure at the school was built late last year from a grant awarded to the UCSF Department of Dermatology. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), which offered the program, wanted children to be protected from the sun. The school yard at KIPP was poorly shaded and offered no protection from the sun.
Highlighting the dedication event, Timothy Berger, MD, professor of clinical dermatology at UCSF, spoke to the students about the importance of sun safety. The students learned about the causes and worrisome features of most forms of skin cancer, while staying cool under the structure. The children were also encouraged to use sun screen and to wear hats during periods of excessive sun exposure.
"A sunny day would be an obvious use of the structure, but the San Francisco fog offers poor protection from ultraviolet rays," he told the students. "This permanent shade will provide a place for you to play outside."
The dedication was timed to occur in May, which is designated as Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month by the American Academy of Dermatology. To help educate the community about skin cancer, dermatologists at UCSF dedicated their time for a free skin cancer screening on May 12, screening close to 300 people of all ages for skin cancer.
UCSF Dermatologist Timothy Berger, MD, teaches children about sun safety at KIPP San Francisco Bay Academy.
Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. According to the American Cancer Society, rates of melanoma continue to rise in the United States, especially among younger individuals. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer during his or her lifetime, but through early detection, it can be highly curable.
"While melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer, protecting the skin during the first 18 years of life can reduce the risk of cancer," said Berger. "The best form of protection is to reduce the amount of time spent in the sun."
Berger explained that while students may not think about being harmed in the fog, sun protection is important all year round, especially during the middle of the day when the sun is at its strongest level. This is the time kids are outside playing during lunch or recess.
"Skin cancer is preventable, and this is one way in which these students can be safe while they play in the sun," said Lily Talakoub, MD, a UCSF dermatology resident who helped to coordinate the activities for the day.
"While children and adults with highly pigmented skin are less likely to develop skin cancer, all children are vulnerable to the effects of the sun," Talakoub said. "Furthermore, it is preventable, and each child, regardless of ethnicity, can benefit from learning to care for his or her skin and overall health."
At the end of the ceremony, the students were encouraged to bring their families to have their skin checked at the free event held at UCSF.
The shade structure has been in active use so that students can play during recess, eat lunch, relax and even attend class while being protected from the sun. It is located a few blocks from the Department of Dermatology at UCSF Medical Center at Mount Zion, and covers an area of more than 300 square feet.
The AAD grant was designed to be offered to nonprofit organizations, and UCSF partnered with the KIPP San Francisco Bay Academy, a public charter school serving more than 200 students in fifth through eighth grades.
"Working to obtain the grant was a great way to get the school and students interested in talking about sun protection," said Jennifer Keyte, a teacher at the school. "There are a lot of schools in San Francisco and the Bay Area that don't think about protecting kids from the sun. Hopefully, this will help."