Project GO

Urban Heat Islands

Lesson Plan One: What are Urban Heat Islands?

Overview: In this lesson, students begin their investigation of urban heat islands and their impact on public health. Urban heat is considered an environmental health issue. Environmental health is the branch of public health that is concerned with all aspects of the natural and built environment that may affect human health.

Estimated Time: 40 minutes plus 10 minute follow up next day.

Worksheet 1: Urban Heat Islands
Worksheet 2: Vocabulary
Computers and internet access for students

Learning Objectives: After completing the lesson, students will be able to:

  1. Explain the urban heat island effect and how it is created and measured
  2. Describe the effects of urban heat islands
  3. Identify some ways in which the effects of urban heat can be reduced


Absorb, City, Dense, Development, Energy, Global Warming, Green Roof, Industrial, Insulate, Reduce, Resource, Rural Area, Scatter, Skyscraper, Urban Area, Urban Heat Island (See Handout 2)

GIS Tools and Functions: N/A

Additional Resources:

Identify a series of resources available on the internet that deal with urban heat islands and that are accessible to students in your class. Here are some examples:

Opening the lesson:

  1. Indicate to students that this lesson focuses on urbanGEOGRAPHY: Make sure your students know what type of community urban is, and the difference between urban, suburban, and rural. heat islands. “As the term urban heat island suggests, temperatures are often higher in cities than they are in their surrounding rural areas. This makes cities into islands of heat. Perhaps the worst result of urban heat islands is the number of heat-related deaths that occur—especially among poor and older peopleAsk students why they think that poor and older people are the ones most affected.. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), heat typically kills more people each year than tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and lighting combined.
  2. Distribute a copy of the Urban Heat Islands handout to each student.
  3. Show the four YouTube videos (see Additional Resources) dealing with urban heat islands. Ask students to find and record answers to the questionsWhen showing a video in class, it is a good idea to have a worksheet that students must fill out as they are watching to encourage them to pay attention to the video. contained in the Urban Heat Islands handout, as they watch the videos.

Developing the Lesson:

  1. After showing the videos, divide students in small groups to discuss their answers to the questions on the handout. Encourage students to modify their answers to the questions, based on their small group discussion.
  2. Next, have students work in groups of two at a computer/laptop/tabletIf your classroom does not have enough computers to allow group work, consider printing out the webpages so students can read various material. These webpages are provided under Additional Resources to explore the onlineGiven all the information available on the internet, it is important to help students identify educational and respectable websites to find useful information on the subject. material contained at the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) website on the heat island effect. (See Additional Resources) Provide students with copies of the Vocabulary List handout. This vocabulary list provides terms that students may be unfamiliar with and will need to check while reading the online material.
  3. Have students modify the answers on their Urban Heat Islands handouts, based on information gathered from readings.

Concluding the Lesson:

  1. For homework, ask students to brainstorm three to five ways to reduce the impact of urban heat islands. Each student should come up with a list that includes what can be done at home, what the school should do, and what the community should do.
  1. The next day, discuss some of the ideas the students generated. Create a list of them on a sheet of paper that will be hung in the room for the remainder of the unit (as seen below)
Reducing the impact of urban heat islands
What I can doWhat theschool can doWhat the community can do

Lesson Plan Two: Identifying Urban Heat Islands

Lesson Plan Three: Heat Sensitivity