Expectations and Assignment Overview


Readings are listed in each week’s page, in the “Classes – Week by Week” section.  Some are links to Baruch e-reserves (password Macbride4001), others indicate availability via Zotero, and others are freely available on the web.  It is your responsibility to access the readings and to let me know immediately if you have problems accessing them.

Because of the breadth of the material, the reading load for this class is considerable. As I will explain in class, however, the reading load is manageable if you apply techniques of skimming and reading for major ideas, as opposed to detailed reading of every word and line. Each week, I will post pointers for the readings; pages to focus on and things to look out for. Students will be divided at the beginning of the class into four groups numbered 1 through 4. Each week, three of the four groups will be asked to respond to the readings from one of three perspectives: engage, respond, and discuss, on a rotating basis.


Students in groups assigned to engage should each post one discussion question that involves at least two of the assigned readings,  no later than 7PM the Saturday night before that week’s class.  Posts should have an informative title and one sentence “setting up” the question to be posed.   Students are encouraged to divide up the readings with each member being assigned to “specialize” in one or at most two of the readings, skimming the others.  Group discussion is encouraged.

Students in groups assigned to respond should each answer two of the posted questions,  no later than Monday 7PM before that week’s class.  Students are again encouraged to divide up the readings to assign specialists.

Students in groups assigned to discuss will lead the in-class discussion, sitting in the middle of the classroom and discussing the issues for an uninterrupted for 10 minutes and then open to the entire class.  Once again, I encourage dividing up the readings to assign specialists.  The idea is that each specialist reads one or at most two readings in detail and skims the others.  Group communication before hand and in class maximizes specialist expertise.

Collaborative Learning Contribution

At least once in the semester, and separately from your “Engage/Respond/Discuss” work, you will bring your own input to bear on presenting a piece of information to the class. This information should be in some way relevant to the topics to be covered each week. Your input must be much more than simply passing along a link. You should prepare a short but powerful statement to deliver orally to the class, supplemented by visuals in the form of one or more powerpoint slides containing graphics as well as text (which may contain links to webpages). You will propose your contribution to me no later than Friday, 6PM of the week before the class in which you plan to make your contribution.

I will comment on your proposal, and based on these comments you will supply the text and powerpoint slide to me no later than 6PM on the Monday night before each class. I will then call you to the front of the class to talk about your contribution. This is not a simple presentation of the reading; it is your contribution to the overall process of participatory learning going on in class. In the syllabus, I include some “challenges” to get you started, but I encourage you to venture out on your own.

Examples include:

  • Being the first or second to respond to each week’s challenge (only two students can take up a challenge)
  • Volunteering to research an item of group interest that comes up in the class
  • Proposing that we view a good, short Youtube video that you have reviewed
  • Showing a facility design or piece of artwork, with commentary
  • Reciting of a piece of oratory/poem, inviting commentary

General Participation

Over and above the assigned participation described above, active participation is required of each student. Active participation includes speaking in class about the ideas from the readings, not just personal experience, even on weeks when you are not explicitly assigned to a “discuss” task. Questions are encouraged, as is engaging your fellow students in addition to me.

Final Research Paper/Presentation

By Week 3 of the class, you will select and propose to me a topic for research. You will write several assignments on this topic over the course of the semester as you carry out your research.  The results of these assignments will be integrated into a final paper and presentation at the Macaulay Conference on Saturday, May 11th or Sunday, May 12th. (You will sign up for presentation slots later in the semester.)

Your topic must first of all take up the question of the “Future of New York City”, addressing the notion of “the future” from the stand point of the future of nature and society, not just your own life.  From this perspective, come up with a topic that falls into one of two areas of choice:

  1. Some aspect of waste-to-energy in New York City. (Encouraged) This could include review of the policy surrounding the city’s current plans, historical views as they relate to the present and future, alternatives such as recycling or composting, environmental justice opposition to this option, or another feature.
  2. Another topic that in some way relates to NYC’s adaptation to climate change.

You must propose your topic no later than Feb. 14th, and you are encouraged to propose earlier. Your topic may not change except to make it more narrow. You will write two memos as part of your research. Details on these memos are provided in the assignment details section of the site.