Uli Nagel

A what?….A Thermal Quilt!

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.

Temperature Quilts © Art for Public Good, 2023. Photo Credit: Camilla Novo               
Temperature Quilts was developed by Art for Public Good in Collaboration with Cooler Communities and 6th grade and 8th grade students of Duggan Academy in Springfield, MA.

Good News: Two Massachusetts Schools Switch to Clean Energy

Have you heard? Two Massachusetts public schools are addressing their reliance on fossil fuels by making the switch toward clean energy for heating and cooling. This is, in part, thanks to incentives from Washington D.C.

Hopkins Academy in South Hadley is a combined public middle and high school. They ditched their broken down-oil burning boiler for geothermal ground source heat pumps!

The New Bedford public school system is also turning away from their fossil fuel heating and cooling systems. The new DeValles Elementary School, currently under construction, will have ground source heat pumps as well.

The upfront costs of these geothermal heat pumps are normally around $14 million. However, with federal and state rebates, installation costs dropped to $6 million! This is significantly cheaper than other potential heating sources for these schools. This geothermal system will lower annual energy costs significantly when compared to more traditional forms of heating – like an oil burning boiler.

Read more about their process here.

The Virtual Event, Energy Detectives, and More!

As we approach the end of the year and begin our program plans for next year, we would like to extend our deepest appreciation to all of our supporters, partners and dedicated educators for their continued commitment to climate education and resiliency. All of the amazing work our communities are doing, and the good climate news around the world, is a constant reminder that each person’s commitment – big or small – is a vital piece of a larger puzzle. This climate movement connects communities with a common goal and demonstrates the power of inclusive thinking, togetherness, growth and innovation. Together, through a myriad of individual and collective actions, we are creating a sustainable tomorrow for all.

Our First Cooler Communities Virtual Meet Up

Anyone interested in Cooler Communities, as well as all current or previous grant recipients are warmly invited to a virtual event to learn more about how you can incorporate climate change and sustainability into your classroom and curriculum.

The Energy Detectives Book – a free book for every student

The Energy Detectives Book teaches K-4 students about saving energy in a fun and engaging way. The best part? It’s FREE! We’re giving away 100,000 copies to interested teachers and all of their students to take home. You can place your order here.

Visit our full newsletter and check out some good climate movement news around the globe!


Cooler Communities Spring Recap

As we bring another Cooler Communities school event season to a close, we would like to express deep appreciation for all those who made such incredible learning and celebrations possible. We are very excited to share all of the amazing work the students, schools, and towns have done in an effort to create a more sustainable world for all. 

With Canadian wildfires, record high temperatures around the world, and many other daunting natural events that have happened so far this year, we would like to take this moment to emphasize connectedness. Together, we will discover and innovate solutions to our ongoing climate crisis, whether that be remediation or prevention. We often find strength and inspiration by watching all the amazing work that climate activists are doing around the world. And at the forefront of this movement are passionate young people eager to do what they can to change this world for the better. We, Cooler Communities, are grateful to give a platform to such engaged and inspirational students across Massachusetts.

“For most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive; in this century he is beginning to realize that, in order to survive, he must protect it.” —Jacques-Yves Cousteau

For town event highlights, a summer action item and more, check out our full newsletter.

Cooler Communities Fall Newsletter 2021

Summer has officially ended and was truly one for the records.  Droughts, wildfires, dangerous heat indices, hurricanes, and floods – many of them destructive and deadly.  While none of us want to dwell on these scary issues, we must keep the implications in mind as we navigate this school year.  Together we can help our students, as well as their families and communities, learn and work toward climate change resilience, adaptation, and solutions.

We at Cooler Communities continue to participate in these efforts. Despite the pandemic, we held five virtual events during the 2020-21 school year.  Kudos to all students, teachers, volunteers and administrators in Agawam, Springfield High Schools, Sherborn, Pittsfield, and Greenfield that came through in such a big way. We are applying what we learned in this virtual world to our planning for the 2021-2022 school year and look forward to running our program in eight to ten school districts, expanding our footprint throughout the state and doubling the number of events held last year.  And we’ll continue to share our information and experiences with you. In this newsletter issue we highlight:

  • Western Mass Youth Climate Summit
  • A recent high school graduate’s creation of the CC Student Playbook
  • What to do with seasonal leaf collections
  • Time sensitive events and programs for teachers and students

We wish you all a safe and successful school year!


Cooler Communities Newsletter Summer 2021

Dear Friends of Cooler Communities,

We all made it. Summer is here and gifted with inviting weather (at times!) and nature’s bounty we hope you all get a chance to relax, breathe in the scent of flowers, of moss or of something delicious on the grill, and re-charge your batteries. Especially for those of you who are working or learning in schools, we wish you a deeply restful and rejuvenating break and a much more predictable year ahead. 

We too are taking a break, wrapping up four wonderfully inspiring Cooler Communities events in SpringfieldAgawamGreenfield and Sherborn, our first venture in “the East.” From over 1500 students participating in Springfield and Agawam to a small group of High Schoolers at the Greenfield High School Environmental Club, all participants worked very, very hard to not lose sight of climate change and climate solutions during a very difficult school year. It’s that kind of commitment, focus and creativity that makes this program so rewarding!

And of course our sights are set on next year’s programs. We will be working with even more towns and will hopefully be able to include in-person events again!