Urban Thermal Energy Modeling in high school Chemistry classrooms

Monday 11:15-11:45am PT / 12:15-12:45pm MT / 1:15-1:45pm CT / 2:15-2:45pm ET Online
Share-a-Thon Part of Share-a-Thon


Bess Caplan, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
Alan Berkowitz, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies


We will show paired samples of completed student Thermal Energy models that demonstrate a range of student learning. We will explain how to use the model effectively in classroom teaching.


The Integrating Chemistry and Earth science (ICE) project developed a new high school chemistry curriculum that infuses Earth science content into a traditional high school chemistry course. In the Thermochemistry Unit, students explore Heat Energy pathways in Urban Baltimore. Teachers use an embedded assessment 2-3 times during instruction to evaluate student understanding and assess learning about how heat energy is transferred, stored and released in urban areas. Teachers pair these assessments with lessons on the heat capacity of urban materials (brick, concrete, marble) and a schoolyard heat exploration using infrared thermometers to help students understand that heat energy behaves differently in urban vs. rural settings. Student outcomes include a more nuanced understanding of how the urban structure influences the behavior of heat energy and how human-built structures contribute to the Urban Heat Island Effect.


The activity is used in a high school chemistry course to assess student understanding of how urban systems influence the behavior of heat energy.

Why It Works

The assessment is given 2 or 3 times during the Thermochemistry Unit. Teachers are able to modify their teaching based on responses to the early assessments. In this way, teachers are being responsive to their students' prior knowledge and experiences with heat energy.