A two-week-long intervention study was performed in two classrooms in an elementary school in Costa Rica. Split-cooling air-conditioning (AC) units were installed in both classrooms. During the first week, the air temperature was reduced in one classroom while in the other (placebo) classroom the fans were operated but no cooling was provided. During the second week, the conditions were exchanged to create a 2 × 2 crossover design in which each pupil was their own control. A total of 37 children performed tasks similar to school work and completed questionnaires reporting their thermal sensation and perceptions. Operating the AC units reduced classroom temperature by about 5 K, from about 30 to 25°C. Thermal sensations changed from hot to neutral and slightly cold, and the percentage of children rating the thermal conditions as acceptable increased significantly. Neutral temperature was estimated to be about 27°C. The 11-year-old children performed the language and logical-thinking tasks significantly better in terms of speed at the lower temperature, while the less able pupils performed better on all tasks at the lower temperature. There were no significant effects on accuracy. These results confirm published findings from moderate climates and extend their validity to the tropics. They indicate that acclimatization can increase the optimal temperature for learning.
Keywords: children; performance; school; thermal environment; tropical climates.
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