Thinking inside the Box: Dangers of Tanning Beds

Author: Sarah Kenyon

Time: 2 class periods
Materials: See each activity below for required materials


This apply activity gives students the opportunity to use the information about the physics principles they have encountered so far during their lessons about biomedical imaging in a new framework. They are asked to consider alternative sources of environmental radiation, namely UV, in affecting human health. As “experts” they will be asked to decide about the dangers of tanning beds and what sorts of regulations are called for. They must invoke their knowledge about physical principles, the EM spectrum, and the effect of EM radiation on the body to back up their claims. This debate will be held fishbowl style.

Students will:
1. Research their assigned position pro- or con- for the statement “The use of tanning beds by teens should be regulated” and write a short position paper (2-3 paragraphs), outlining facts they might use to back up their position and why their position is valid.

2. Participate in a debate concerning the statement, “The use of tanning beds by teens should be regulated”, (at least two speaking contributions and one fact will be required)

3. Write a one page response to the debate, either from the perspective of their group’s side or their own personal opinion.

National Science Standards
Content Standard A: Scientific Inquiry
Identify questions that guide scientific inquiry
Content Standard B: Physical Science
Structure and properties of matter
Content Standard E: Science and Technology
Identify a problem or design an opportunity
Communicate the problem, process, and solution
Content Standard F: Science in personal and social perspectives
Personal and community health
Natural and human-induced hazards
Science & Technology in local, national and global challenges

Teacher Background
It is useful to go back over the effects of UV on human skin, as well as check the websites listed below for information on tanning beds. A short search engine query can quickly supplement your information.

Related and Resource Websites
The darker side of tanning: http://www.fda.gov/cdrh/consumer/tanning.html
Info and good jumping off page: http://coolshade.tamu.edu/tbed/tbeds1.htm
Tanning beds, Lies and Laws: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/health/indootan.htm




1) Students will be given either the pro or the con side for the following statement:
“ The use of tanning beds by teens should be regulated”

2) Provide students with computer lab time to research their position. They will be given some guiding topics to consider, but have them feel free to add to them. In the final 10-15 minutes of the first day of research, have those students considering the same side of the question come together to discuss their findings and plan an attack for research the next day.

3) At the end of the first day, students will be given the homework of creating a personal position statement for the next day. This should be a short, 2-3 paragraph statement that includes facts and logical information backing up their position.

4) At the start of the second day, collect and quickly check position statements and clarify for the students that their side should work as a team, but have an individual responsibility to contribute to the discussion.

5) During the second day, have both the computer room and a classroom available for students to work (you may need a second individual to supervise). Let students do any meeting/research to prepare for the debate.

6) On the third day have students come in and you will either pick students (2/side) or ask for volunteers to begin the fishbowl debate. There will be 4 chairs set up in the middle of the room and each student will take a seat there. These will be your initial debate participants. No one except for these students may talk.

7) To displace a student, another student must tap them on the shoulder and will then take their place. They must be from the same side of the argument. Each student is expected to contribute at least two facts to the argument (take the hot seat twice or have a longer time in the hot seat while contributing)

8) When you feel the debate has run its course, have students take a poll on which side they thought won, whether they were convinced by the other side’s arguments and why, what they might have learned, whether they had to argue a side they didn’t believe, whether their ideas changed over the course of the research and debate, and any other contributions. Make sure they give examples and reasons.

9) If time remains or the teacher would like to, have the class as a whole come up with ideas about who needs to be informed about the risks of tanning beds, what they should be told, how they might best be reached, and what problems they might expect to run into.

10) For homework, students are asked to write a one page response to the debate, either from the side of their assigned position or that of their personal opinion.

After day 1 students must write a short position paper which will be graded on a -, check, + scale depending on completeness.
After the final day students will be asked to write a one-page response to the debate with reference to either their assigned position or their personal opinion.


Embedded Assessment
Individuals can be assessed on their thoughtful and supported position paper and response, as well as their full participation in the debate.
Group participation is very important here, as is thoughtful consideration of others’ opinions. As this is a three-day activity, there is ample time to assess all levels of student interaction- from individual research and debate contribution, to their spot in the milieu of their side.


PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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