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Study maps hottest parts of the school

Australian researchers have mapped the hottest and coolest parts of outdoor school zones and found some reached up to 70 degrees Celsius.

During summer last year, researchers collected more than 100,000 heat data points within a public school in western Sydney.

Research lead Dr Sebastian Pfautsch, from Western Sydney University, said Australia’s summers are becoming increasingly hot and added there’s a need to better understand school microclimates and to develop strategies to cool them down.

“Our study assessed features found in most schools – the school yard, gardens, tree groves, open spaces and the playground – to find unshaded surfaces, including asphalt, can reach up to 70 degrees Celsius. But by shading these surfaces, temperatures can be reduced by more than one third.”

To be heat smart, the researchers said schools should avoid artificial grass in unshaded spaces, shade black asphalt, use shade materials with highly reflective upper surfaces and allow natural air flows when designing spaces.

Study co-author Professor Michelle Leishman, from Macquarie University, said the research highlighted the importance of tree canopies in schools for cooling – the lowest air and surface temperatures were recorded under such canopies, with some tree species and sizes offering better heat protection.

Leishman said: “Trees not only provide shade but also act as 'green air-conditioners' through evaporative cooling.

“By understanding differences between species in their cooling benefits, water use and other characteristics, we can ensure that we choose the most appropriate trees for school grounds so that students will have the best possible cool and green learning environments."

Co-author Professor Kathryn Holmes, from Western Sydney University’s School of Education, said providing students with a safe and temperate outdoor environment at school was essential to their learning and wellbeing.

“Good physical health is important for both students’ wellbeing and cognitive outcomes in school. By providing school environments that are conducive to physical activity, and by controlling excess heat, students will be more likely to be physically active during the school day.”

The researchers said their recommendations were applicable to schools Australia-wide. Click here to read the full report.

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