As summer approaches, the AAAS Skin Deep Project has released its latest set of educational tools promoting skin health awareness. The tools include standards-based science lessons plans for middle and high school students and an interactive, online skin cancer investigation activity.
The new tools are funded by Neutrogena and were released this month, which is skin cancer awareness month. The scientific content of the online teaching tools is based on the online AAAS book, The Science Inside: Skin, released last year.
“We rely on our skin for protection, yet we often don’t do enough to properly care for it or protect it,” said Suzanne Thurston, project director for the AAAS Skin Deep Project. “Skin cancer is the most common form of all cancers, and understanding the risks and proper prevention is increasingly important.”
The tools include a skin care investigation activity in which participants learn some basics about skin and skin cancers. Symptoms, causes, and prevention of skin cancer are also covered in the site through videos and other visuals. One video differentiates the good effects of sun, such as providing Vitamin D and helping plants grow, and the bad effects of sun, such as causing skin discoloration and cancer.
Effects of sun. In a short animated video, viewers learn the good and the bad effects of the sun.
Having learned some skin basics, participants can test their knowledge by joining a virtual dermatology lab as a junior scientist. In the virtual lab, participants view skin samples to detect possible cancer symptoms and then diagnose the samples as cancerous or non-cancerous.
They also can work the “help desk,” answering simulated calls from people around the United States asking questions about how to use sunscreen. The help desk shows the caller’s geographic location and skin type. For instance, a light-skinned caller from New York City asks whether she needs to apply sunscreen when she goes outside in the rain. (Correct answer: Yes, skin-damaging rays can penetrate rain clouds.)
“The skin cancer interactive sets the stage by looking at skin on a cellular level,” Thurston said. Though the interactive was developed for students, the site can be used by people of all ages. Middle- and high school teachers can refer their students to the website after covering similar topics in class.
The latest AAAS Skin Deep Project resources include lesson plans that can be used in health or science classes, Thurston said. The lessons are aligned to the Benchmarks for Science Literacy developed by AAAS’s Project 2061, a long-term science literacy initiative. “Our health-related resources have a strong science focus,” said Thurston. “This way, science teachers can teach about important health issues and still address their science curriculum.”
In the lesson “Skin Cancer: Exposing Healthy Skin to the Sun,” students also learn cell biology basics like DNA regulation of cell division and how skin participates in fighting off microorganisms. The lesson is targeted for science and health classes in 9-12th grades.
The skin cancer lesson joins 10 other skin-related lessons created by AAAS for the Skin Deep Project. The topics of the lessons include causes and treatments of acne, factors that influence skin color, and links between exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays and sunburn.
The new skin cancer activity and lessons complete the AAAS Skin Deep Project, launched in 2005 and funded by Neutrogena. All of the AAAS Skin Deep Project teacher and student resources can be found on Science NetLinks, the AAAS K-12 science education website for teachers, students, and parents.
Read “The Science Inside: Skin,” published in 2009 by AAAS.
Get more information on the AAAS Skin Deep Project.