The program is organized around a core of four connected academic courses: Settlement of the City (SoC) which covers the history of New York and the Bronx; Nature and the City (NC) which uses geology, ecology and natural science to explore the city landscape, flora and fauna; Writing the City (WC) focusing on urban literature and writing as a means of observing, analyzing and representing the city;  Culture of the City (CC) which combines a rigorous, skills based foreign language curriculum (Spanish, French, Chinese) with an exploration of immigrant cultures in the city.

The academic core connects directly to Serving the City/Shaping the City (SC)- a leadership, activism and advocacy course that draws upon and collaborates with  community organizations in the Bronx to link your scholarship to work on specific projects in Bronx neighborhoods and on policy advocacy at the city, state and national level;  and to the Art in the City (AC) courses, which seek to deepen your skills within your choice of theater, photography, music, drawing or film, while applying those skills to observation and communication in your core academic study of the city.  AC courses will also collaborate with performance and art groups in the city.

These courses will meet both separately and in combination, depending on the week, and will all converge in the fieldwork projects that take place at least once a week beyond the school walls. 

The curriculum is organized around 6 thematic units:

  • Unit 1, Introduction to Urban Study and to City Semester: The Bronx Experienced, initiates the students into urban studies, the city and the Bronx, introducing the skills we will use to understand the city and communicate our discoveries. The unit culminates in the Warriors Scavenger Hunt- a two-day immersion experience based on the book and film The Warriors: beginning at Fieldston and in Woodlawn Cemetery, and passing through the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn, the students will follow their “guides” from Woodlawn across the city, conduct interviews, inaugurate their placebooks, observe a piece of social action or service and return to give a presentation of their discoveries to the other groups.
  •  Unit 2, Sustainable City: Origins, Infrastructure and Growth in the Capital of Commerce, presents the human and natural communities of the city as part of an interacting system, encouraging the students to see how NYC grew in an organic and understandable pattern, and to see how cities can stand as sustainable systems in the future. The culminating field study is “Hunts Point and Mott Haven: From Land to Mouth in Nature’s Metropolis” connecting the story of the original Futon Fish Market to its new home in Hunts Point and the narrative of consumption from the local to the regional and the global. The unit project, or “Big Apple,” will be creating an RFP for a neighborhood revitalization plan for Hunts Point/ Mott Haven.
  • Unit 3, Immigrant Metropolis: Migration, Mobility and Opportunity, connects immigration to literature, history, geology, ecology and the transformation of place. How does NYC support difference and mobility (in both human and non-human communities)? The culminating field study is “Movin’ on Up: The Grand Concourse, Lower East Side and East Harlem”, in which the students will research and then construct a mobility narrative: the story of one person or family as they move up from Lower East Side to East Harlem to the Grand Concourse, or a comparable socio-spatial narrative. They will present their story of mobility and change through various media, including performance, photography, written narratives and mapping.
  • Unit 4, Contested City: Power And Conflict in the People’s City, asks the questions, “Who runs the city? Who built the city? How do different groups contest ownership of the city?” Conflicts involving race, class, gender and ethnicity drive spatial contests throughout New York’s history, with powerful political, economic and environmental consequences. The Cross-Bronx Expressway serves as the culminating case study (ending with a trial of Robert Moses for the “death” of the South Bronx), and the local community efforts to revitalize the South Bronx provide models for transcending urban conflict. The culminating field study will be an exploration of a variety of “Big Plans” for New York City- including the HighLine, Hudson Yards, NYDoT Bike Lanes and Pedestrian Plazas, and 9/11 Memorial- leading to a unit project that asks, “What Could NY Be?” Students will identify an urban challenge, and with an understanding of the conflicting interests at play, propose a plan to resolve the problem.
  • Unit 5, A River Runs Through It: Community, Borough, Neighborhood and Landscape, connects New York’s natural and human ecologies, establishing the origins of settlement and following its growth/path using the Bronx River as an organizing theme. The culminating field study is our famous Bronx River Trek, a two-day canoe trip down the river at the heart of the Bronx, during which we pass the site of a former French tapestry factory, study the alewives, visit affordable housing, test the water and work in a community garden. The unit project is an exhibit at the Bronx Art Museum representing our journey down the river- manifesting the connection between the natural and manmade in the origins of NY and Bronx culture.
  • Unit 6, The Power of Place, closes the course with the completion and presentation of am Interdisciplinary Neighborhood Biography/Portfolio. We will hold a final exhibition day at Fieldston with parents and community groups to present portfolios, the Bronx River exhibit, performances, and presentations on a chosen community activism project.