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Feeling the Heat

Lisa Gardiner, Windows to the Universe/UCAR SciEd

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.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Climate Literacy

This Activity builds on the following concepts of Climate Literacy.

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Energy Literacy

This Activity builds on the following concepts of Energy Literacy.

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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
Other materials addressing:
A) Processes that shape the Earth.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.2 The Living Environment:C) Systems and connections
Other materials addressing:
C) Systems and connections.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:A) Human/environment interactions
Other materials addressing:
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 Content

  • 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 are 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.
Entered the Collection: February 2013 Last Reviewed: November 2016

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