Every year around this time my children start to play outside for longer periods of time, and we always receive a rather rude reminder from the sun that we are ethnically speaking mostly Northern Europeans. Our white (not quite albino, but close) skin quickly turns a painful red as an indicator that we don't have much natural protection from the sun's UV rays. So every spring I run to the store and stock up on SPF 365 sunscreen in an effort to provide ourselves with some kind of protection against the burning and peeling cycle.
This week I decided our science experiment could be turned to a useful end by demonstrating to the kids what that sunscreen actually does for their protection. We took two pieces of black construction paper outside and weighted them down with rocks. One piece played the role of skin without sunscreen (a good chance to talk about "control groups" in science) while the other piece got a generous coating of SPF 35.
After a few hours we came back and looked at the papers. It was easy to see how the un-sun-screened paper had faded, while the part covered by sunscreen had stayed dark. The kids also noticed that the paper that had been under the rocks was also still dark, but agreed that covering themselves with rocks would probably NOT be a good sunburn prevention plan.
Maybe this science lesson will decrease the amount of fussing that goes on whenever I pull out the bottle of sunscreen this summer......or maybe not.
Happy sunburn prevention everyone!