Let’s get right to the point. A hot, stuffy classroom is not conducive to learning. How do we know this? Common sense. When we’re at home on one of those warm and humid days, if we don’t have air conditioning, we have fans blowing on us from every direction. When we’re overheating and sweating, all we want to do is rest and drink something cold, perhaps watch TV. But to study? To listen to the teacher? To take in that day’s lesson? A daunting task even on the coolest days.
So, it’s not too surprising that some Hawaii students sometimes struggle with courses when you consider that the Aloha State has more than 1,000 classrooms without air conditioning.
Listening to the teacher and actually absorbing what they are saying is difficult. It’s a bad situation for the teacher and the students and we need to do better. We all know the importance of the learning environment.
The Hawaii State Department of Education continues to take steps to monitor and adjust classroom temperatures but is not moving fast enough on this issue for some. The HIDOE continues to abate heat through a combination of cooling strategies.
The $100 million appropriated by the Hawaii State Legislature helped to cool down 1,190 classrooms to date, with contracts set for more than 1,300 classrooms. HIDOE’s heat abatement efforts also consist of installing ceiling fans, using nighttime ventilation, painting roofs with heat-reflective coating and extending shade.Its announcement on Thursday gives hope all classrooms will eventually be cooled down and optimize education.
In a partnership with the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, classroom temperatures and environmental data collected at public school campuses will be posted to a new website. Beginning this month, the HIDOE Thermal Comfort website will feature data from 37 schools with weather stations and 62 schools with indoor sensors that monitor classroom temperatures statewide.
Solar-powered weather stations mounted on these schools transmit data to a receiver in the school office, which is then posted to the new HIDOE Thermal Comfort website. Indoor classroom temperatures are monitored by the use of 737 data loggers that record the temperature and humidity every 30 minutes.
“The Thermal Comfort portal is an important tool we use for heat abatement decisions,” said Dann Carlson, assistant superintendent, Office of School Facilities and Support Services. “The public now has the opportunity to view the environmental conditions we monitor when determining the best cooling method for a classroom.”
Teachers and students will have the opportunity to use the posted data for class projects. Additionally, information on local microclimates — climates of small-scale areas — will be useful for sustainable design across Hawaii.
“The linkage to interior environmental conditions also offers the opportunity to further the understanding between environment and building performance,” said Rick Rocheleau, HNEI director. “HNEI has been using the data to analyze performance of its net-zero classrooms on both Oahu and Kauai with the ultimate goal of encouraging sustainable design.”
HIDOE has weather stations and classroom sensors at schools on Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island. In some cases, weather stations may be installed at specific schools when it is determined that mircoclimates caused by landforms, vegetation or urban development are creating distinct thermal conditions.
Visit hidoe-thermal-comfort.com to access the HIDOE Thermal Comfort website, which was built by MKThink in collaboration the data analytics firm, RoundhouseOne.