Earthgauge Kids Corner

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Did You Know

What You Can Do

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Test Your Knowledge About Sun Safety!

1) True or False: The sun causes Earth’s weather.

2) The ozone layer that surrounds Earth (in the stratosphere) absorbs which type of light from the sun?
a. Visible
b. Ultraviolet (UV)
c. Infrared
d. None of the above

3) How can sunlight harm people?
a. Sunburn and skin cancer
b. Damage to eyes, such as cataracts
c. Heat exhaustion
d. All of the above.

4) True or false: You can only get skin cancer if you have light-colored skin.

5) Which of these actions will protect you against harmful Ultraviolet (UV) rays?
a. Wearing a sleeveless shirt or tank top
b. Getting a tan
c. Wearing sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat
d. Only going outside during winter

View Quiz Answers.

Check Out These Online Sun & Sun Safety Activities!

Do a Solar Word Search

Play SunWise Survivors

Test your chance of getting skin

cancer with What are the Odds?

Make your own sun clock to tell time

Fill out this sun safety Crossword Puzzle

Test your Tanning IQ

Do the skin cancer word scramble

Find more activities at the Solar Classroom


Featured Activity: Solar cook a hot dog!

The sun’s rays are hot enough to burn our skin. But we can also be used for energy and heat. Here’s how to cook a hot dog by making your own solar cooker!

What you need:

  • A bright, sunny day
  • A cylindrical oatmeal container
  • Sharp knife
  • Fork
  • Aluminum foil
  • Hot dog or veggie dog
  • Marshmallow (optional)
  • Skewer or straw (optional)
  • Napkin (optional)

What to do:

  • Ask an adult to cut the oatmeal container in half length-wise. Line half of the box with aluminum foil (with the shiny side up).
  • Take your solar oven outside and put it in bright sunlight. The aluminum foil will reflect sunlight from one side of the solar cooker to the other. The cooker will get very hot.
  • Put a hot dog in your solar oven, and watch it cook (you may want to play a short game while you’re waiting). When it’s ready, use a fork or napkin to remove it.
  • Enjoy your snack!

As an alternative, you can also roast a marshmallow on your solar cooker. Pierce a skewer or straw through the marshmallow, cut a slit in each end of the oatmeal container, place the ends of the skewer or straw in the slits so the marshmallow is hanging over the bottom of the cooker, and watch your marshmallow roast!

Brain Buster

The sun gives off a LOT of energy: 386 billion megawatts! This energy is produced by nuclear reactions in the sun’s core, where extreme pressure and heat fuse hydrogen atoms into helium. How much energy is that? Just one of those megawatts could power 1,000 American homes – a small town! Using solar panels to power houses or solar-cooking hot dogs harnesses a very small amount of the sun’s energy. What are some other ways people could use energy from the sun to our benefit?

Source of Featured Activity: Publications International, Ltd., the Editors of. “Sun Activities for Kids.” 24 October 2007. 25 June 2009.

Top image courtesy of National Weather Service, Eastern Region Headquarters.

What is ultraviolet (UV) light?

Ultraviolet (UV) light is one type of light given off by the sun. It is invisible but very dangerous to our skin. They can cause tanning, sunburn and long-term damage like skin cancer and wrinkles.

There are three kinds of UV rays: UVA, UVB and UVC. We need to protect ourselves from UVA and UVB rays.

  • UVA rays pass all the way through Earth’s atmosphere. Over time, they can cause skin damage like wrinkles and skin cancer. Tanning salons also use UVA rays and should be avoided.
  • Some UVB rays are absorbed by the protective ozone layer around the Earth, but many of them still pass through. They can cause sunburns, cataracts (damage to the eyes) and skin cancer. Scientists and doctors have found that melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, is caused by UVB sunburns that people get before they are 20 years old.
  • UVC rays are very dangerous. Luckily, they are absorbed by the ozone layer and don’t reach Earth’s surface.

Meteorologists use the UV Index to forecast how strong UV light will be on a particular day. To learn more about the UV Index, check out SunWise Kids.

It’s important to protect your skin and eyes from UV rays on sunny AND cloudy days (most UV rays can pass through thin or broken clouds).

To find out more about protecting yourself from UV light, check out the What You Can Do page.

Diagram of UV rays. Image courtesy of “Cool in the Shade,” a project of Texas A&M University.

did you know

Learn fun facts about sun safety!

  • The sun is responsible for life on Earth. It creates our weather, causes water to cycle and provides energy to plants, which form the base of the food chain and ultimately feed all other life on Earth.
  • Hippos produce their own sunscreen! They have an oily, red coating on their skin (kind of like sweat) that protects it from sun damage.
  • When outside temperatures reach 90 degrees and higher, people can get sick from the sun. Care must be taken to avoid the sun and stay hydrated on hot days to avoid heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat stroke.
  • The Sun has weather, too! The sun’s surface contains cooler, dark areas called sunspots. Also, solar storms are huge flames that burst out of the Sun’s surface. Solar wind occurs when particles from the outer layer of the Sun’s atmosphere surge into space. They can hit Earth’s magnetic field – the magnetosphere – and cause an aurora (also known as Northern or Southern Lights) to glow in the sky over high latitudes.
  • Because of the Earth’s tilt as it orbits the sun, sunlight is distributed unevenly around the globe. This causes our seasons: while it’s summer in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s winter in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • There are three types of skin cancer, all caused by sun damage: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Basal and squamous cell carcinoma can be treated easily if there are detected early. Melanoma is more serious and causes many deaths each year. You can reduce your risk of developing skin cancer later in life by protecting yourself from UV light.

Solar wind can hit the Earth’s magnetosphere, causing an aurora. It can also disrupt cell phone service and other communications. Illustration courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Hippos, meerkats, polar bears and other animals that are exposed to a lot of sun have natural protection against UV rays. Photo courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency’s SunWise program.

    The sun is the ultimate driver of the water cycle and weather on Earth. Image courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey.


What You Can Do

Learn more about the sun and how you protect yourself from it!

Learn More

A solar eruption in 1999. Photo courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

How to Treat Sunburn

Protecting you and your family from the sun is the best way to avoid getting sunburned. If you do get sunburn, the first thing you should do is get out of the sun immediately so the damage does not get worse. Here are more tips recommended by doctors:

  • Mild sunburn can cause your skin to be slightly red and itchy.
    • Drink plenty of fluids, including water;
    • Take cool (not cold) baths or apply a cool compress or wash cloth several times a day;
    • Cover up the sunburned areas the next time you go outside;
    • Get plenty of rest so your body can heal. The burned skin will eventually peel away on its own.
    • Lotion, especially one with Aloe vera in it, may help sooth the burn.
  • Severe sunburn can be painful a nd cause bad skin damage. If you have any of these symptoms, ask your parents to immediately call a doctor:
    • Blisters or extreme pain resulting from the sunburn;
    • Swelling on your face;
    • Sunburn covering a large area of your body;
    • Fever or chills following a sunburn;
    • Headache, confusion or feeling as though you may pass out
    • Dehydration (dry eyes and mouth, or a feeling of getting more and more thirsty)
    • Symptoms of infection on your skin (if your skin gets more swollen, red, painful, very warm or has fluid in it)

Image courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Be SunWise!

Most sun damage to a person’s skin happens before they are 18 years old. As a kid, it’s really important to keep yourself safe from the sun. Here are some tips from SunWise and Don’t Fry Day.

  • Slip! Slap! Slop! and Wrap!
    • Slip on a shirt (tightly-woven, loose-fitting and long-sleeve);
    • Slap on a hat (with a wide brim that covers your eyes, ears, face and the back of your neck);
    • Slop on some sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher); and
    • Wrap on some sunglasses (find a pair that blocks 99 to 100% of UV rays).
  • Other tips:
    • Limit exposure to the sun from 10a.m. to 4p.m., when sunlight is the most intense;
    • Remember the Shadow Rule: If you can’t see your shadow or it looks really small, seek shade!
    • Avoid and tanning salons – even though tanning light is artificial, it still gives off UV rays and can damage your skin and eyes;
    • Be especially SunWise when near water, snow or sand – these surfaces reflect more sunlight than the ground.
    • UV rays can penetrate clouds, so unless there are thick rain clouds outside, protect yourself even on cloudy days.
    • Some doctors recommend getting a small amount of sunlight (about 10 minutes of sun three times a week) to help our bodies produce vitamin D. A safe way of getting vitamin D is also by drinking fortified milk or juice, taking vitamin supplements or eating fish.
  • Check the Ultraviolet (UV) Index for your city or town before going outside by watching your local weather forecast or entering your zip code in the box below. You can also sign up to get your local UV Index alerts emailed to you.

Image courtesy of Environmental Protection Agency.

Prevent Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion happens when your body can’t cool itself off. It can happen quickly, especially when the Heat Index – how hot it feels with temperature and humidity combined – is high (see chart above). If you spend time in the sun or exercise outdoors on a hot day and feel overheated, tired, dizzy, nauseous, weak or have a headache:

  • Take a break from the sun;
  • Drink liquids, like water and Gatorade;and
  • Tell your parents.

If heat exhaustion is not treated, it can turn into a more serious illness called heat stroke. So, remember to take care of yourself! Check the local forecast and watch for the Heat Index before you go outside.

The Heat Index chart, courtesy of National Weather Service.

Cool Tools

Check out these cool sun safety tools!

Pictures and Diagrams

The electromagnetic spectrum (including UV light). Image courtesy of Library of Congress.

Quiz Answers

1) True. The sun is the ultimate cause of Earth’s weather because it heats our atmosphere. The Equator, where the atmosphere is thicker, receives more heat and the poles get less. This makes the air around the Equator hot and the air around the North and South Poles cold, causing air to circulate the globe in the form of winds and storms. The sun’s heat also evaporates water into the atmosphere, where it cools, condenses and falls as rain, hail and snow.

Also, because the Earth’s axis is tilted, some parts are facing toward the sun (and experience summer and longer days) while others are facing away from it (and experience winter and longer nights).

Finally, the bending and scattering of sunlight causes amazing optical illusions in the sky, like rainbows and sunsets!

2) b. Sunlight is made up of different types of light: infrared, ultraviolet (UV) and visible. Infrared and UV light are invisible, but we can see visible light: it is made up of the spectrum of colors in a rainbow. Like water, light travels in waves. Infrared light has long wavelengths (waves are far apart and have less energy), visible light has medium wavelengths and UV light has short wavelengths (close together and more energy). UV is the most dangerous form of light because it can damage our skin. The ozone layer, a layer of ozone molecules in a layer of the atmosphere called the stratosphere, absorbs much of the UV light coming from the sun. But, some UV light penetrates this layer and reaches Earth’s surface, where it can be absorbed by our skin and cause sunburns and skin cancer.

3) d. Sunlight can have permanent effects on people’s health. Heat exhaustion is caused when people spend too much time outside in hot temperatures and sunlight. It can be prevented by staying protected from the sun, drinking lots of water and taking frequent breaks indoors. Sunlight can also cause damage to our eyes, which can be prevented by wearing sunglasses. Also, two types of UV light from the sun cause skin damage: UVA and UVB. UVA rays have a longer wavelength and penetrate deeper into the skin. They usually cause a tan and can eventually cause sunburn. UVB rays stay near the skin’s surface and most often cause sunburn and skin cancer. Most sun damage occurs before the age of 20, so it’s very important for kids to stay protected from too much sunlight!

4) False. Anyone can get skin cancer, no matter what his or her skin looks like. People with some features, like pale skin, light-colored hair, blue eyes, freckles and a family history of skin cancer have a higher risk of developing the disease. People who spend a lot of time outdoors are also more likely to get it. Even if you have never gotten a tan from the sun or a tanning salon, both of which can cause overexposure to UV light, you can still get sun damage to your skin.

5) c. Wearing a sleeveless shirt and getting a tan offer no protection against sunlight, sunburn and skin cancer. Also, it is a myth that you can only get sunburns in the summer: sun damage can also occur in the winter, especially when you are near snow, which reflects sunlight. If you go skiing or snowboarding, you should still wear sunscreen on any skin that is exposed. Applying sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher, putting on sunglasses with UV protection and a wide-brimmed hat and wearing a long-sleeved shirt and long pants are the best way to protect your skin from sun damage any time of year.

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