Organizations that can serve as resources for place-based learning activities:


Brooklyn Waterfront Research Center
The Brooklyn Waterfront Research Center of City Tech aims to raise awareness about critical issues facing Brooklyn’s waterfront through research, teaching, and public programming.

Brooklyn Historical Society
The Brooklyn Historical Society connects the past to the present and makes the vibrant history of Brooklyn tangible, relevant and meaningful for today’s diverse communities, and for generations to come.

Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, Brooklyn, NY
Anon-profit organization responsible for conceiving, planning and coordinating the development of a 14 mile-long greenway along Brooklyn’s industrial waterfront.

The Center for Urban Pedagogy, Brooklyn NY
CUP is a nonprofit organization that uses design and art to improve public participation in shaping the places where we all live.


Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, New York, NY
The Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance works to transform the New York and New Jersey Harbor and Waterways to make them cleaner and more accessible, a vibrant place to play, learn and work with great parks, great jobs and great transportation for all.

The Waterfront Center, Washington DC
Enhancing, protecting and preserving our waterfronts, and recognizing those who work to make that possible, represents the primary purpose of The Waterfront Center.

Working Harbor Committee, New York, NY
The Mission of the Working Harbor Committee is to strengthen awareness of the working harbor’s history and vitality today, and its opportunities for the future (more)

PortSide New York
PortSide NewYork is a young, innovative non-profit organization whose mission is to show NYC better ways to use the BlueSpace, the water part of the waterfront, and to help revitalize our home neighborhood of Red Hook while doing that.

Gowanus Canal Conservancy, Brooklyn, NY
The Gowanus Canal Conservancy is a steward for the preservation, restoration and green development of the Gowanus Canal and its environs for the greater good of the community.

Newtown Creek Alliance, Brooklyn and Queens, NY
The Newtown Creek Alliance represents the interests of community residents and local businesses who are dedicated to restoring community health, water quality, habitat, access, and vibrant water dependent commerce along Newtown Creek.

Division of Coastal Resources, New York State
The Division of Coastal Resources works in partnership with community groups, non-profit organizations, state and federal agencies, and local governments to make communities better places to live, work and visit. The Brownfield Opportunity Areas program connects communities with resources to address local brownfield issues, including redevelopment, site assessment, and planning for remediation.

HabitatMap, Brooklyn NY
HabitatMap is a non-profit environmental health justice organization whose goal is to raise awareness about the impact the environment has on human health. Our online mapping and social networking platform is designed to maximize the impact of community voices on city planning and strengthen ties between organizations and activists working to build greener, greater cities.

New York Harbor School, Governors Island, New York, NY
The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School provides a rigorous, college-preparatory education built upon New York City’s maritime experience that instills in our students both the ethics and skills of environmental stewardship and on water job skills.

South Street Seaport Museum, New York, NY
Recently reopened in partnership with the Museum of the City of New York, this museum traces the history of the Port of New York and its commercial and cultural impact on the city, the state, and the nation.

Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor New York, NY
Founded in 1953 for the purpose of “eliminating various evils on the waterfront in the Port of New York Harbor,” the WCNYH is a regulatory agency to investigate and deter criminal activity and influence in the port district.


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Mapping tools, websites and other resources on the web

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Online Resources
A comprehensive list of software, data sets, and online lectures compiled by the Map Division at NYPL.

The free wiki world map; create a free account to edit and create maps.

A free online editable map of the world.

Teaching with Maps from the University at Buffalo map collection Lists collections of online maps, geographic data sites, and teaching resources.

NYPL Map Warper
A free online tool for rectifying digitized historic maps in the NYPL collection.

An interactive mapping website that captures and presents personal video accounts of the life and culture of New York City.

Web-based tool to visualize and analyze geospatial data. A free account provides the user with up to 5 data tables and up to 5MB of storage.

Green Map
With mapmaking as its medium, this organization supports inclusive participation in sustainable community development. Anyone can join and participate in the Open Green Map project.

MTAM (More than a Map)
An app for the iPhone/iPad, MTAM allows users to locate, experience, and contribute to African American History through an interactive map. Designed to show that the this aspect of American History exists all around us, even in months outside of February, the application highlights relevant locations in one’s immediate vicinity and gives users the ability to upload their own. Initial funding provided by ITVS.

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Mapping the novel (or short story)

Mapping the novel (or short story, or other literary work)

Based on the Mapping novels with Google Earth exercise, this activity locates a fictional text in the real world.
Class discussion on the mapping exercise can be driven by investigating why particular sites or routes were chosen; what makes them more significant or important than others? What about sites, locations, or routes for which no exact geographic location could be determined?

Learning objectives: Using the assigned text and Google Earth, Google Maps, or even a print map, students will identify place names in the literary work and locate them.  Using a web map application or print map develops students’ ability to think spatially and introduces them to some basic concepts of digital mapping. Students will be able to visualize journeys or routes taken by characters in the literary work studied.

Tools: literary text; access to internet or photocopies of print map

Latitude/longitude – the fundamental measurement of the geographic coordinate system; enables points on the Earth to be represented numerically. Latitude represents the point’s location relative to the Equator; Longitude represents the point’s location relative to the Prime Meridian
Street view – in Google Earth, provides street level view
Placemark – in Google Maps and Google Earth, a point on a map that represents the location of something

Help and tutorials:
Google Earth Outreach for tutorials

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

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Citizen cartographer

Working in groups or individually, students will layer a historic map of a geographic area onto a contemporary map, satellite image, or street grid.

Learning objectives: Students will develop their ability to interpret multiple forms of evidence, including that from historic as well as contemporary images and data sets. Careful study of a historic map reveals much about the culture and values of the time the map was made. What features does the contemporary map lack that the historic map shows, and vice versa?

Tools: access to the internet, a contemporary street map

Georectify or rectify – to align an image with a map of the same area by placing control points that represent a common point on both the image and the map
Control point – a map point that aligns a point on an image of a historic map with the same point on a contemporary map
KML – a file format for viewing geographic data in Google Earth and other programs

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Readings & resources on urban pedagogy, service learning & place-based education

Bairner, Alan. “Urban walking and the pedagogies of the street.” Sport, Education and Society 16.3 (2011): n. pag. Web. 15 Nov. 2011.
Dobson, Stephen. “Urban pedagogy: a proposal for the twenty‐first century.” London Review of Education 4.2 (2006): 99-114.
Fraser, Benjamin. “The ‘kind of problem cities pose’: Jane Jacobs at the intersection of philosophy, pedagogy, and urban theory.” Teaching in Higher Education 14.3 (2009): 265-276.
Goodchild, Michael F. “Citizens as Sensors: The World of Volunteered Geography.” GeoJournal 69.4 (2007): 211–221.
Gruenewald, David A. “Foundations of Place: A Multidisciplinary Framework for Place-Conscious Education.” American Educational Research Journal 40.3 (2003): 619–654.
Inq13: Inequalities Seminar in East Harlem.” Inq13: Inequalities Seminar in East Harlem.

Liestøl, Gunnar. “Learning through situated simulations: Exploring mobile augmented reality.” (Research Bulletin 1, 2011). Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, 2011, available from


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