Students at Yarrawonga College P-12 are leading the way in sun protection, thanks to a new pilot program to help make secondary students as SunSmart as their primary counterparts.
With UV levels on the rise from mid-August, students at the school launched their own ‘SunSmart Week’ to encourage better sun protection among their peers.
In addition, the school has installed new shade areas and identified the need for an alternative hat for older students to increase uptake.
The School Council has also updated their SunSmart policy based directly on recommendations from the student representatives.
Yarrawonga College P-12 is one of eight schools chosen for the pilot and the only in the region, which will see student leaders driving sun protection initiatives at their school with the support of the SunSmart program.
SunSmart Schools and Early Childhood Program Manager, Justine Osborne said on her recent visit to the school, that she hopes the program will soon be available to schools across the state and will lead to an increase in older students using sun protection.
Melanoma is still the most common cancer in young Australians aged 15-24, but the good news is most skin cancers can be prevented through the use of good sun protection.
“Our primary schools are some of the most SunSmart in the country, but these good habits drop off as students move to secondary school,” Ms Osborne said.
“It’s great to see the senior students of Yarrawonga College P-12 engaged with the younger students, helping to create healthy habits early.
“Kids are septuple at a young age to sun exposure so if we can minimise their exposure in younger years, we can minimise the risk.
“We’re pleased to see Yarrawonga College P-12 investing in its student leaders to address sun protection at their school and promoting this important message among their peers.”
Yarrawonga College VCAL (Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning) students have been playing an active role in promoting the SunSmart message, delivering learning activities for each year level across the College.
James Gillies, the teacher leading the SunSmart student leadership program, is proud of the work students are doing to ensure the important SunSmart message sinks in.
“This program pilot has given my Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) Personal Development class a chance to be involved in an authentic learning task where they have made real change to the College across all three campuses,” Mr Gillies said.
“The class have been divided into three groups and have been allocated a campus each.
“Through student surveys and listening to student voice, the class have identified three key interventions:P-4 campus: provide shade over the hot shot tennis courts, 5-8 campus: provide shade around the outside of oval, three shades that can accommodate a group of 6-8 and 9-12 campus: provide an alternative sun hat, while still offering the college sun hat.
“Being SunSmart is something all Australians should be taught from a young age, to protect ourselves against UV. It’s worrying when this message falls away and teenagers become more concerned with getting a tan, not realising the long-term damage this is doing.
“Our students are demonstrating that when it comes to sun protection, it’s a habit we should keep for life. “We are proud of the role our college is playing in creating the next SunSmart generation.”
P-4 Campus principal Kelly Thorpe was also proud of the work of the VCAL students who through their program helped a new sunshade to adorn the synthetic hotshots basketball court on the P-4 campus.
“It is exciting as the shade is needed in this area,” Ms Thorpe said.
“Through the capital works program we were able to obtain the money for a new shade over our p-4 basketball courts but a number of areas across the whole school will also see new sun shades.
“These special wristbands that our prep students have been given are fantastic too as they change to different shades of purple with the amount of UV they are exposed to.
“They are helping to teach our students all about sun safety and that when they are out in the playground and their wristband is getting brighter, they need to be slapping on more sunscreen, a hat and looking after their sun safety.”
As UV levels begin to rise, Ms Osborne reminded all Victorians of the importance of sun protection.
“Check the sun protection times each day and during these times slip on clothing, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat, seek shade and slide on sunglasses for the best protection against UV damage – and skin cancer,” Ms Osborne said.
Eight schools are involved in the 2019 SunSmart pilot, with students required to play an active role in the program.
The objective of the program is for student leaders to work through a series of activities to identify areas the school can improve with regards to sun protection policies, practices and/or attitudes. Once identified, the students work together to lead this change.
For more information visit sunsmart.com.au.