For six weeks in late 2023, 6th and 8th graders at Duggan Academy in Springfield collaborated with Art for Public Good on creating a Thermal Quilt – a colorful piece of art whose squares measure temperature changes in their environment.
The colors the students used to paint the cloth is temperature sensitive, they contain so-called “thermochromic” pigments.
Five groups of students created their own panel, painting and then arranging the squares of cloth in a pattern, and all five panels sewn together created a quilt which now hangs in the school staircase.
Why did we do this? As the climate gets hotter and we are all exposed to increasing temperatures, it is important to know that learning becomes harder in a hotter world. Test scores worsen and our health suffers too. The students also learned about “heat islands“, areas in our built environment that hold heat more than others – think about how you feel in a lush green suburb versus among brick buildings around a bare, asphalt parking lot. Heat island are also much more common in areas where poorer and immigrant families live, as well as families of color. Making sure that these communities do not suffer from heat disproportionately starts with education.
The Thermal Quilts will be displayed at the school, showing when temperatures rise above healthy levels, before being shown to the public at Cooler Communities’ events across the state.