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NASA Climate Kids


4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th


Science, Social Studies, Biology, Physics, Geography

Resource Type

  • Ebooks

Regional Focus


What Is an Urban Heat Island?

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NASA Climate Kids

  • This page describes urban heat islands, the process of transpiration in plants, the difference in light absorption in dark and light materials, and the relationship between vegetation and temperatures in cities. 
Teaching Tips


  • This simple text is accompanied by clear illustrations.
  • There are seven bold vocabulary words on this page that students could add to a vocabulary list or vocabulary notebook: urban heat island, urban, rural, transpiration, absorb, reflect, and impervious.

Additional Prerequisites

  • There is a side by side map of New York City showing areas of vegetation and average temperatures that students could use to see the difference plants make to outdoor temperature. 


  • Science students can read this when learning about plants and photosynthesis or light energy and the electromagnetic spectrum.
  • Students could also watch this video about painting roofs white in New York City to reflect sunlight.
  • Students could explore an interactive map showing cities in the U.S. that are eliminating parking mandates for residential and commercial buildings. Parking mandates create more parking spots in cities, exacerbating the urban heat island effect.
  • You can take your students outside to see the urban heat island in action. This looks different depending on the location of your school.
    • If you are in a city, you can take your class to a park and then to a place with a lot of hardscape. You can have your students measure the temperature in both places using a thermometer.
    • If you are not in a city, you may be able to get similar results from taking temperature readings on a road or parking lot and then comparing it to a place with more vegetation.
Scientist Notes

The resource describes in detail the concept of urban heat island. This introduces students to the implications of the urban heat island effect on urban planning and human health. This resource is recommended.

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  • English Language Arts
    • Reading (K-12)
      • R.5.12 Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.
      • R.6-8.12 Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.
  • Social Studies
    • Geography
      • Geography 1: Students understand the geography of the community, Maine, the United States, and various regions of the world by communicating their findings by creating visual representations of the world, showing a basic understanding of the geographic grid, including the equator and prime meridian.
      • Geography 1 (F1): Students understand the geography of the community, Maine, the United States, and various regions of the world, and geographic influences on life in the past, present, and future by using the geographic grid and a variety of types of maps, including digital sources, to locate and access relevant geographic information that reflects multiple perspectives.
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