Altering Climate in the Classroom

If it rains in, you close the window. But what if your room is too hot or cold? Get students involved in trying to moderate temperature extremes based on their level of competence and how you can integrate the project into existing weather or science lessons.

Project Ideas:

* Styrofoam packing sheet material can be found free inside shipping boxes. This thin material has a good R-value and is thin enough to let light through. Good for covering windows to block heat or cold.
* Insulation can be used both to keep heat in a room in winter, or keep heat out in summer.
* Aluminum foil or reflective mylar will reflect radiant heat back toward its source, either inside or out. What are other ways to keep heat out?
* How can cracks be filled to keep air from going in or out? Rags or fiberglass insulation can be stuffed into large cracks, and long, narrow bags of sand block air coming in from under doors.
* Getting to school early in the morning to open windows and run exhaust fans will let you replace yesterday’s trapped warm air with today’s cooler morning air. Then students can monitor both inside and outside air temperatures to know when to turn off exhaust fans and shut windows to “trap the cool inside”. Can you leave an exhaust fan running all night?
* Discuss how warm air rises. How can that phenomenon be used to your advantage in winter? In summer? Students may find sitting on the floor comfortable in warm weather, and blowing a fan toward the ceiling in winter may help circulate the warmer air near the ceiling.
* Experiment with how one or two fans should be placed for maximum air flow in your room. Tape thin tissue paper streamers to bottoms of desks or hang from the ceiling to observe the airflow in your room.
* Can clear plastic be used to cover your windows in winter? Discuss the role of a “dead air space”.
* What effect does humidity have on classroom comfort? Evaporative cooling does not work well in our moderately humid climate, but in drier regions of our country, “water coolers” are the main source of air conditioning. Can evaporating water be used to make your room more comfortable?
* Brainstorm futuristic ways to affect the climate of your room (erecting a huge tent over the school; storing snow in an underground cave to cool the school with during warmer months.) Have students draw pictures of their ideas.

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