Human bodies react swiftly when they overheat.
Blood rushes to the skin, trying to find cool air. Sweat seeps out of the skin and evaporates, dissipating body heat. But these processes have a cost: they reduce blood circulation, which means our most important organ, the brain, gets less blood.
“And with reduced brain blood flow, we have reduced brain function,” said Tony Wolf, a researcher at Penn State University who studies how the body reacts to heat.
In short, heat can lower our cognition.
But it doesn’t take a PhD to know this. Just ask middle school students.
Researchers have long known about heat’s profound impact on the human body – and found a pretty effective way to combat it: air conditioning.
But nearly a century later a huge portion of American classrooms are still sweltering hot and don’t have air conditioning. And new research is showing that the ramifications are devastating: the more hot school days there are, the less students learn – and the effect is noticeably worse for students of color.
“It’s another form of the same message: ‘We’re not investing in you,’” said Shelley Goulder, who teaches in rooms without air conditioning in the Oakland public school district.
How much does heat actually affect learning in your school district?
Researchers have found that our cognition really starts to suffer at about 80F (27C). So first we need to find out how many school days exceed 80F in your district.
Look up your school using the search function below: