The Science Museum of Virginia, in partnership with Groundwork RVA, a nonprofit that works with youth to green the city of Richmond, supports teens in gaining first-hand experience in understanding the way different surfaces absorb heat. Through “Throwing Shade in RVA,” students explored the drivers of urban heat islands (paved, dark surfaces) and their solutions (green infrastructure like native plants) using infrared cameras and thermometers. Dr. Jeremy Hoffman and Dr. Eugene Maurakis, scientists with the Science Museum of Virginia, and Dr. Vivek Shandas, a professor of urban studies and planning at Portland State University, collaborated with Richmond community members, universities, and nonprofits to explore the city’s heat island effect. This collaboration includes partnerships with local climate resiliency nonprofits and engages community members in data collection and analyses.
The project found that in some Richmond neighborhoods the increasingly occurring heatwaves are hotter than in surrounding areas. This phenomenon is known as the urban heat island effect, and it occurs more frequently in underrepresented and under-resourced communities. The community-led research found that urban heat impacts certain neighborhoods more intensely in communities that are more vulnerable. Furthermore, these high heat vulnerability areas overlap with areas that have been historically redlined, where black and brown communities were denied access to home financing and generational wealth. Throwing Shade in RVA trained youth to engage in data collection in their community to help their community build resilience to extreme heat.