Kids take action to save lives from melanoma

By Meaghan Greene, Grade 4 Teacher, Davidson Elementary

Ordinary tasks can lead to extraordinary things, if given the room to grow. The experience of my Grade 4 class this past year shows how something truly exciting can come out of the most unexpected circumstances.


One day last year, I had carefully planned for my students to read from the Canadian Reader titled “Sunscreen by the Squirt“. The goal of the assignment was for my students to practice such skills as tricky word work, decoding, comprehension and making connections. However, my students quickly began to question why the opportunity for free sunscreen was not available to their community. As a result of this inquiry, our reading assignment quickly turned into a persuasive writing exercise to convince our town council that we needed sunscreen dispensers at our local swimming pool. In the view of my students, they should have the same access to protection from skin cancer in Davidson as the community of Toronto, which they had read about in their assignment.

Despite the persuasive writing of our class, the local town council did not agree. The request was denied.

About a month later, a local news reporter was at our classroom door, asking how our class felt about the town council denying our request. The class was surprised by the interest from the reporter, and quickly that excitement shifted to wondering what steps the class could take to make their plans work. We soon learned that town council had denied the request, based upon the understanding that sunscreen contains active medicinal ingredients and that the free sampling of sunscreen is strictly regulated. With a lot of questions and encouragement from the newspaper reporter, our class decided to start researching.

Based upon our research, our class learned about the ingredients in sunscreen, the importance of wearing sunscreen to prevent melanoma, and that groups were already working on these initiatives. Through our work, our class learned about Danielle Paterson of the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund, who helped us enormously withher experience from the Toronto project. We also obtained the assistance of Nicole Braun from Sun Smart Saskatchewan, who supported us with a directed letter to town council on our behalf. Next steps included government approval, which involved a letter to our local MLA and an email to Health Canada. Before long, we had obtained the necessary government approval for the project.

Full of information, government approvals, and support, my students and I attended our local town council as a delegation. My students spoke about the reasons why it was important to provide public access to sunscreen. The students described situations where sunscreen at the pool would be important, such as where children were at the pool without parents, when families forgot their own sunscreen, and where people did not understand the importance of sunscreen. My students’ dedication was hard to deny and our town council decided that this proposal made good sense. The proposal for free sunscreen at the swimming pool was approved. Just a couple of months after our introduction to the text, Davidson had become the first community in Western Canada to have a free sunscreen dispenser and the third community nationally!

My students are motivated by their success, and are now working on approaching our school division for access to free sunscreen on the playground. Our initial Grade 4 group is now named the Davidson Kids Action Club. I have no doubt that the Davidson Kids Action Club will continue to be unpredictable in our community in all the best ways.

 

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