Play It Safe in the Sun

Standard Met: K-PS3-1 Energy

What You Need: Purple construction paper (one sheet per student), sunscreen

What to Do: Ashley Mullen, a homeschool teacher in Saskatchewan, knows the importance of teaching sun safety. She gets her young scholars excited about using sunscreen with a colorful experiment. “Most kids learn from seeing and doing, so grab sunscreen and a piece of construction paper and get outside,” she says.

Mullen begins by asking students, “Why do you believe everyone should wear sunscreen?” and writing their responses on chart paper. She then explains that sunscreen has been proven to prevent painful and itchy sunburns and future skin problems.

Next, she hands out a sheet of purple construction paper to each child and has them draw a line down the middle. She helps them coat the palms of their left hands in sunscreen, and, before the sunscreen dries, she has them make a handprint on one side of the construction paper with their left palm. Then, she instructs children to leave the pieces of paper out in the sun for a predetermined length of time. Mullen, who blogs at Forgetful Momma, suggests two hours, the recommended length of time between sunscreen applications.

After two hours, students retrieve their pieces of construction paper and Mullen asks them what they notice. Children should observe that the color of the paper has faded everywhere except where their palm prints are. They should be able to discuss how that relates to protecting their skin while outdoors in the sun.

Water Safety Charades

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.K.2

What You Need: Chart paper; marker; note cards; construction paper; crayons; Water Safety with Swimmy: 10 Water Safety Rules Everyone Should Follow, by Carolanne Caron

What to Do: It’s important kids know how to be safe by the water, and this fun activity can help them learn some simple water safety rules.

In preparation, write five unsafe actions you might observe at a pool or the beach (e.g., running by the pool, swimming without a buddy) on note cards. Use a book like Water Safety with Swimmy: 10 Water Safety Rules Everyone Should Follow to find examples of unsafe behaviors. To help children who are not yet reading, illustrate each action by drawing it or by printing photos you find online.

Then, begin the activity by reading Water Safety with Swimmy. Prompt your students to point out the safety rules in the book. Write each rule on chart paper and ask children why it might be important to follow it. To keep the discussion going, ask, “What might happen to you if you don’t follow these rules?”

Next, explain to students that they will be playing a special type of charades—water safety charades! Have five students choose one note card each and take turns acting out the unsafe action on the card. Classmates must guess what the unsafe action is. After a correct guess, ask the class which rule the unsafe action is breaking. Then, ask them to consider what a safer choice would look like. They can end by drawing their own pictures of safe water situations.

Fun option: Gather some props, such as beach balls, floaty rings, and sunglasses, to have in the classroom for the lesson!

Why Water?

Standard Met: NGSS K-LS1-1

What You Need: Two plants (one that has been well watered, the other that has had no water for several days), scissors, drawing paper, pencils or markers, posterboard (optional)

What to Do: Summer is high season for dehydration. That’s why it’s important to take the time to teach children why hydrating is crucial—plus, you’ll get in a science lesson.

Begin by explaining that almost all living things are made up of 50 to 95 percent water. Show kids two plants, and explain that the only difference between them is that one has been watered regularly and the other has not. Then, break students into pairs or small groups and provide them with a cutting from each plant. Explain that they will now take some time to examine and compare their cuttings.

Have children observe the differences in the color and texture of the leaves, as well as how the plants look (the watered one will be standing upright, while the other will be drooping). They may also observe the plants up close to note the difference between the rich, moist soil of the watered plant and the crumbly, dry soil of the unwatered plant. Ask students to think about how the plants are alike—they may point out that they are both living things, have similarly shaped leaves, need watered soil to be healthy, etc. Have them make sketches of the plants and their parts as they conduct their observations, and suggest that older kids make notes while they work.

Next, tell students that young children’s bodies are made up of 65 percent water (those of adults are 55 to 60 percent). Have them consider how our bodies, like plants, need water. Ask students to use their plant observations to think about how our bodies would react if we didn’t drink enough water, especially over the summer, when we sweat more.

Close by asking children to create a class list of ways to stay hydrated during the summer. They may identify things like drinking lots of water, especially when they are active; eating fruits and vegetables that have a high water content, such as watermelon and cucumbers; or making and eating treats like ice pops. If possible, have students create posters to hang in school hallways to encourage all kids to stay hydrated. Posters can compare people with plants and can highlight why both need water to be healthy, or they might feature an illustrated list of ways to stay hydrated.

Phone Number Fun

Standard Met: CCSS.Math.Content.K.CC.A.2

What You Need: Large printed keypad (you can find a free one here), tape, chart paper, note cards, marker

What to Do: “If a child ever got separated from her adult, would she know a name and phone number to give to a trusted adult?” asks Megan Harr, a homeschool teacher from Salt Lake City who blogs at The Many Little Joys. A simple activity can give kids a strong tool to keep them safe, especially during summer when children are on trips and out and about more.

Have students come in with a parent’s or trusted adult’s name and phone number on a note card. Begin by asking: “If you were lost, what are three things you might need to tell a grown-up helper?” After hearing a few responses, identify the three most important pieces of information to share: child’s name, adult’s name, and adult’s phone number. 

Next, have students look at the cards they brought in, identifying the name and the numbers they see. Hand out 10 note cards to each child. Have them transcribe the phone number onto the note cards, writing just one digit onto its own card. (Help emergent writers with this task.) Get them to place the cards in the correct order, using the original card as a guide.

Then, create or print out several large keypad templates and post them on a wall. Students, using their note cards as a guide, should enter their phone number on the keypad, saying each number aloud as they tap them in the right order.

As a take-home activity, have kids brainstorm with their families situations in which being able to remember their adult’s name and phone number could be valuable over the summer—on trips, at the pool or beach, at the park, etc. Suggest they practice dialing their number on a real phone, too.


Photo: ArtMarie/Getty Images

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