School Success Stories

Bandelier Elementary School: Albuquerque, NM

Albuquerque Public Schools Bandelier Elementary School unveiled a plan to keep students away from harmful sun exposure with the opening of two large sun shade structures for the playground and providing each student and staff member with a sun protective hat.

With the support of generous grants from our New Mexico Legislators, New Mexico Health Department, the Shade Foundation, private donations and the Coolibar School hat Program, these parents have provided a shining example of the power of parental involvement in public schools, said Principal Glenda Armstrong.

The program is a culmination of a four-year effort by Bandelier parents to raise sun awareness and provide a safe environment for outdoor play. The school created a sun safety curriculum and with the help of the community purchased the new yellow and blue shade structures.

Teaching about sun safety is great, but the truth is, we can talk all day and put up posters and do all kinds of stuff but when it comes time for recess the kids still will not wear hats, said PTA President Erika Harding. Most kids do not have wide-brimmed sun protective hats, or if they do, the hats stay in their backpacks. Sun education has to be based on action, giving all the kids hats and having them wear them, combined with bringing shade to the places they play.

According to the New Mexico Department of Health New Mexico has one of the highest skin cancer rates in the country. Every child has a right to a quality public education and APS is committed to providing that education.

Child Development Center Children's Hospital: Los Angeles, CA

During the month of June 2008, the Child Development Center (CDC) at the Children's Hospital Los Angeles successfully launched their Coolibar School Hat Program. Because sun safety is very important to CDC they decided to include sun protective hats in addition to the sunscreen their students were already using.

Lead by parent, Katie I., the topic of school hats was brought up at a monthly parent meeting. The administrators liked the idea and they proceeded to implement the program. Fliers were created and forms were distributed in each classroom for parents to pre-order a hat for their child. Hat purchases were optional, but CDC had a much larger response than expected. Katie collected payments from each parent with additional donations to purchase hats for all the teachers too. We hoped that by having their own hats, they would model this behavior for the children and be more likely to remind children to wear their hats. The whole process took approximately two months.

Due to the positive reaction by both the children and the parents, CDA offered a "second chance" sale a month later. Many of the children who did not want to wear the hats before now wear them because other kids do, and the hats look the same. Parents and kids were much more receptive than I would have expected, so give it a try and you will be surprised. The CDC program serves children ages 6 weeks to 6 years old.

St. Ignatius Catholic School: Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

St. Ignatius Catholic School in Grand Cayman is located in the western Caribbean about 150 miles south of Cuba or 19 degrees north of the equator. With very little seasonal change and an average of 10 to 12 hours of sunlight daily, there is great danger of developing skin cancer. This danger was brought to the forefront in 2004 when the island lost most of its shade trees due to Hurricane Ivan.

For the 2007 school year the parents at St. Ignatius decided to take sun protection into their own hands and developed a committee that agreed to make sun protective hats a mandatory part of the school's uniform for students in grades K-5. They have implemented the policy, "No Hat, No Play Outside".

St. Ignatius partnered with Coolibar to provide sun protective hats for their students. The hats were purchased by the school and sold to the parents through their school uniform shop. They ordered a combination of the reversible bucket hat and the all sport hat in navy to match their current uniforms. The students' names have been embroidered on the back of their hats to make identification easier.

The students, the parents and the school have all been pleased with their hats. Maria Leggatt, a parent volunteer who runs the school uniform shop said, "The parents love the hats because they wash well, don't fall apart and don't fade in the sun. The kids like the hats so much that they wear them even when they're not at school." In addition she stated that the Coolibar hats offer excellent quality at an affordable price.

St. Ignatius is the second school in the Cayman Islands to incorporate mandatory wearing of hats into their school uniform. Most people think it's a great idea. They hope to be a role model for other schools who are considering the Coolibar School Hat Program.

Alisal Elementary School: Pleasanton, CA

Alisal Elementary School is adding one more item to the list of back to school supplies-a sun hat. Alisal is teaching kids to protect themselves from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays by providing information to children and their parents about the importance of sun protection and by providing more shade on school grounds.

The school has partnered with Coolibar to provide sun hats for the children. The school sold more than 150 sun hats at the end of the school year and will again make them available during registration for the new school year. Lee Techel, a parent at Alisal, has been the driving force in bringing the sun safety curriculum into the school. Techel's husband died of melanoma just as their kids were preparing to begin school at Alisal. "I realized I had to do something to educate and protect children," Techel said. "Teaching the kids to wear a hat every time they go outside will help them develop habits that will keep them sun safe for a lifetime."

Since she began working with the school, large umbrellas have been put up next to picnic tables, more trees have been planted and colorful posters encouraging students to protect themselves from the sun by slipping on a shirt, slopping on sunscreen, sliding on shades and slapping on a hat have been put up in the school. The school district has given $20,000 to each school in Pleasanton to provide more shade. At Alisal, two outdoor shade structures will be built, one as large as 25-by-30 feet.

Techel reports that the program has been well received and that the hats have been very popular, with the girls preferring bucket hats and boys preferring the all sport hat. Last year Techel dropped by the school during breaks some days to hand out ice pops to students who were wearing hats and plans to do so again this year.