Green Roof Ecology – “In Conversation” with Timon McPhearson and Cecilia de Corral

In the Fall of 2018, The Collaboratory initiated discourse with faculty and community partners on how to build a community scholars program, aimed at creating a co-teaching practice and scholarship program in graduate-level courses at The New School. 

We were very excited to learn of the Civic Liberal Arts program at Lang and recently sat down with four faculty/community partner pairs from the program to learn more about their experiences, creative pedagogy, and the impact on student learning and the community of collaborative course design and teaching.

In this conversation, we speak with Timon McPhearson, Associate Professor of Urban Ecology at Lang and Director of the Urban Systems Lab, and Cecilia de Corral, Director of Design/Build at Brooklyn Grange to discuss their course, “Green Roof Ecology”.

Course Description: This Civic Liberal Arts course links urban ecology and urban design through a civic engagement project on a new green roof installation in Long Island City. Green roofs are examples of green infrastructure, often seen by policy makers and community members as a way to provide critical environmental benefits, from increasing biodiversity in cities, to mitigating urban heat and absorbing stormwater. There is, however, little research-based evidence quantifying these ecological benefits in the context of a rooftop urban farm. Hence, there is limited information about how this infrastructure can be enhanced to produce environmental benefits. In this course, students will collaborate again with our close partners at Brooklyn Grange, a worldwide pioneer in rooftop farming with large-scale green roofs in Brooklyn and Queens. Students will work to bring design and ecology to the composition, installation, and monitoring of a new 15,000 sq. ft. roof being designed and built in Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 in Long Island City. The course will follow the design-build phase running consecutively over the academic year. The class will examine specific ecological and environmental aspects of urban green roofs, and learn urban field ecology and participatory research design techniques. This will include work on the form GRE course site at Vice Media headquarters in Williamsburg and visits to the Javitz Center green roof. Our goal will be to connect scientific knowledge and awareness of New York City policy with diverse design skills, as we study and enhance urban rooftop ecology for both human and non-human species. We will meet at the project site and other green roofs several times throughout the semester.

Resources: Projects/maps co-developed by students and USL team members:
Green Roofs NYC website developed by NS Students:
USL Data Viz Platform: Green Roofs Map

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