Each strand of the course fosters the dispositions of innovators: students are invited to take risks, ask questions, and develop provisional solutions. As students create and exchange new knowledge through reading, writing, and discussion in an academic community, they also design and engineer practical solutions to real environmental problems. The course culminates in a symposium in which students present processes and prototypes that address how we might mitigate the negative effects of human culture on the environment.
The Humanities component serves as an academic apprenticeship in the spoken and written discourse characteristic of elite high schools and highly selective colleges and universities, where students read, discuss, and write responses to complex texts in whole- class seminars, small groups, and individualized conferences.
Throughout the two-week course, students read and discuss historical documents, personal and scientific accounts, and imaginative literature that provide context and layers of meaning to New York City’s cultural, literary, and environmental history. By studying classic and contemporary works, students travel to real and imaginary landscapes—local and distant—in which writers stage complex and sometimes volatile interactions between humans and their environments. Place-based texts inform students’ exploration of the specific New York City environments they visit (e.g., Harlem, Times Square, Central Park) and inspire students’ own writing in descriptive, reflective, analytical and imaginative modes.
Through reading, discussing, observing, writing, and creating, students consider the questions: What is the relationship between human cultures and the environment? Must human culture be dangerous to the environment? How might we mitigate the negative effects of human culture on the environment?
Like its Engineering counterpart, the Humanities course operates as an academic knowledge-building community, where students collaborate in focused research teams to address real world philosophical, ethical, and technological problems. To this end students, produce field notes, commentaries, and multimedia presentations as they take multiple perspectives to understand complex problems in greater depth and construct possible solutions.
The Humanities course helps cultivate the skills and dispositions of critical and creative thinkers who can communicate clearly (in spoken and written English) about their emerging questions, ongoing discoveries, and future inquiries.
The Engineering component exposes students to different fields of engineering, while helping them develop practical skills and principles of practice for use in a variety of engineering contexts. Students select from two engineering fields - web and application design or 3D modeling and electronics and participate in collaborative projects in their chosen field. Students are initially exposed to an overarching problem involving human interaction with the environment and participate in field trips to different parts of the city to investigate genuine questions about the relationship of humans and their environment in the context of each local setting. As students experience the literal spaces of the city, they will simultaneously consider virtual spaces. Through collaboration and the use of design thinking principles, students tackle a problem or concept they have identified through their humanities coursework and field research. Informing their vision through careful observation, interviews with experts, and on the spot surveys, students will work to realize and refine engineering solutions that address their chosen problem or concept.