First Year Course: [Designing for Resilient] Sustainable Systems

PUFY 1100  – Section C, CRN 7398

Fall 2015, Thursdays 3:50 to 6:30pm Thursdays; 2 W 13th 801

EXCEPTION – UN Trip time is 6:00 to 8:40 PM, see week 12 (Please notify instructor during first week of classes if there are conflicts with your schedule) Field Experiences,​noted below, may be subject to change. Handouts and announcements will be made.

Instructor: Kimberly Tate, tatek@newschool.edu

TA: Toni Castro Cosío, castm337@newschool.edu

Meeting Hours: by appointment                                       

Course Description

This course is a required first year course that provides foundational understanding of the scientific and social issues related to the design of resilient urban futures.  An understanding of the constraints, challenges, and opportunities presented by the need to design products, systems, and services that are more socially, environmentally and economically resilient is at the core of a Parsons education. This course is where that work begins.

It is crucial, as both professional experts making decisions about materials flows, and as citizens, that creative practitioners have a comprehensive understanding of the scientific process, from fieldwork and laboratory to policy formulation.

Class Overview:

The class activities combine 1) field trips and lectures to locations around New York City, which will introduce and frame discussions and context-based learning related to sustainability, ecology, and systems, with 2), studio-based workshops and 3) in-class seminars and discussions where the field work and applied research methods are then translated into informed art and design creative works.

By engaging in a creative practice that that take into account known “externalities” (systems thinking) we will begin to build and practice a creative agency that supports diversity, adaptability and resilience in the face of ever changing conditions. You will then synthesize the course content in a resiliency-building activity that relates to a course topic: Climate Change, Energy, Materials, and Water.  Specific guidelines for this assignment will be provided.

Learning Outcomes
By the successful completion of this course, students will be able, at an introductory level, to:

Intra/Interpersonal Skills and Competencies

  1.  exhibit respect for diverse cultural attitudes regarding our ecological systems and an awareness for their relevance to creative practice
  2.  exhibit awareness of moral and ethical problems related to sustainability

General Education Skills and Practices

  1.   exhibit awareness of interrelationships within and between systems
  2.   drive scientific inquiry related to questions raised during field trips and lectures

Materials, Tools, Skills  

  1.   use analog and digital tools for research and analysis in works-in-progress, as well as in the development of 2D, 3D, 4D, and /or 5D creative work final outcomes

Integrative art and design methodologies

  1.  translate scientific thinking and knowledge into creative, sustainable, [measurable] solutions to ecological challenges.
  2.  evaluate and reflect on their creative works in relation to stated goals and values as a part of a larger system of engagement

Course Outline

This is a living document! Content order may change based on current events. See the course calendar here for the topic outline by week.

The full course group meets outside of the classroom and class time twice a semester for two Field Experience trips. Please notify instructor during first two weeks of classes if there are conflicts with your academic schedule and the FE trips. Please make all efforts to change work schedules at the start of the semester to ensure your attendance to the trips. FE details may change, so please look for email announcements or updates.

General structure of in-class sessions (order of download and discussion sections may be interchanged):

Arrival, finding mindful presence
Session content – presentation, guest, or activity
Pause for body awareness
Creative activity
5 min field notebook writing

Out of class, students will engage with readings, respond creatively in assigned projects, attend events, keep an active field notebook, and share work on the class blog.

Required Readings

The following will be available in CANVAS Course Reserves and library reserve:

  1.  Capra, Fritjof, eds. 2014. “The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision.” Cambridge University Press. http://ecoliteracy.org/essays/systems-view-life-unifying-vision
  1.  Symphony of Soil, 2012, 103 minutes. Deborah Koons Garcia, Director/Producer. New School Course Reserves Streaming on Firefox browser. More on http://www.symphonyofthesoil.com/
  1.  OKALA Practitioner Educational materials presentation, Chapter: 1, 2, 9 & 10 http://www.okala.net/
  1. Optimism Faces Grave Realities at Climate Talks, NY Times, November, 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/01/world/climate-talks.html?_r=1
  1. Climate change and cities : first assessment report of the Urban Climate Change Research Network. Cynthia Rosenzweig, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies; William D. Solecki, Hunter College, City University of New York; Stephen A. Hammer, Columbia University, New York; Shagun Mehrotra, Columbia University, New York, Editors.  Urban Climate Change Research Network. New York : Cambridge University Press ; 2011 New School Fogelman Library ; Main Collection ; HT241 .C595 2011. Pages: Executive Summary

Additionally On Video Course Reserves:

  1. Tapped [videorecording] /Atlas Films presents; directed by Stephanie Soechtig;
  2. Food, Inc. [videorecording] /Participant Media & River Road Entertainment present; directed by Robert Kenner; New School Fogelman Library ; Audio Visual ; DVDTNS-2028

Recommended Readings and Video to Support Course Work:

  • Urban Wilderness: Nature in New York City. Joel Greenberg and Jean Gardner; Earth Environmental Group, 1988; ISBN: 978-0962106002
  • The Works: The Anatomy of a City. Ascher, Kate. New York: Penguin Group. 2007 ISBN: 1594200718
  • Deep economy : the wealth of communities and the durable future. Bill McKibben ; New York : Times Books ; 2007. ISBN: 0805076263
  • Eaarth: making a life on a tough new planet. Bill McKibben; New York, N.Y.: Time Books ; 2010 ; ISBN: 9780805090567
  • The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability Designing for Abundance. William McDonough and Michael Braungart. New York, New York; North Point Press, 2013
  • Okala : learning ecological design. Philip White ; Louise St. Pierre; Steve Belletire. Phoenix, Ariz. : IDSA ; 2009
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma : a natural history of four meals. Michael Pollan; New York : Penguin Press, 2006. New School Gimbel Library ; Main Collection ; GT2850 .P65 2006
  • The Green Blue Book: The Simple Water Savings Guide to Everything in Your Life. Thomas M. Kostigen; New York, New York; Rodale Books, 2010. ISBN: 9781605294711
  • Stuff, The Secret Lives of Everyday Things. John C. Ryan Alan Thein Durning. Seattle, Washington: Sightline Institute; 1997. Pages: Prologue 4- 6; choose an item from pages 7 – 66; Conclusion, 67 – 71.
  • Fueling Culture: Energy, History, Politics. Wenzel, Jennifer, Yaeger, Patricia, eds. expected publication date 2015. Fordham University Press.
  • Food Miles, in Planning for CPU’s: Urban Agriculture, Paxton, A.page 41 – 47

Online Articles and blogs:

  • Kimmelman, Michael, “A Grace Note For A Gritty Business, SIMS Municipal Recycling Facility, Designed by Selldorf  ” – NYT, November 17, 2013
  • The Endangered Elements List, prepared by Haley Ryan
  • Do The Math, with Bill McKibben
  • Lyson, T. 2005. “Civic Agriculture and Community,” Culture and Agriculture, vol. 27, no. 2, pgs. 92-98. AAA, UC Press
  • Davenport, C. Optimism Faces Grave Realities at Climate Talks.” NYT 11/30/2014.

Video accessible on the World Wide Web:

Grading and Evaluation

Students will be graded on how much they care.This will be evident in and demonstrated by:

  • the completion and quality of course work
  • personal investment via depth of involvement and participation in class and online
  • the integration of climate literacy through designed action

Final Grade Calculation by Assessable Tasks

Attendance and in-class participation 20%

Blog activity 40%

RAD Project 40%


Grading Standards

A  [4.0; 96–100%] Work of exceptional quality, which often goes beyond the stated goals of the course

A- [3.7; 91 –95%] Work of very high quality

B+ [3.3; 86–90%] Work of high quality that indicates substantially higher than average abilities

B  [3.0; 81–85%] Very good work that satisfies the goals of the course

B- [2.7; 76–80%] Good work

C+ [2.3; 71–75%] Above-average work

C  [2.0; 66–70%] Average work that indicates an understanding of the course material; passable

Satisfactory completion of a course is considered to be a grade of C or higher.

C- [1.7; 61–65%] Passing work but below good academic standing

D  [1.0; 46–60%] Below-average work that indicates a student does not fully understand the assignments;

Probation level though passing for credit

F  [0.0; 0–45%] Failure, no credit

Grade of W

The grade of W may be issued by the Office of the Registrar to a student who officially withdraws from a course within the applicable deadline. There is no academic penalty, but the grade will appear on the student transcript. A grade of W may also be issued by an instructor to a graduate student (except at Parsons and Mannes) who has not completed course requirements nor arranged for an Incomplete.

Grade of WF

The grade of WF is issued by an instructor to a student (all undergraduates and all graduate students) who has not attended or not completed all required work in a course but did not officially withdraw before the withdrawal deadline. It differs from an “F,” which would indicate that the student technically completed requirements but that the level of work did not qualify for a passing grade. The WF is equivalent to an F in calculating the grade point average (zero grade points), and no credit is awarded.

Grades of Incomplete

The grade of I, or temporary incomplete, may be granted to a student under unusual and extenuating circumstances, such as when the student’s academic life is interrupted by a medical or personal emergency. This mark is not given automatically but only upon the student’s request and at the discretion of the instructor. A Request for Incomplete form must be completed and signed by student and instructor. The time allowed for completion of the work and removal of the “I” mark will be set by the instructor with the following limitations: [You should include one the following standards, depending on the level of your course].

Undergraduate students: Work must be completed no later than the seventh week of the following fall semester for spring or summer term incompletes and no later than the seventh week of the following spring semester for fall term incompletes. Grades of “I” not revised in the prescribed time will be recorded as a final grade of “WF” by the Office of the Registrar.

Divisional, Program and Class Policies

  • Responsibility

Students are responsible for all assignments, even if they are absent.  Late assignments, failure to complete the assignments for class discussion and/or critique, and lack of preparedness for in-class discussions, presentations and/or critiques will jeopardize your successful completion of this course.

  • Participation

Class participation is an essential part of class and includes: keeping up with reading, assignments, projects, contributing meaningfully to class discussions, active participation in group work, and coming to class regularly and on time.

  • Attendance

Faculty members may fail any student who is absent for a significant portion of class time. A significant portion of class time is defined as three absences for classes that meet once per week and four absences for classes that meet two or more times per week. During intensive summer sessions a significant portion of class time is defined as two absences. Lateness or early departure from class may also translate into one full absence.

  • Course Blog

Use of Blackboard may be an important resource for this class. Students should check it for announcements before coming to class each week.

  • Delays

In rare instances, I may be delayed arriving to class.  If I have not arrived by the time class is scheduled to start, you must wait a minimum of thirty minutes for my arrival.  In the event that I will miss class entirely, a sign will be posted at the classroom indicating your assignment for the next class meeting.

  • Academic Integrity

This is the university’s Statement on Academic Integrity: “Plagiarism and cheating of any kind in the course of academic work will not be tolerated.  Academic honesty includes accurate use of quotations, as well as appropriate and explicit citation of sources in instances of paraphrasing and describing ideas, or reporting on research findings or any aspect of the work of others (including that of instructors and other students).  These standards of academic honesty and citation of sources apply to all forms of academic work (examinations, essays, theses, computer work, art and design work, oral presentations, and other projects).”

It is the responsibility of students to learn the procedures specific to their discipline for correctly and appropriately differentiating their own work from that of others.  Compromising your academic integrity may lead to serious consequences, including (but not limited to) one or more of the following: failure of the assignment, failure of the course, academic warning, disciplinary probation, suspension from the university, or dismissal from the university.

Every student at Parsons signs an Academic Integrity Statement as a part of the registration process.  Thus, you are held responsible for being familiar with, understanding, adhering to and upholding the spirit and standards of academic integrity as set forth by the Parsons Student Handbook.

Guidelines for Written Assignments

Plagiarism is the use of another person’s words or ideas in any academic work using books, journals, internet postings, or other student papers without proper acknowledgment. For further information on proper acknowledgment and plagiarism, including expectations for paraphrasing source material and proper forms of citation in research and writing, students should consult the Chicago Manual of Style (cf. Turabian, 6th edition). The University Learning Center also provides useful on-line resources to help students understand and avoid plagiarism. See http://www.newschool.edu/admin/writingcenter/.

Students must receive prior permission from instructors to submit the same or substantially overlapping material for two different assignments.  Submission of the same work for two assignments without the prior permission of instructors is plagiarism.

Guidelines for Studio Assignments

Work from other visual sources may be imitated or incorporated into studio work if the fact of imitation or incorporation and the identity of the original source are properly acknowledged. There must be no intent to deceive; the work must make clear that it emulates or comments on the source as a source. Referencing a style or concept in otherwise original work does not constitute plagiarism. The originality of studio work that presents itself as “in the manner of” or as playing with “variations on” a particular source should be evaluated by the individual faculty member in the context of a critique.

Incorporating ready-made materials into studio work as in a collage, synthesized photograph or paste-up is not plagiarism in the educational context. In the commercial world, however, such appropriation is prohibited by copyright laws and may result in legal consequences.

  • Student Disability Services

In keeping with the University’s policy of providing equal access for students with disabilities, any student with a disability who needs academic accommodations is welcome to meet with me privately.  All conversations will be kept confidential.  Students requesting any accommodations will also need to meet with Jason Luchs in the office of Student Disability Services, who will conduct an intake, and if appropriate, provide an academic accommodation notification letter to you to bring to me.  At that point I will review the letter with you and discuss these accommodations in relation to this course.  Mr. Luchs’ office is located in 80 Fifth Avenue, Room 323 (3rd floor). His direct line is (212) 229-5626 x3135.  You may also access more information through the University’s web site at http://www.newschool.edu/studentservices/disability/.

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