My books, World of Thermo…Thermometer Rising and World of Thermo…Carbonated, are somewhat like Harry Potter meets the climate crisis in both an entertaining and serious manner to pique interest among elementary students. Teachers can use individual chapters for lessons on the climate crisis. I will be donating future proceeds to some deserving youth climate organization.
Here is story 24 from Thermometer Rising, Très Chaud, with a lesson plan at the end of this post:
It had been a long time since Heatia had seen such an opportunity. As the heat monster surveyed the French countryside in the summer of 2003, she relished in what she found. In all my wildest, dustiest dreams, there has never been this kind of sinking air and high pressure, she thought. Heatia began to build a dangerous heat wave that would rival anything she had ever created before.
Back in Mauna Loa, Dr. Key saw the signs. “Thermo,” he called to his invention, “heat is building over Europe like I have never seen. I know I risk overheating your machinery, but I need you to look at this first-hand.”
Thermo was happy to oblige the doctor, but he wasn’t prepared for what greeted him when he landed near the Eiffel Tower in Paris. His thermometer read well into the 90s Fahrenheit, and it wasn’t long before he could feel his circuits growing warm. “I have to find some shade, and fast,” he whispered. Thermo managed to find a cooler spot behind the famous tower, and was also able to blend in with its metal framework to stay out of sight of the human adults. “Can it get any hotter?” Thermo wondered aloud.
The answer was a definite yes. After exploring Paris and taking temperature readings for two weeks, Thermo saw the numbers build increasingly higher, not only at ground level, but well up into the atmosphere. As air pressure increased at higher altitudes, the sinking air continued to compress and warm the surface temperatures toward record values.
“Heatia must be nearby,” Thermo said to himself. “But where?”
On the hottest day so far of his visit, Thermo was flying over the city, when he looked down and could not believe his eyes. Below him was none other than the couple he had met at Mount Kilimanjaro, Aaliyah and Elimu. Thermo immediately dropped to the ground to say hello.
“Thermo!” cried Aaliyah, looking up. “How good to see you!”
“It’s wonderful to see you too,” replied Thermo. “What brings you to Paris during this scorcher of a summer?”
“We’re on vacation in between ice-core extractions,” Elimu told Thermo, “but I’m starting to wish we were back on the mountain. I can’t believe the heat. Just this morning it was almost too hot to have breakfast at a sidewalk café.”
“Would you two do me a favor?” asked Thermo. “Please report to me what you experience among the humans. Dr. Key and I have a bad feeling about this heat wave. It could turn out to be disastrous.” After agreeing to meet again before the couple returned to Africa, Aaliyah, Elimu and Thermo parted ways.
Continuing to observe the French capital from above, Thermo witnessed the increasing discomfort of the humans down below. His thermometer consistently read above 100 degrees every afternoon. Surely Carbo has a hand in this, he thought.
Thermo searched far and wide for a sign of the heat monster Heatia. He flew over Germany, northward to the Netherlands, and then south into Spain and Italy, but could not catch sight of the thin brown parachute-shaped waif that was wreaking so much havoc.
That’s because Heatia was keeping low to the ground. She spent every afternoon baking all the farm crops in the countryside, feeling increasingly empowered. “Thank you, Carbo, wherever you are!” she shouted into the hot wind blasting her face.
When Thermo met again with Aaliyah and Elimu, the burning sidewalks were almost barren of humans in the August afternoons. Most people had gone in search of air-conditioned stores or theatres, or at least the shade of a park. As Thermo, Aaliyah and Elimu walked in the sweltering 100-degree-plus heat, they spotted a flower shop on the corner. Hoping to spend a few minutes in a cooler environment, they ducked inside.
Upon entering the shop, however, they found only a weak fan buzzing in the corner. Without much ventilation in the room, the atmosphere was even more stifling than outside. “Hello,” called Aaliyah. “Is anyone here?”
A weak old woman hobbled out of a back room, her dress soaked in sweat. She appeared to be well into her eighties, but still had a warm, though slightly pained, smile.
“Voulez-vous des fleurs?” she asked in short breaths. “Would you like some flowers?”
Elimu politely bought a few roses for Aaliyah and asked the old woman her name.
“Paulette,” she replied. “C’est très chaud.”
“Yes,” Elimu agreed, “it is very hot. Where are you living?”
The woman answered that since her husband passed away she lived in a small apartment in the back of the shop. She had no air conditioning and told the couple that even at night her home was extremely uncomfortable.
Knowing what heat could do to the elderly, Elimu asked her, “Do you have family you can stay with?”
“No,” she replied. And even if she did, she told them, she couldn’t bring herself to leave her home, even for a day.
Elimu bought more roses in the hopes that Paulette would use the money for an air-conditioned hotel room, and then the couple reluctantly left the old woman. She waved goodbye to them with the same pained and wrinkled smile.
The next day, Elimu and Aaliyah were scheduled to end their vacation and fly home to Africa, but they stopped by the flower shop one more time on their way to the airport. Finding the door locked, they read the sign that had been posted: Fermé, it read. Closed, and a fresh black wreath hung on the door.
“Oh no,” Aaliyah moaned. The two feared that like many elderly Parisians that summer, Paulette must have succumbed to the deadly heat.
Near the airport, Elimu and Aaliyah met with Thermo one more time before boarding their flight. Like the couple, he too was devastated about Paulette, and regretted that he could not find Heatia.
“What would you be able to do if you found her?” Aaliyah asked a tearful Thermo.
“Being so little, probably nothing, I guess,” said the distraught thermometer, “but I must do something to prevent Carbo from helping that heat monster again.”
Aaliyah and Elimu vowed to continue the fight as well, knowing that it would take millions more humans like them to bring about any significant victory in the battle against a warming world.
In the real world, the 2003 European heat wave was the hottest summer on record in Europe’s modern history. France was hit especially hard, where just under 15,000 of its citizens died from heat-related causes.
Third or fourth grade lesson plan: Take students out to the parking lot of the school on any mostly sunny day. Bring a few regular hardware thermometers. Have students place one in the shade, another on the concrete or asphalt of the parking lot, and another within your car with windows open. Have kids take readings, which they can record in notebooks.
Next place one or two thermometers in the same car with its windows rolled up. Wait ten minutes then record the readings. Explain why there are differences with the readings, noting the higher reading from the car when its window is rolled up. Use this experiment to explain the greenhouse effect and why it’s never a good idea to leave humans and pets in a car with closed windows on a warm to hot day. Also, as this story demonstrates, check on the elderly, who may not have access to good air conditioning, which we all will need to rely on more as the world heats up due to our reliance on fossil fuels.
Fifth to seventh grade lesson plan: Have chemistry students set up Bunson Burners (or glass containers), that can be sealed air-tight, after placing small thermometers within the apparatus. There should be two burners per student or small team. If pressed for time, just the teacher could do this experiment before kids.
Have students pump out the air from one of their glass containers, then fill it with carbon dioxide. Set all labeled containers in the midday sun for about thirty minutes, placing container pairs side by side. Have students compare temperature readings between those glass enclosers that contain just air and those full of CO2. Have students log these readings as notes in logbooks, either on paper or on-line. This exercise should introduce students to the greenhouse effect of different gases, raising temperatures of the small environments containing carbon dioxide with those containing only plain air. Also, this experiment should introduce students to different chemistry of invisible gases and the percentages of those gases in the atmosphere.
Here is a short video about the book.
Here is a link to buy and support this work:
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Guy Walton “The Climate Guy”