Collinsville Upper Elementary is helping students stay cool — and well-protected from the sun — thanks to a needed addition to the school’s playground.
CUE staff recently received a grant from the American Academy of Dermatology to install a large shade structure for the site’s newly constructed outdoor classroom.
The AAD’s Shade Structure Grant Program awards funds of up to $8,000 to public schools and nonprofit organizations to provide protective coverings for playgrounds, pools and recreation spaces.
This month, the CUE was named a recipient of the grant with the help of Dr. Janelle Pavlis, a skin care specialist with the Oklahoma Cancer Specialists and Research Institute.
“The majority of skin cancers that I see during my work every day are caused by sun exposure,” Pavlis said. “Shade structures are an important part of the (AAD) sun safety message by allowing kids to play outside with decreased UV exposure.”
Several school officials gathered under the structure on Tuesday, Sept. 15, for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the endowment.
“It was a wonderful gift,” said Monica Armstrong, school counselor. “Every recess, it’s utilized. They also use if for science experiments, there’s been some dance parties out here, a lot of jump roping goes on in the shade, and it’s just a great benefit for the school.”
The grant came as part of the CUE’s Sun Safety and Skin Health Initiative, kicked off about a year ago, which gives students like 10-year-old Kyler Trost an opportunity to learn and raise awareness about the importance of staying safe.
“I like to just sit under it and sit on the benches,” said Trost, in fourth grade. “It can protect your skin and everything, and in case you get too hot, you can go under there and rest.”
In addition to the grant, the AAD also provided the CUE with a permanent sign to be placed near its shade structure that features several sun-safety tips for students to reference.
Armstrong said she’s thankful for the grant, which is the first of its kind for the school’s outdoor classroom and playground.
“I think we have a lot going on right now with the need to distance, the need to be out in the fresh air,” she said, “… so (the shade structure) increases the kids’ comfort, their health in general, and it gives them a place to congregate.”
Since its launch in 1999, the AAD’s Shade Structure Program has awarded 400 shade structure grants, which provide shade for over 3 million individuals each day, according to the organization’s website.