Case study: Citizen Science for Cooler Schools (CS2): improving heat resilience in educational settings

Built environment Health South East Queensland (West) South East Queensland (South) South East Queensland (North)

Increasing heat intensity, frequency, and duration relating to the changing climate poses significant health and safety risks. The CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology predicts that in the future the number of days over 30 degrees will not only increase during the summer, but also during spring and autumn – coinciding with significant periods when students are in schools.

Whilst the Queensland Government Cooler Schools program has ensured that all teaching spaces in Queensland will be air conditioned, there may be other indoor spaces that need cooling or other places like playgrounds, eating areas, the school hall, or drop-off zones where cooling would be beneficial. Further, heat-health risk relates to both heat exposure and opportunities to cool via hydration and activity modifications.

The CS2 Project will work with two State Primary Schools’ STEM excellence classes to create a ‘heat resilience plan’ for the school using inquiry-based learning principles. This includes activities such as identifying and improving ‘hotspots’ within the school, educational campaigns (within the school and its community) and ‘hot day’ action plans.

The participating students at the two schools will be guided by specialists from Griffith University and Queensland Education in environmental monitoring, heat as a hazard and health risk, and STEM curriculum application. The co-design process means students will gain a deeper understanding of the scientific process and other skills like systems thinking, governance and decision making.

As a process of the CS2 Project, a heat-risk reduction toolkit will be developed to assist schools in Queensland to identify possibilities and where heat management options could be focussed.