A service-learning course in conjunction with nyc alternative Spring Break icon

A service-learning course in conjunction with nyc alternative Spring Break

Urban Environments

Natural Resources 496: 3 credit independent study

A service-learning course in conjunction with NYC Alternative Spring Break

Instructor: Keith Tidball (kgt2)

Undergraduate Leader:

Alternative Spring Break Trip Leaders: Keith Tidball, Student Leader


What is “Urban?”

What is meant by “Urban Environment?”

Who shapes the “Urban Environment?”

Why should we care about the "Urban Environment?"

What are the roles of education and community in appreciating and conserving the “Urban Environment?”

Alternative Spring Break

The Cornell Public Service Center (PSC) Alternative Breaks Program sends group of student volunteers to participate in an alcohol and drug-free, community-based service trips during their spring and winter breaks.

    The mission of the Alternative Breaks program is to promote service-learning through direct public service with regional, national and international communities to heighten social awareness, enhance personal growth and advocate lifelong social action.

    The program is intended to provide students with an opportunity to engage in reciprocal service-learning in communities with whom they otherwise may have had little or no direct contact with, and to learn about a variety of social issues, such as urban and rural poverty, racism, hunger, homelessness, the environment, domestic violence and juvenile delinquency. Students are immersed in culturally enriching experiences that challenge them to think critically about the social and environmental issues that shape our society.

    The program has grown from one trip of 13 students who worked in Welch, West Virginia in 1989 to twelve national and international trips in 2002, with approximately 100 students in the program. The program's growth is attributed to several factors:

  • The program creates and supports opportunities beyond the classroom to enhance the students' academic programs.

  • It provides opportunities for students, faculty and staff to participate together in research, public service and extracurricular activities.

  • It also underscores the responsibility of students to avail themselves of all learning opportunities in the classroom and beyond, on campus and within larger global communities.

  • The Cornell Public Service Center is poised to provide leadership to the university in this area. The Center has built a reputation with faculty, staff and students as a department committed to service-learning and social responsibility. In addition, we have built relationships with non-profit organizations nationally and internationally, allowing us to offer a broad range of service-learning opportunities.

^ Course Background

While cities are often thought of as “bad for the environment,” in many ways, concentrating large numbers of people is positive. Land use and energy consumption per person are lower, while waste treatment systems benefit from economies of scale. Public transportation systems may reduce use of individual vehicles.

Cities are not, on the other hand, always a positive experience for those living in them – urban dwellers suffer from air and noise pollution as well as lack of access to open space and fresh food. Urban dwellers often live in neighborhoods with high crime rates and poor schools.

Regardless of their benefits and problems, cities are undeniably a major factor in the environment and in the world as a whole – almost 50 % of the world’s population lives in them. In the US, nearly 80% of the population lives in cities. The percentage of urban dwellers is growing much faster than the population. As people migrate to cities, urban areas become centers for ethnic diversity, incorporating cultures from within their own country and from foreign nations.

The “Urban Environments” independent study/seminar course focuses on examples of how cities shape their environment, how the urban environment affects those living in it, and how people in cities have created initiatives that improve both the urban environment and their quality of life. We will look at five examples of initiatives to improve or understand Urban Environments, including: (1) urban horticulture and community gardening, and greening (2) urban forestry and silviculture, (3) urban wildlife, (4) urban fisheries and (5) green architecture and landscaping.

Three themes are intertwined throughout the five examples: urban environmental education, community greening, and urban development. These three themes encompass issues such as environmental policy, environmental justice, and sustainable development, among others. The course highlight is a one week trip to New York City to investigate these themes and get involved in community action and public service related to urban natural resources.

^ A Few Urban Quotes to Ponder

“The ancient city was primarily a fortress, a place of refuge in time of war. The modern city, on the contrary, is primarily a convenience of commerce, and owes its existence to the market place around which it sprang up. Industrial competition and the division of labor, which have probably done most to develop the latent powers of mankind, are possible only upon condition of the existence of markets, of money, and other devices for the facilitation of trade and commerce.” Park, Robert E. 1925. “The City: Suggestions for the Investigation of Human Behavior in the Urban Environment.” In Park, Robert E., Ernest W. Burgess, and Roderick D. McKenzie, eds., The City. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 12.

“The city of everyday life survives. It survives because life reproduces the city even under the most difficult and harsh conditions. But the fact remains that power can be effectively countered only with power, and the power of civil society becomes actual only through organized resistance to the power brokers of the city.” Friedmann, John. 2002. “The City of Everyday Life,” in The Prospect of Cities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 101-102.

“...anyone with notions of ‘cleaning up’ the area has met, in the financiers of the street’s drug market, a powerful equal: an economic mirror that is entrenched, liquid, and largely immune to economic vagaries. The globalization of capital hasn’t just benefited the corporate industries bankrolling civic redevelopment and real estate speculation. The success of the Hastings drug market is because of outsourced labour, diversified supply bases, and a growing, hungry market looking to buy a cut-rate product. The Hells Angels have learned every lesson from their Downtown corporate cousins, and are as mercenary, globalized, and ruthlessly expansionist.” Shier, Reid. 2002. “Introduction.” In Shier, Reid, and Stan Douglas, Every Building on 100 West Hastings. Vancouver: Contemporary Art Gallery/Arsenal Pulp Press, 16.

“The city, for the first time in its long history, is destructible. A single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the underground passages into lethal chambers, cremate the millions. The intimation of mortality is part of New York now; in the sounds of jets overhead, in the black headlines of the latest editions.” White, E.B. 1949. Here is New York. New York: Harper and Row.

“With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them.” Colonel Nathan Sassaman, battalion commander supervising the circling of the entire village of Abu Hisma, Iraq, in barbed wire. Filkins, Dexter. 2003. “Tough New Tactics by U.S. Tighten Grips on Iraqi Towns.” New York Times, December 7, A1, A13.

“This is not just a building. This is a symbol of New York. This is a symbol of America. This is a symbol of Freedom.” New York Governor George E. Pataki, on the unveiling of the plans for the Freedom Tower to be build on the World Trade Center site. Dunlap, David W. 2003. “1,776-Foot Design is Unveiled for World Trade Center Tower.” New York Times, December 20, A1, A16.


Topic :Introduction ( Tidball, Student Leader)

Syllabus, expectations for the class (attendance, participation, etc), introductions

Assignment 1. Defending urban green space

City dwellers sometimes exhibit intense protective behaviors and mount fierce defenses of their hard-to-come-by urban green spaces and natural environments, including those living things within them. For the first meeting of Urban Environments, we explore a few recent examples of urbanites struggling to resist forces of development and other pressures to ensure the presence of nature in the city. We might ask questions about what the underlying issues are in these cases, what forces are in tension with one another, and what role “community” played in the resolution of these cases.


For the first two cases, go to the links and listen to the NPR stories. For the third case, read the short article. Feel free to explore related stories. Be prepared to discuss in class.

Case 1. Hawks in the City

First: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4213496

Second: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4229953

Third: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4244320

Case 2. Machetes and Marigolds


Case 3. Community Spirit Makes Garden Magic


^ Assignment 2. Course goals

Mr. Tidball and Dr. Krasny have several goals for the class related to Mr. Tidball’s interests in community greening as a response to 9/11, the Garden Mosaics education program (www.gardenmosaics.org), and building long-term collaborations with non-profit community groups in NYC. We will talk about our goals in class but we also want to hear about your goals.


Please list on a piece of paper that you can hand to the instructors at the end of class up to 5 goals you have for your own learning in the class and during the NYC trip. Be prepared to share your goals with other students and the instructors during class.


Topic: What is Urban I?

US Urban History/Policy: The Rise and Fall of American Urban Areas

Excerpts from The Old Neighborhood: What We Lost in the Great Suburban Migration, 1966-1999

Excerpts from Power Broker - South Bronx and Moses redevelopment of the borough


What is meant by “Urban Environment?” Urban Horticulture, Urban Forestry, and Urban Wildlife (Tidball)

Urban Horticulture

Excerpts from A Patch of Eden (photocopy handouts)

Gardening’s Socioeconomic Impacts http://www.joe.org/joe/1991winter/a1.html

Urban Forestry

Benefits of Urban Trees (emailed pdf)

Trees as Capital Assets (emailed pdf)

Urban Wildlife





Why should we care about the “Urban Environment?” (Tidball)





What are the roles of education and community in appreciating and conserving the “Urban Environment?” Garden Mosaics (Krasny)

www.gardenmosaics.edu. Explore this website, including the four Databases, Science Pages.

^ Fusco, D. 2001. Creating relevant science through urban planning and

gardening. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 38(8):860-877.

Kennedy, AM and ME Krasny. Garden Mosaics: Connecting Science to Community. in press, The Science Teacher (March 2005). (emailed PDF)

Schusler, TM and ME Krasny. Youth participation in local environmental action: Developing political and scientific literacy. Accepted to: Jensen, B and A Reid, eds. Critical International Perspectives on Participation in Environmental and Health Education. University Press, Danish University of Education, Copenhagen, Denmark. http://www.gardenmosaics.cornell.edu/pgs/aboutus/Youth_Participation.PDF

^ ASSIGNMENT: Research question for paper due to Krasny by 3/1.


Who shapes the “Urban Environment?” Green Designers, Community Greeners, Architects, Landscapers, Planners, Educators (Tidball)


Sustainable Urban Ecosystems (see http://urban.ucdavis.edu/sue.htm)



ASSIGNMENT to be completed before ASB trip. Garden Mosaics database familiarization. You will be asked to choose a community garden in New York City, visit it, and conduct either the Gardener’s Story or Garden Hike activity, which will be entered into a GM database later. More details to follow.


What is Urban II? New York City—Stoltfus

The Recent History of New York City and the Bronx

Map of NYC and discussion of each borough, demographics, history

Excerpts from Book about NYC

Excerpts from Power Broker - pull stuff about Moses and NYC Politics


Saturday Before: Meeting and Planning for Trip (Stoltfus)


Alternative Spring Break Preliminary Agenda

March 19th: Saturday Before: Meeting and Planning For Trip

Week of 20-26 (Sunday-Friday—Friday evening return to Ithaca)—Tidball, Stoltfus

Sunday 20th travel to NYC

Monday 21st ^ Urban horticulture and community gardening

AM Council on the Environment NYC 10:00 -12:00

51 Chambers Street, Room 228 New York NY 10007

PM TRUCE Action Project 2:00 – 5:00

Harlem Children's Zone, Inc.
35 East 125th Street • New York, NY 10035
Phone: (212) 534-0700

Tuesday 22nd ^ Urban Forestry & Silviculture

AM Trees NY 10:00 – 12:00

PM TRUCE Action Project

Wednesday 23rd Urban Wildlife

AM NYC Audubon

PM TRUCE Action Project

Thursday 24th ^ Green Design


PM TRUCE Action Project

Friday 25th Community Greening


PM TRUCE Wrap-up;

afternoon: See NYC! 6pm travel to Ithaca


Reflection on spring break trip (Tidball)

Come to class prepared to discuss both the morning sessions and the TRUCE experience. Also, submissions to Garden Mosaics databases due.


Students present ideas for final paper, discussion of ideas (Krasny/Tidball)

Saldivar-Tanaka, L and ME Krasny. 2004. The role of NYC Latino community gardens in community development, open space, and civic agriculture. Agriculture and Human Values 21:399-412. http://www.gardenmosaics.cornell.edu/pgs/aboutus/Culturing_Community_Development.PDF


Is there “community” in the Urban Environment? (Tidball)

Explores the idea of a Community Greening movement…what it is, what it hopes to accomplish, what challenges it faces, and what its prospects for success look like.

ASSIGNMENT. Hand in question and how you are answering your question to course instructors.


Research topics (Krasny/Tidball)

Present 3 minute “abstracts” of what your paper will be. This should represent a distillation of a first draft. You should be settled on your topic by now and adding supporting research and literature at this stage.


Urban Environmental Education (Krasny)

Readings to be determined




Final papers due

Grading—Credit/No Credit

Class attendance/participation/demonstration of critical thinking in regard to readings, integrating readings with your own observations prior to or during course: 30%

Participation in ASB/demonstration of active interest and thoughtful questioning related to what you are observing; demonstration of willingness to be helpful at field site and in regard to the overall group of Cornell students (contribution to making this a positive experience for all), reflections on ASB: 30%

^ Final Paper: 40%

Class Participation Instructions

Some students feel more or less comfortable talking in class but all students have important things to share. We encourage each student to contribute during class time, and to respect the contributions of others.

To help us assess what each of you is learning from the readings regardless of how much you participate in class, you are required to complete the following

WEEKLY ASSIGNMENT. By 4pm each Monday, email to Tidball (kgt2), Krasny (mek2), and Stoltfus (jws49) 3-5 reflections about, or what you learned from, the week’s assigned readings. The reflections should address the course questions (see beginning of this document) and other insights you have. They can be one-several sentences each. Please also bring a copy of your reflections to class to turn in.

^ ASB Participation Instructions

To be given at later date

Final Paper Instructions

6-10 pages single-spaced

In the final paper, you will: (1) identify a question of interest to you related to your own learning goals for the class and the course questions (see page 1 of this document), (2) make observations and conduct readings to answer your question, (3) integrate your readings and observations in a discussion, and (4) comment on the quality of the information (data) you used to answer your question, your confidence in your answer, and what new questions your work raises.

Grading will be based on these four factors, and on overall style/ quality of writing.

Final Paper Process

Narrow down question. During the pre-ASB class sessions and readings, narrow down a question of interest to you. You may start with a broad topic, such as planning, education, greening. Formulate a strategy to further narrow down your question (e.g., by extra readings, talking about the question to friends, meeting with one of the course instructors). Due 3/1 to mek2@cornell.edu (Krasny)

^ Answering question part 1: literature review. Prior to ASB, do some background reading about your question. If necessary, contact the instructors for suggested background readings. Continue the readings after ASB.

Answering question part 2: gathering data. Prepare questions that you will ask different individuals during ASB. You can ask people at TRUCE, during the morning visits, or during free time in the evening or Friday afternoon. During ASB, gather as much information as possible about your question.

Present your question and general strategy for answering your question (e.g., readings, observations you conducted in NYC, follow up interview with someone we met on ASB) with the class. Students will pose questions to each other during these informal presentations, which should help you to further define what you will focus on for your paper. April 5

^ Turn in question and strategy for answering it. You will hand in to the course instructors your question and strategy for addressing it in a paper (e.g., list of literature you plan to or have read, observations you have made). April 12

Throughout your “thinking” about your topic and paper, feel free to share in person or by email your thoughts with the course instructors and your fellow students. The course instructors are happy to schedule individual meetings with you to discuss your ideas and how you might collect relevant information during ASB and elsewhere.

Final Paper Format

Introduction. 2-4 paragraphs stating the broad problem, what is known and remains to be known about the problem, and your question(s).

^ Literature review. 2-3 pages reviewing the literature relevant to your question. When reviewing the literature, it is important to integrate different ideas into one paragraph, rather than go through papers one at a time in sequential order. Each paragraph should have a distinct theme, idea, or concept you want to get across, and integrate the literature relevant to that theme/idea/concept. You will be marked down if each paragraph simply talks about the ideas in one paper, then you move to the next paper, etc. Also, the ideas from one paragraph to the next should build on each other or be presented in a logical order. One way to help organize your paper is to jot down the central idea for each paragraph, and then see how the ideas flow from one paragraph to another. (This should help you to make sure each paragraph does in fact have a central idea and will help you to see if you might need to rearrange paragraphs.) The literature you use here should be journal articles, reports, and books.

Methods. 1-3 paragraphs on how you went about answering your question, e.g, what types of people you chose to pose questions to, where you searched for reports, what types of observations you made.

Results. 2-3 pages of observations and other findings from the ASB trip that help answer your question. If you interview anyone during or after ASB, you can include quotes or summaries of what the individual said. Finally, if you find “data” from other sources (e.g., an evaluation report on a program, a table on an internet site) you can include this with citations.

Discussion. 1-3 pages where you state 1-3 major findings/themes that emerged from your literature review and observations, and you support the findings with your evidence. Do NOT repeat your observations verbatim. Rather in this section, you refer to your observations to make a point. For example, a sentence might read something like: “My observation that African Americans in Harlem were actively creating wildlife habitat contradicts the conclusions of Kelly et al (1999) that urban minorities have no interest in nature.” Then you go on to explain why what you found is different from what Kelly found. For example, “Kelly et al did a formal survey of 10,000 adults in 1980. Since that time, there has been considerable gentrification in Harlem, which is known to result in increased concern for the environment (Jones 2003). In addition, I was specifically looking for individuals who were interested in wildlife, so my results may be less generalizable than those of Kelly et al (1999). However, my results do show that at least among some young, urban African-Americans, there is growing concern for the environment.” (This is instead of “I found that African-Americans in Harlem actively created wildlife habitat”—you have already said that in your observation section. It is also instead of “Kelly et al (1999) found that African-Americans in Harlem had no interest in nature”—you have already said that in the lit review.) Finally make sure that it is clear where the different sources of information are coming from (e.g., literature, your observations) and that you state the limitations of your data.

Conclusion. 1-2 paragraphs where you add a new “twist” to your story. Think back on all you have read, observed, and written. Is there one thing really interesting idea that has come out of your work? What is the most important implication of your work? Also, state what questions you would pursue if you were able to follow up on this work in the future.

Literature Cited. Choose a journal that you found had interesting articles. Go online and find out the style requirements for citing articles in that journal. Use these conventions for your lit cited. Make sure you are consistent in the conventions you use for each article, website, book, etc. (eg., use of periods, parenths, order of information, etc)

Figures/Tables. You are welcome to include figures, tables, diagrams, etc to illustrate a point. Sometimes drawing a diagram that shows the relationships between different concepts can be really helpful in organizing your ideas and communicating them to your audience.

Photographs can also be used to illustrate a point. Make sure that it is clear through captions and referring to photos, diagrams, etc in the paper the point they illustrate.

NB. This assignment is not meant to be a test but rather a learning experience. If you are concerned about your grade or about doing the best possible job, you are welcome to turn in your best attempt at the paper on 4/29 and the course instructors will get you comments. You can then revise the paper based on the comments and turn it in on 5/14. Or feel free to schedule a meeting with us to discuss your ideas and any problems you are having in writing about them.

^ Readings (for urban development part of course—Jarrett Stoltfus, undergraduate course leader)

South Bronx Rising: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of an American City
A history of the South Bronx from the beginning days to the decline of the area of the borough in the 60s, 70s, 80s. Also now details the resurrection and rise of the borough to where it is today.

^ Ordinary Resurrections, Jonathon Kozol
This book of Kozol's was from 1997 or 1998 or so, describing schoolchildren who grow up in Mott Haven (a neighborhood in the South Bronx) - a lot of the issues faced by the neighborhood have to do with environmental issues (pollution, asthma)

^ Power Broker, Robert Caro
I will be pulling excerpts out of this book describing Robert Moses' role in contributing to the decline of many of the neighborhoods in the South Bronx with the Cross Bronx Expressway and other highways, among other things he did.

The Old Neighborhood: What We Lost in the Great Suburban Migration, 1966-1999
Describes the move out of the suburbs from central cities, a good overview of what happened to urban centers nationwide as well as the Bronx.

^ Random Family

Book about a family growing up in the Bronx and their struggles.

Empire City

A book of primary sources concerning the history of NYC. This anthology brings together not only the best literary writing about New York but also the most revealing essays by politicians, philosophers, city planners, social critics, visitors, immigrants, journalists, and historians.

Bronx River Alliance - http://www.bronxriver.org/index.cfm

South Bronx Clear Air Coalition - http://www.crp.cornell.edu/projects/southbronx/gis/

Bronx on the Web - http://www.nypl.org/branch/bronx/index.cfm

Forgotten NY - http://www.forgotten-ny.com/

Course Readings (tentative), excerpts from:

Fainstein and Campbell, eds. Readings in Urban Theory, 2nd edition

LeGates and Stout, eds. The City Reader

Additional Readings

Aiken, Michael and Alford, Robert R. 1970. "Community Structure and Innovation: The Case of Urban Renewal." American Sociological Review, 35:650-665.

Antoniou, Jim. 1994. Cities: Then and Now. Edison, NJ: Chartwell Books.

Cox, Harvey. 1966. The Secular City: Secularization and Urbanization in Theological Perspective. New York: The Macmillan Company.

Duany, Andres, Elizabeth Plater-Zybeck, and Jeff Speck. 2000. Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream. New York: North Point Press.

Fine, Michelle and Lois Weis. 1998. The Unknown City: The Lives of Poor and Working-Class Young Adults. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Frey, William H. 1979. "Central City White Flight: Racial and Nonracial Causes." American Sociological Review, 44:428-448.

Gans, Herbert J. 1982. The Urban Villagers: Group and Class in the Life of Italian-Americans. New York: The Macmillan Company.

Harrington, Michael. 1962. The Other America: Poverty in the United States. Baltimore, MA: Penguin Books.

Jacobs, Jane. 1992 [1961]. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Vintage Books.

Jaret, Charles. 1983. "Recent Neo-Marxist Urban Analysis." Annual Review of Sociology, 9:499-525.

Judd, Dennis and Paul Kantor. 1992. Enduring Tensions in Urban Politics. New York: The Macmillan Company.

Kenyon, T. and J. Blau. 1991. What You Can Do to Help the Homeless. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Kostof, Spiro. 1991. The City Shaped: Urban Patterns and Meanings Through History. New York: Bulfinch Press.

Kunstler, James Howard. 1993. The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape. New York: Simon & Schuster.

LeGates, Richard T. and Frederic Stout (Eds.) 2000. The City Reader, Second Edition. New York: Routledge.

Lyon, Larry. 1999. The Community in Urban Society. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.

Marshall, Alex. 2001. How Cities Work: Suburbs, Sprawl, and the Roads Not Taken. University of Texas Press.

Merrifield, Andy. 2002. Dialectical Urbanism: Social Struggles in the Capitalist City. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Park, Robert E. and Ernest W. Burgess. 1967[1925]. The City: Suggestions for Investigation of Human Behavior in the Urban Environment. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Ritzer, George. 1996. The McDonaldization of Society, Revised Ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.

Sider, Ronald J. 1997. Rich Christians in and Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity. Dallas: Word Publishing.

Smith, David A. 1996. Third World Cities in Global Perspective: The Political Economy of Uneven Urbanization. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, Inc.

Theodorson, George A. 1961. Studies in Human Ecology. Elmsford, NY: Row, Peterson and Company.

On the subject of new urban theory, also see Bo Grönlund’s homepage http://bo.gronlund.homepage.dk

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