CAPSTONE: Environmental justice in Sunset Park (2 of 3)

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Objective

Students will be able to 1) describe the history of the Bush Terminal Park complex; 2) identify stakeholders in the Sunset Park waterfront development; 3) extract information about environmental justice from an official New York City planning document; and 4) develop a presentation about an environmental issue related to Sunset Park waterfront development

Big Idea

The environmental justice movement needs informed citizens in afflicted neighborhoods to advocate for change. How might we use Sunset Park as a case study for of how citizens can apply STEM skills to create a more environmentally just community?

FRAME: Environmental justice in Sunset Park through the lens of waterfront development

What can we do to bring environmental justice to our community?  This CAPSTONE experience brings together the various threads of this unit-an environmental justice framework, community mapping, geographic information systems, stakeholders, and engineering design thinking-to return to an analysis of environmental justice in the Sunset Park community. Do community residents disproportionately shoulder the brunt of a toxic environment? What evidence can we find to support our ideas? And what might we do to make our community more environmentally just? 

Students have just developed a framework for environmental justice in Sunset Park through a digital "Toxicity Tour", text-based investigation, and silent debate of ideas. In this second part of the CAPSTONE project, students focus one particular aspect of Sunset Park: waterfront development. Students explored water in the Sunset Park region through the previous unit CAPSTONE, and have also developed frameworks for evaluating stakeholder interests in water and waterfront development in the California delta CASE STUDY. While students could have examined many aspects of Sunset Park, a water theme is most closely aligned with previous work and existing mental models.  Moreover, the Sunset Park Vision Plan produced by the New York Economic Development Corporation biases towards waterfront development. As this course purposefully selects real and relevant material for study, waterfront development is the best focus for this unit CAPSTONE.

CAPSTONE PROCESS OVERVIEW

DAY ONE:

Students develop a baseline understanding of environmental justice issues in Sunset Park. They will take a virtual "toxicity tour" of the neighborhood, learn about environmental justice issues specific to Sunset Park through readings, and engage in a silent debate to evaluate the merits of Bush Terminal Park through an environmental justice lens.  By the end of this first day, students should be able to identify at least three toxic areas in Sunset Park, describe local environmental justice issues in Sunset Park, and cite evidence to support claims made for or against Bush Terminal Park as an adequate solution idea to environmental justice problems in Sunset Park.


DAYS TWO AND THREE:

Students learn more about Bush Terminal Park and stakeholder investments in the development of the Sunset Park waterfront. To do this, students critically analyze the "197-a" waterfront development plan in collaborative groups with the goal of presenting an interpretation of the plan.  By the end of these sessions, students should be able to describe the history of Bush Terminal Park, describe key features of the Sunset Park waterfront development plan, and develop a compelling presentation with visuals that describes and evaluates waterfront development in Sunset Park through the lens of environmental justice. 

DAY FOUR:

Students present recommendations for the future waterfront development of Sunset Park and also develop a short written synthesis of the major ideas for this unit; both will serve as summative assessments. By the end of this session, students should be able to describe the successes and failures of the Sunset Park waterfront development plan through the lens of environmental justice and stakeholder interests, make evidence-based recommendations for the future development of the waterfront, and identify community organizations that would be most able to assist with future, environmentally just development work.

By the end of this unit CAPSTONE, successful students will have met the following objectives:

  1. identify toxic areas or Sunset Park
  2. describe the successes and failures of Bush Terminal park through the lens of environmental justice
  3. use evidence to debate student-generated claims about the nature of environmental justice in Sunset Park.
  4. describe the history of the Bush Terminal Park complex
  5. identify stakeholders in the Sunset Park waterfront development
  6. extract information about environmental justice from an official New York City planning document
  7. develop a presentation about an environmental issue related to Sunset Park waterfront development
  8. describe the successes and failures of the Sunset Park waterfront development plan through the lens of environmental justice and stakeholder interests
  9. make evidence-based recommendations for the future environmentally just development of Sunset Park
  10. identify community organizations that would be most able to assist with future development work.

RESOURCE NOTES:

  • The attached PROTOTYPE ACTIVITY GUIDE contains educator materials that might be modified for classes.
  • The attached PROFESSIONAL READING provides a comprehensive overview of the need to study the potential impact of industrial waterfront environments on human health.

FLIPPED: Bush Terminal Park

What is the purpose of this section?

Students will learn more about Bush Terminal park through a locally produced mini-documentary and begin to consider how the waterfront might be purposefully developed to increase environmental justice in Sunset Park. Students write a one paragraph response to this question based on the films: Bush Terminal park is an example of expanded access to green space in Sunset Park, but it also exemplifies the difficulty of increasing access to healthy environments for residents. What are the obstacles to environmental justice in Sunset Park and how has the community overcome these obstacles? If possible, use specific examples of stakeholder needs to support your ideas. Students will complete this work before class and come prepared to share ideas.

ELABORATE (1 of 2): Sunset park waterfront development as environmental justice case study

15 minutes

What is the purpose of this section?

Students begin to develop a more robust framework for understanding the environmental justice issues involved in the development of the Sunset Park waterfront.  By the end of this section, students should be able to explain at least two competing stakeholder interests in the Sunset Park waterfront. Additionally, students should be able to describe...

What will students do?

First students will silents pass responses from the FLIPPED assignment to all students in the group. Once all responses have been read, each students will write a one sentence summary. What are the central ideas that most students had?

Next, students will connect the FLIPPED assignment to another short, locally produced documentary about the development of the Sunset Park waterfront. Students respond to the same prompt from the FLIPPED assignment: What are the obstacles to environmental justice in Sunset Park and how has the community overcome these obstacles? Use specific examples of stakeholder interests to support your ideas.  Responding to the same question allows students to edit and refine previous answers. It is an activity students face often throughout this course. The implicit message is that responses to questions will change will new ideas and evidence.

Finally, students will discuss responses within groups and then groups will share out one idea with the class.  

What will teachers do?

The goal of this section is for students to begin to understand the obstacles facing environmentally just waterfront development in Sunset Park.  Students may struggle with identifying stakeholder needs that are not explicitly articulated. Teachers may want to prompt groups with guiding questions. Why has environmentally just developed been delayed? Are there needs of groups that prevent development? What are they?

ELABORATE (2 of 2): Sunset Park 197-a Plan

90 minutes

What is the purpose of this section?

Students build on the FLIPPED and ELABORATE (1 of 2) activities to develop a presentation about environmental justices and waterfront redevelopment in Sunset Park that they will deliver to the class. By the end of this section, students should be able to describe the context of waterfront development in Sunset Park, describe specific examples of pollutants described in the 197a plan, and articulate the importance of local development in environmental justice work for Sunset Park.

What will students do?

How should we develop the Sunset Park waterfront to maximize environmental justice? Students will develop a THREE MINUTE presentation as a response to this question.  

PRESENTATION FORMAT:

The format for this presentation will recur repeatedly throughout this course:

  1. The presentation must begin with context.  What do we need to know about waterfront development and environmental justice? Why does this topic matter matter?
  2. The presentation must include a focus question.  What is the most important question to be able to answer regarding this topic? 
  3. The presentation must include an evidence-based response to this focus question.  What data did the group gather and interpret to answer the focus question? Who are the stakeholders? How do stakeholder create or suppress environmental justice?
  4. The presentation must have at least one visual that helps learners understand content presented. This visual must include at least one map that serves as visualized evidence for whatever position the group takes to respond to the focus question posed.  How might we use visualization to teach content in a way that verbal statements cannot?

COLLABORATIVE WORK CHECKLIST QUESTIONS:

  • What tasks need to be accomplished?
  • Who will accomplish each task?
  • When will each task be completed?
  • What format will the group use for visuals?  (Prezi, flipagram, powerpoint, other)
  • What will the group say? (include a script)
  • Who will speak in the group?  When?

RESEARCH RESOURCES:

Students should constrain their search to following topics in "Existing conditions and trends" in the attached STUDENT RESOURCE (which starts on page 107 within the plan):

  • Air quality
  • Waste management
  • Contaminated buildings and sites
  • Waterfront development

PRESENTATION DEVELOPMENT PROCESS:

FIRST, the whole class will read aloud the introduction to the New Connections/New Opportunities Sunset Park 197-a Plan. Individual students will then takes notes from this section. What is essential to understand about the Sunset Park waterfront development plan?

SECOND, students will be placed into groups predetermined by the teacher.  Ideally, students will already be placed in working groups as the start of the unit CAPSTONE.

THIRD, student groups will scan the table of contents and selected a topic area of focus.  Again, the areas of focus are:

  • Air quality
  • Waste management
  • Contaminated buildings and sites
  • Waterfront development

FOURTH, individual students will paraphrase the key ideas in the topic area of focus.  

FIFTH, groups will norm understanding of key ideas in their topic area of focus.

SIXTH, students will work to develop a THREE MINUTE PRESENTATION.  The purpose of this presentation is to inform the class of the researched issue using the above PRESENTATION FORMAT. This presentation development will include creating a visual, script and practice.  This will take up the bulk of the second day.

What will teachers do?

The primary role of the teacher is to keep groups on pace to finish within two class periods and to model processes where necessary.

For pacing, students should be able to take notes about the waterfront and choose a topic area of focus during the first day.  (This is the THIRD step above.) Students will then spend all of the next day putting the presentation together.

For support with presentation development, students will likely need assistance with interpreting the language of the 197a plan and connecting it to the context of waterfront development. An effective teacher strategy to support students here is to have groups write questions that the information in the 197a plan answers. "How does the Gowanus Expressway negatively impact human health?" is a question that the 197a plan answers in its "Air Quality" section (page 107). This question is a perfect focus question and nicely limits the scope of the presentation that students will give. Nearly every group will have difficult with the amount of information available. Helping groups find a focus area is essential.

 

EXIT: Focus and next steps

5 minutes

What is the purpose of this EXIT?

This EXIT routine will be use for both days of presentation development. First, each group present answers to the following questions to the class:

  • What did we research today?
  • What do we still need to do tomorrow?
  • What is one tip that we have for the class?
  • What is something that we need help to do?

Second, all groups have a chance to respond to questions posed. 

This EXIT allows groups to keep each other accountable and to help each other with problems that may arise in the presentation creation process.