Syllabi‎ > ‎


Core Courses ("Apple Core")

Settlement of the City (SoC)

How does human settlement change the landscape, establish opportunities and constrain/inspire the present? Stretching from Native American settlement to thepresent, the course explores political, social and cultural history to track New York’s growth from a colonial outpost to a cosmopolitan center of world trade and culture. How do you read a city as a text? What do grid plans, Beaux-Arts facades, meandering park paths, storefront signs and Gothic spires tell us about the aspirations, intentions and experiences of New York’s leaders, entrepreneurs and citizens? This course cultivates the skills to read history in the built and natural environments. Students will do historical research and writing, prepare historic walking tours and analyze city institutions and neighborhoods.

Field work: student designed historic and architectural walking tours, archival and field research, building analyses

Nature and the City (NC)

How is New York City a “natural system”? Is it “sustainable?” Beginning with pre-historic geology this course explores the human, plant and animal systems  of the city as one ecosystem- connecting “human nature” to the  geology, flora, fauna and water ecology of region. Sustainability, broadly defined,  is the core theme of the course, with a focus on how New York’s landscape has evolved in concert with human settlement, and how that growth can continue given the challenges of climate change, population growth and the pursuit of environmental equity. Students study aspects of systems theory, ecology, biology, physics and chemistry at the intensive level, with a focus on using the city as a basis for research and using the resources of the city (research facilities, city parks and the natural environment) as a laboratory for research and learning.

Field work: studying the urban environment, lab work in concert with other city educational institutions

Writing the City (WC)

How is our experience of New York, the city’s image and self-image, shaped by literature about the city? What is “New York
literature?” How is our own identity shaped by our immersion in, and experience of, the city? Using novels, short stories, poems, popular song, journalism, journaling and essays, the course investigates the connection between city writing, identity and the experience of city.  A central skill is the creation and development of the place book/ sensory journal as a core learning/recording tool.

Field work: placebook exercises, journaling, literary walking tours, writing in the city, readings with authors

Cultures of the City- Language (CC)

Is NYC really a melting pot? The courses explore ethnic communities and the diffusion of culture in the “mosaic” that is New York, connecting settlement, language and NYC’s multicultural heritage.  All courses cover the skills of writing, reading, listening and speaking in a “foreign” language and will serve students at different levels of mastery. Spanish will investigate the language, music, food, religion and lifestyles in the city’s Latino neighborhoods.  French focuses on Haitian communities in Harlem and the Bronx; Chinese, the cuisine and culture of Flushing; Other languages accommodated with independent study.

Field work: studying Spanish Harlem, “Loisaida”- the Latino Lower East Side, Haitian Harlem and Flushing’s Chinatown

Solidarity with the City (SC)

What can individuals do to help the residents of the city? How do citizens contribute to policies designed to help inner city students, the underprivileged, the homeless?  How can architecture, development, planning and policy address the challenges facing New York City? The course explores today’s pressing policy challenges in such areas as affordable housing, education, sustainability, welfare, development, gentrification, community organizing and zoning.  Class work in this course investigates different public and private strategies for addressing social and environmental challenges, but the emphasis is placed on field work, leadership and building authentic partnerships and collaborating through justice based activism with community organizers, neighborhood residents and activists. Service learning activities are rooted in a thoughtful process of  preparation, action and reflection.

Field work: activism and leadership opportunities with community advocacy groups, community design/build “charrettes” and building projects , on-site investigation of proposed developments, visits to (and engagement with) policymakers and experts


Students continue in the math class/level from their fall semester.  The teachers integrate place-based materials when possible and work with the core City Semester teachers to bring challenges from the rest of the curriculum into math class. Population growth, demographics, rates of change, carbon footprint calculations, the design of bridges all require the use of statistics, trigonometry, geometry and calculus. We also have periodic visits from the math teachers in other core classes to engage in project-based math work.

Independent Study

Student have many opportunities in the daily program for independent work, and a central piece of the final exhibition day is an individual portfolio presentation on a topic of the student’s choosing. There will also be Independent Study offered in various academic courses not covered by the core courses in the program, including Intensive Physics, French and Latin.

Arts in the City (AC)

Art is a primary lens through which we experience the city and share our discoveries. It is also an end in itself, requiring dedicated time and energy.  Art courses occur every Friday, and art is integral to all fieldwork and coursework.  You will choose one of the art electives on the basis of interest and experience.  Photography and Music require previous experience, while Theater, Drawing, Film and The New York Art Scene are open to all.


How can performance help us to experience the city? How can we draw upon the city for inspiration and investigate the city through performance? If all the world’s a stage, then New York is among the longest running hit performances. The course will develop from intensive theater skills work to individual and group performances to collaborations with theater companies in the city. No previous theatrical experience required. Field work: Interaction with performance groups in the city, street theater

Music (a core course for 2011-12)

How do Jazz and Hip-Hop grow out of the urban landscape and shape urban culture? How does music manifest the energy of the city? Musicians already in Concert Jazz and Improvisation 3 can continue in their classes. Others will study various musical traditions in the city, including Jazz, Folk Rock, Tin Pan Alley, the Broadway Musical and Hip-Hop. 

Field work: Interaction with musical groups in the city, street performance

New York in Film

How has New York shaped filmmaking? How is New York depicted in film? Using works ranging from Woody Allen's Manhattan to Martin Scorcese's Taxi Driver to Peter Sollet's Raising Victor Vargas, the course will connect with professional filmmakers to unpack New York in film. Students will produce their own short films.