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School uses innovative paint to cool down playground by 12 degrees: 'Don’t feel like I’m in an oven'

The school made the project a learning experience and students 'were able to see the temperature difference and graph that.'

School uses innovative paint to cool down playground by 12 degrees: 'Don’t feel like I’m in an oven'
Image Source: SAE School/Facebook

Editor's note: This article was originally published on September 21, 2022. It has since been updated.

The September 2022 heatwave in the United States posed great threats to people's well-being, especially children. Schools came up with innovative measures to provide some relief to children from the heat. A school in Atlanta used solar-reflective paint to coat its asphalt playground, providing ease to the children. Black asphalt acts as a heat magnet and contributes significantly to the thermal radiation in cities, known as the urban heat island effect. The southeast United States saw its hottest decade on record. Meanwhile, Georgia experienced three of its warmest years on record since 2016.



SAE School usually has a surface air temperature of 120°F on the blacktop playground, despite the mid-September temperature topping 75°F, which is perfect weather for sports. It started with a group of students conducting an experiment by measuring the surface temperature of the school’s blacktop parking lot, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. They compared it to a parking lot that was painted with a special reflective coating with digital thermometers provided by the GAF.

The students found out that the black asphalt was 12 degrees hotter than the section with the special coat. Paris Howard, 13, a student at the school said, "It’s been really cool to find out, like, the different temperatures you see different days. It’s definitely made me think more in-depth of how our climate is changing." The school made the project a learning experience and students "were able to see the temperature difference and graph that,” says Scott Starowicz, SAE’s cofounder and CFO.



Due to the findings of this experiment, the school’s basketball court and playground were painted with the same reflective coating created by StreetBond, according to Good News Network. SAE students were even engaged in the design of the paint job; they submitted drawings and voted for a winner, utilizing the school's blue hues and dragon footprints from the school's mascot. The initiative was sponsored by GAF of New Jersey, owned by Standard Industries, which makes the coating that, according to the business, reflects UV and infrared rays as well as heat without glare.


The playground is now 12 degrees Fahrenheit cooler, which has helped the kids engage in outdoor activities during recess. Students' young bodies are especially sensitive to Atlanta's more regular days of high heat. Shannan Tilson, co-founder and director of operations at the school spoke to Fast Company. She said, "Is it still hot? Yes. But is it as hot as it was? Absolutely not. I don’t feel like I’m in an oven."

Scott Starowicz, the school's co-founder and chief financial officer, believes the lessons of this experience will spread across the community. He said, "My hope is that other schools do it as well and follow our lead. It is a small project, but we’re educating the next generation."



Climate change is especially pertinent to SAE's student population, which is 94% minority, according to Starowicz. Racial and ethnic minorities are especially sensitive to the detrimental effects of climate change, including excessive heat. 

Eliot Wall, general manager of StreetBond GAF, said that their company has worked with 130 schools across the country. He added, "We found elsewhere through research that the vibrant colors and actually the surface being cooler encourages kids to play more. It has a positive impact on, obviously, activity and fitness, which then leads to better behavior in class."

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