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Feeling the Heat

Lisa Gardiner, Windows to the Universe

In this activity, students learn about the urban heat island effect by investigating which areas of their schoolyard have higher temperatures - trees, grass, asphalt, and other materials. Based on their results, they hypothesize how concentrations of surfaces that absorb heat might affect the temperature in cities - the urban heat island effect. Then they analyze data about the history of Los Angeles heat waves and look for patterns in the Los Angeles climate data and explore patterns.

Activity takes about two 45-min class periods. Additional materials are required.

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Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Definition of climate and climatic regions
About Teaching Principle 4
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Observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system
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Increased extreme weather events due to climate change
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Energy Literacy

Environmental quality is impacted by energy choices.
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7.3 Environmental quality.
The energy of a system or object that results in its temperature is called thermal energy.
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1.2 Thermal energy.
Earth's weather and climate is mostly driven by energy from the Sun.
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2.3 Earth's climate driven by the Sun.

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:A) Processes that shape the Earth
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A) Processes that shape the Earth.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.2 The Living Environment:C) Systems and connections
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C) Systems and connections.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:A) Human/environment interactions
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A) Human/environment interactions.

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Review data collection strategies and behavior before going outside.

About the Science

  • Good use of scientific data in a classroom setting.
  • More information on the science behind why paved areas are hotter is missing and is needed to really foster the understanding and implications.
  • The link between the measurements and heat waves is not strong enough in the exercise and should be emphasized more by the teacher.
  • Reference materials listed.
  • Comments from expert scientist: In terms of microclimates, the activity is very good, with lots of student interaction and physical activities to demonstrate temperature trend and incorporating math and science into the activities.This activity falls well short of demonstrating the urban heat island. The urban heat island is primarily a nighttime phenomena.

About the Pedagogy

  • Nice mix of student-collected data and analysis in a local area to construct hypotheses, followed by a kinesthetic activity to link local findings to larger contexts.
  • No assessment strategies are provided; questions don't really provoke additional curiosity.
  • Handouts available (all of the materials needed for the Los Angeles heat wave analysis are provided).
  • Good description of steps.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • PowerPoint presentation (Feeling the Heat) displays as full screen format after download.

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