Green Team members
Groundwork RVA team members use handheld infrared thermometers as well as FLIR thermal imaging cameras to explore and measure the surface temperatures of various building materials on model of a home. (Photo credit: Jeremy Hoffman)

In Richmond, Virginia, teens are measuring the heat in their neighborhoods and developing projects to cool them off.

Jeremy Hoffman of the Science Museum of Virginia leads the Throwing Shade in RVA program. It began last year as a partnership with Groundwork RVA, a nonprofit that works with youth to green the city.

He says the teens first experiment with models, a heat lamp, and infrared thermometers to see how roads and buildings quickly heat up in the hot sun.

Hoffman: “Then we actually go out on a tour of the city. We get in the big white van and drive around, and then they use thermal cameras and they actually identify the surfaces that are doing that in the real world.”

Finally, the students design solutions. Last year, they planted three peach trees to provide food and shade.

It’s not enough to affect city-wide temperatures, but Hoffman says the program prepared the teens to take on bigger projects in the future.

Hoffman: “We saw the students change in front of our eyes. Not only did they become advocates for health equity, climate equity in the city of Richmond, but they became better equipped to use and understand science in their lives. I think that is by far the most important impact of this work.”

Reporting credit: Sara Peach, ChavoBart Digital Media.