Field Visit, SIMS Municipal Recycling Facility
Department of Social Science, School of Arts and Sciences
ECON 2505 Environmental Economics, https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/macdonald-mincyteecon2505fall2015/welcome-to-environmental-economics/
Activity Description: Provide a brief description of the activity
Students visited the facility, located on the Brooklyn waterfront in Sunset Park, to get a sense of how to make connections between conducting a research project and observing a site related to research in practice. They were encouraged to think of questions before the visit about the workings of the recycling process, as well as the site’s renewable energy system and artificial reef projects.
Learning Goals: What do you aim to achieve with this activity?
1. Have students document their impressions, thoughts and photographs and to post and share these on Open Lab.
2. Facilitate development of a framework for how to relate place-based research to the semester research project.
3. Make connections between local sustainable environmental practices and their relationship to the economic choices of individuals and businesses.
Timing: At what point in the lesson or semester do you use this activity? How much classroom time do you devote to it? How much out-of-class time is expected?
This activity is usually conducted during the 5th or 6th week of classes after students have obtained a grounding in the concept of place-based research, its purposes and its relevance to the overall research project. The visit is scheduled during class time (typically 1 and ½ hours for the tour and time for students to travel to the site and then back to campus.
Once students have experienced the tour, they are expected to 1) post their informal reflections of new information learned and photographs on the course Open Lab site.
Students are also required to submit a short summary in which they reflect on how the experience could inform their own place-based research
Logistics: What preparation is needed for this activity? What instructions do you give students? Is the activity low-stakes, high-stakes, or something else?
The site visit is scheduled two to three weeks prior to the start of the semester.
Students are prepared for the visit through a brief session on informal interviewing techniques. They are also asked to do some prior research on recycling in New York and other cities, and to familiarize themselves with the SIMS website in particular to get an idea of the scope of their operations. This preparation is designed to get students thinking about questions they may have before they even arrive, while providing a context for how they will conduct place-based research on their own projects.
The activity is high-stakes, as it offers a valuable perspective on what it means to conduct place-based research and how that activity fits with the goal of grounding research in the real world. At the same time, it encourages the process of making a valuable connection to the interdisciplinary focus of the class.
High-Impact Educational Practices: Which of these practices based on George Kuh’s High Impact Educational Practices (and other innovative approaches) does this activity incorporate? Choose all that apply.
Collaborative assignments and projects, Open Digital Pedagogy (the OpenLab), Inter/Multidisciplinary Projects, Undergraduate research, Place-Based Learning, Brooklyn Waterfront
Assessment: How do you assess this activity? What assessment measures do you use? Do you use a VALUE rubric? If not, how did you develop your rubric? Is your course part of the college-wide general education assessment initiative?
A formal rubric is not used for this activity; however, the preliminary process of familiarizing students with the concept of place-based research prior to the trip provides a meaningful framework for students to think critically about their own projects.
The course requirements, research and written assignments stress critical thinking, integration of knowledge across disciplines, and the importance of applying diverse perspectives to the understanding of sustainability as it relates to environmental economics.
Reflection: How well did this activity work in your classroom? Would you repeat it? Why or why not? What challenges did you encounter, and how did you address them? What, if anything, would you change? What did students seem to enjoy about the activity?
The first time I conducted this activity, I was impressed by how much students said they both enjoyed the experience and the extent to which they described something they learned about the recycling process itself. …“As people are becoming aware of their environment recycling programs are becoming popular. Earth cannot sustain current human population at the rate we are extracting resources from it… It’s pretty amazing and fascinating exactly how a bottle on a store shelf can be … recycled into another product… I have always seen recycle[d] garbage placed in various places near supermarkets but I never knew what happens after that.”
Students even make new discoveries about their own communities. One remarked that “Growing up living in Brooklyn along the neighborhoods of Sunset Park and Bay Ridge I never knew the 30th Street Pier in the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal even existed.”
Each semester, the site chosen for the class place-based field visit is changed. The assignment prior to the visit – requiring students to research the site and to think about questions they have – is similar. This process has been valuable in helping students gain some familiarity with the site and in challenging students to think about what more they want to explore and learn.
Overall, the place-based activity has proven to be a valuable means of actively engaging students in the learning process. They are curious, ask thoughtful questions and often come away from the experience with a clearer idea of the value of place-based research for their own projects.
Additional Information: Please share any additional comments and further documentation of the activity – e.g. assignment instructions, rubrics, examples of student work, etc. These could be in the form of PDF or Word files, links to posts or files on the OpenLab, etc.