A health class turned into a lesson in activism recently for sixth-graders at Doherty Middle School.
During a unit on Skin and Sun Safety as part of their health curriculum, students in Cheryl Todisco’s health class noticed that the weather section on a Boston news website highlighted a daily Tanning Index.
Having learned that there is no such thing as a healthy tan and that tanning can lead to melanoma, which the students had discovered in class is the most common type of cancer in young people, they decided to take action to correct what they saw as a misleading view on tanning.
The students worked collaboratively to craft letters, create informational posters and brainstorm alternative titles for the Tanning Index that would best reflect the impact of the sun. Then, they appealed to the staff at the website, Boston.com, to make a change.
Of the new names they suggested for the feature — including Melanoma Madness Indicator, the UVA/UVB Forecast and the Sun Protection Section — the website picked the Sun Exposure Index, which was specifically recommended by Jake Dalton and Alec Haffner, and instituted the change.
The website’s editor, Ronald Agrella, credited the students with raising wonderful points about the initial wording of the index and encouraged them to “take such actions again in the future.”
In addition to Dalton and Haffner, the students who led the charge for change include Gabrielle Baldassari, Jack Bodette, James Carroll, Bill Chen, Cole Chingris, Natalie Claman, Katharine Clancy, Zachary Crews, Anthony Daloia, Jason Denoncourt, Julia Donahue, Nicholas Enright, Liam Fahey, Matthew Hebert, Emily Jackson, Anuj Jayaran, Benjamin Hoffman, Liza Kwass, Maggie Mahan, Samantha Martin, Ariana Mello, Kate Murphy, Kathryn Oberg, Gabe Papazian, Chris Preller, Anisha Rao, Andrew Regan, Nicholas Resendiz, Elissa Rizzo, Caroline Ross, Hannah Shell, Joyce Shen, Iti Singh, Anna Soutter, Julia Stabile, Aissatou Thiam, Andrew Theriault, Hannah Tjalsma, Stephen Troy, Duc Vu, Conor Walsh, Lauren Worthington, Ellie Yates and Constantine Zinzopoulos.
“Congratulations to the sixth-grade students whose collective voices created an outstanding public heath message on a nationally recognized stage,” Brian J. McNally, the K-12 program coordinator for Andover schools’ Health & Physical Education Department, said in a written statement. “You have truly made a difference — be proud!”