Project

City as Classroom, City as Laboratory

Avery Normandin

Often, we neglect to see the city as living, complex, and dynamic. Shrouded by its masses of concrete and steel, however, lie unique ecosystems and uncharacterized phenomena awaiting exploration and inquiry. Now more than ever, as urban populations boom and city boundaries expand, there exists a pressing need to understand urban ecology, the environmental impact of cities and their development, and  the importance of designing in concert with nature. Yet, in spite of this, curricula for youth focused on ecology canonically instruct solely on topics which apply exclusively to natural, undeveloped systems—even in metropolitan schools where access to “nature” is difficult or a privilege. Our failure to use cities as educational resources must be addressed. 

City as Classroom, City as Laboratory is a series of six educational workshops for youth in the Greater Boston area, ages 8 to 14. Throughout the sessions, students make use of "urban wilds" in order to become enveloped in the hybrid ecology of the growing city. This curriculum utilizes hands-on approaches for culturing ecological identity such that stude… View full description

Often, we neglect to see the city as living, complex, and dynamic. Shrouded by its masses of concrete and steel, however, lie unique ecosystems and uncharacterized phenomena awaiting exploration and inquiry. Now more than ever, as urban populations boom and city boundaries expand, there exists a pressing need to understand urban ecology, the environmental impact of cities and their development, and  the importance of designing in concert with nature. Yet, in spite of this, curricula for youth focused on ecology canonically instruct solely on topics which apply exclusively to natural, undeveloped systems—even in metropolitan schools where access to “nature” is difficult or a privilege. Our failure to use cities as educational resources must be addressed. 

City as Classroom, City as Laboratory is a series of six educational workshops for youth in the Greater Boston area, ages 8 to 14. Throughout the sessions, students make use of "urban wilds" in order to become enveloped in the hybrid ecology of the growing city. This curriculum utilizes hands-on approaches for culturing ecological identity such that students are able to recognize and appreciate the complex ecological processes ongoing in urban contexts, and thus understand cities as novel ecosystems.

The goal of this educational framework is to inspire urban youth to champion future endeavors related to the environmental and political spheres (in efforts related to conservation, wildlife protection, sustainability, infrastructure development) and to see the city as a forum for intervention.

The curriculum is designed to be neuroinclusive and sensory-friendly—thus, we encourage participation by neurodivergent individuals.  

Participation is of free of charge, and all materials are provided. This program is sponsored by the MIT Media Lab, MIT School of Architecture and Planning, Empowered Brain Institute, and National Geographic. 

The first session of this series will be offered this summer on the following dates:

City as Classroom Summer 2018—July 8, 15, 22, and 29; August 5 and 12.  

To register, please visit this link.  

For questions, please contact Avery Normandin (ave@media.mit.edu)