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  • Writer's pictureKate McDaniel

Choose Your Own Adventure Science: Exploring UV Light and Sunscreen Protection

Summer is coming… and if you are pale like me you know the importance of sunscreen!

Fun Fact! Even if your skin has lots of melanin (pigment) you are still susceptible to sunburns and skin cancer so make sure to protect yourself in the sun! 

May 27 is Sunscreen Day. We love to use UV beads to explore the effectiveness of sunscreen. This is a great opportunity to set up a “choose your own adventure” experiment with your students. There are so many questions students might ask themselves when staring at a wall of sunscreen choices.

  • What is the difference between the different SPFs?

  • What is better: creams or sprays?

  • What brand is the best?

Once students have picked a question, they can identify their independent variable, make a hypothesis, and design a protocol. This is also a great opportunity to discuss control variables. For example, if students are testing different brands of sunscreen, why would you want all of the brands to have the same SPF level? If you change more than one variable and see a different result you don’t know which variable caused the change! 

This model, in which students are directing their own experiments within a given set of parameters is a crucial opportunity to allow for creativity and critical thinking skills. It is also amazing practice for the new model of state labs here in New York. If you are a middle or elementary school science teacher, you are likely familiar with the new 5th grade and 8th grade state investigations (labs) that have replaced the science practical state exam. These labs have a huge focus on student-led exploration. Every opportunity you can give your students to dip their toes in those waters will better prepare them (and you!) to conquer these labs. 

In the video below, see how we set up an example protocol for investigating different SPFs. 

Click here to download our “choose your own adventure” version of this lab. 

UV Light Lab (MS)
Download PDF • 276KB

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