Transforming Students into Climate Scientists through Urban Heat Island Investigations
This project presents a unit plan that seeks to engage students, particularly in urban areas, in studying the effects of climate change through an interactive unit on the Urban Heat Island Effect. Unit plan development was made possible by the Climate Change Research Initiative (CCRI) program at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The program creates teams of researchers that each consist of scientists, an educator, and students from the graduate, undergraduate and high school levels.
The unit plan mimics a climate research project. Students will engage with a variety of data sets: satellite, ground-based and public health demographic data to understand the scope and the impacts of the UHIE. They will utilize NASA satellite data and visualization software to explore land surface temperature trends, and they will also use infrared (IR) cameras to collect temperature data and explore various urban surfaces (including vegetated surfaces) for heat retention. Students will then examine public health data to analyze risk factors for heat vulnerability. The unit culminates in a capstone project in which students will brainstorm city planning designs to mitigate UHIE factors and thereby improve living conditions for members of vulnerable communities.
In addition to bringing current state-of-the-art research into the classroom, this unit plan integrates research practices as well. The curriculum seeks to join science concepts, everyday experiences and real-world applications so that students will experience how the multi-dimensional problem of climate change affects their lives and how to combat those effects.