Personal temperature monitoring to build context for climate justice and community decisions.

Sarah Fortner, Wittenberg University
Author Profile
Initial Publication Date: June 20, 2019 | Reviewed: December 10, 2020


Climate change is often presented in disconnection from human experiences central to equitable and just decision making. In this activity students use PocketLab temperature probes to collect and analyze data on campus or in a local park and describe the sources of variation. They then reflect on how climate decision making is improved by considering inequities in lived experiences such as lack of air conditioning in schools, lack of shelter during sustained heat or cold, or even the access people have to park spaces, or other outdoor environments that impact our enjoyment. This climate justice activity was developed by collecting personal monitoring data at national parks, but has been tested in campus-urban environments. The activity can been extended by comparing personal experiences with meteorological station data and longer term climate averages.

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Learning Goals

  1. Students will explore environmental factors that impact temperatures on a hike
  2. Students will reflect on hiker factors that impact whether a hike is enjoyable
  3. Students will reflect on why it is central to consider science and community together for climate justice.
  4. Students will analyze trends on graphs

Other skills goals: graphing, climate communication strategies

Context for Use

Introductory Course
This activity works in introductory courses for non-science majors. It is a good fit for geoscience, environmental science, social and environmental justice, sustainability, and other courses that seek to highlight how human outcomes are improved by joining science and human understanding.

Skills and concepts students should have mastered
No previous experience is required, but this might be a good activity after introducing concepts of weather and climate and before engaging in deepened exploration of local climate change impacts and solutions

How the activity is situated in the course
I typically use this as a starting place activity for research in collaboration with the community especially on issues of environmental justice that disproportionately impact populations that are often left out of planning conversations (e.g. heat island, storm water, food access gardens). This activity helps cultivate awareness that both science and human experiences should inform community decisions. Our best work as scientists is done when we consider diverse experiences and not just environmental trends. Follow-up activities introduce community-based participatory research and students co-design projects that serve community outcomes informed by local perspectives.

Description and Teaching Materials

Below are two activities that meet learning goals. The first can be completed without any additional instrumentation. The second requires a PocketLab™ Weather

National Parks Personal Temperature Experience (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 65.7MB Jun20 19) (stand alone activity that uses PocketLab(TM) Weather data)

ClimateJustice.pptx (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 179kB Jun20 19) (requires a PocketLab™ Weather or other personal temperature monitor).

National Park Personal Temperature Data (Excel 2.8MB Feb17 20) (Additional PocketLab™ temperature data from National Parks for follow-up graphing or other analyses).

Teaching Notes and Tips

Both personal temperature experience, climate justice activities are designed to be implemented in a one hour course period. Temperature data displays in real-time and can be saved as an image or a .csv file. If files are saved, a larger project comparing multiple experiences is possible. Students could learn graphing, statistical strategies. Students could carry out the climate justice research that they propose and/or have a conversation about climate justice with a city land use planner or grassroots leader. Project rubrics should maintain a commitment to both scientific data analyses and representation of community perspectives (e.g. the inclusion of opinion data on community planning options).

References and Resources

EPA, Learn about environmental justice NCSE, Teaching climate change: best practices SERC, Teaching with data SERC, Environmental Justice in the context of sustainability

* This activity was made possible by the Faculty Development Board & Wittenberg University.

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