Integrating Multiple Perspectives in an Urban Ecology Course

  • Elizabeth Hane Rochester Institute of Technology, Gosnell School of Life Sciences, USA
  • Karl Korfmacher Rochester Institute of Technology, Gosnell School of Life Sciences, USA
Keywords: urban ecology, urban environmental education, urban landscape, higher education, COVID 19, study abroad


New approaches are needed to educate university students about urban sustainability challenges. In particular, students need opportunities to learn the importance of integrating not just biophysical issues (e.g. climate change, pollution, loss of biodiversity, etc.), but how these issues are related to societal issues (e.g. racism, poverty, access to health care, etc.). To this end, we created a course that uses a comparative, study abroad approach, focusing on the cities of Rochester, NY (USA) and Malmö, Sweden. Students are provided with numerous scaffolded opportunities to learn from each other, from local experts, and from faculty and students abroad. An assessment of learning outcomes in the course revealed that students who completed the study abroad portion of the course integrated more key topics into their final projects (x̅ = 3.93 ± 0.22) than students who took the same course, but did not go abroad due to the global pandemic in 2020 (x̅ =2.13 ± 0.40; p = 0.004). A survey of students also illustrated that the exposure to a new culture and ideas was key in changing how they thought about environmental problems.


Ahern, J., 2013. Urban landscape sustainability and resilience: the promise and challenges of integrating ecology with urban planning and design. Landscape ecology, 28(6), pp.1203-1212. DOI:10.1007/s10980-012-9799-z

Ahern, J., Cilliers, S., Niemelä, J. 2014. The concept of ecosystem services in adaptive urban planning and design: a framework for supporting innovation. Landsc. Urban Plan., 125, pp. 254-259. DOI:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2014.01.020

Almeida-Gomes, M., Prevedello, J.A., Scarpa, D.L. et al. 2016. Teaching landscape ecology: the importance of field-oriented, inquiry-based approaches. Landscape Ecology 31, 929–937. DOI:10.1007/s10980-016-0338-1

Andersberg, S. 2015. Western Harbor in Malmö. In: Nan, S., Reilly, J. and Klass, F. (eds.), Reinventing Planning: Examples from the Profession. International Society of City and Regional Planners. E-Book, pp. 210-227.

Anderson, L.W. & Krathwohl, D.R. 2001. A taxonomy for teaching, learning, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. New York, NY: Longman.

Bader B., Laberge Y. 2014. Activism in Science and Environmental Education: Renewing Conceptions About Science Among Students When Considering Socioscientific Issues. In: Bencze J., Alsop S. (eds) Activist Science and Technology Education. Cultural Studies of Science Education, vol 9. Springer, Dordrecht.

Beck, C.W., Blumer, L.S. 2012. Inquiry-based ecology laboratory courses improve student confidence and scientific reasoning skills. Ecosphere 3:1–11. DOI:10.1890/ES12-00280.1

Bloom, B.S. 1956. Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook The Cognitive Domain. David McKay, New York.

ESRI. 2020. Storymaps Overview. (Accessed: June 25, 2020).

Forman, R.T. 1991. Landscape Corridors: From Theoretical Foundations to Public Policy. In: Saunders, D., Hobbs, R.J. (eds) Nature Conservation: The Role of Corridors. Chipping Norton, Surrey Beatty, Australia.

Forman, R.T. 1995. Land Mosaics: The ecology of landscapes and regions. Cambridge University Press, New York.

Forman, R.T. 2014. Urban Ecology: Science of Cities. Cambridge University Press, New York.

Garrecht, C., Eckhardt, M., Höffler, T.N., Harms, U. 2020. Fostering students’ socioscientific decisionmaking: exploring the effectiveness of an environmental science competition. Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Science Education Research 2:1. DOI:10.1186/s43031-020-00022-7

Gaston, P. 2015. General Education Transformed: How We Can, why We Must. American Association of Colleges and Universities. Washington, DC.

Hansen, R., Frantzeskaki, N., McPhearson, T., Rall, E., Kabisch, N., Kaczorowska, A., Kain, J.H., Artmann, M. and Pauleit, S. 2015. The uptake of the ecosystem services concept in planning discourses of European and American cities. Ecosystem Services, 12, pp.228-246. DOI:10.1016/j.ecoser.2014.11.013

JMP , Version 15. 2019. SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC.

Kinslow, A.T., Sadler, T.D., Nguyen, H.T. 2018. Socioscientific reasoning and environmental literacy in a field-based ecology class. Environmental Education Research, 25, 388-410. DOI:10.1080/13504622.2018.1442418

Kremer, P., Hamstead, Z., Haase, D., McPhearson, T., Frantzeskaki, N., Andersson, E., Kabisch, N., Larondelle, N., Rall, E.L., Voigt, A. and Baró, F. 2016. Key insights for the future of urban ecosystem services research. Ecology and Society, 21(2). DOI:10.5751/ES-08445-210229

Kuh, G.D., 2008. Excerpt from high-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Association of American Colleges and Universities, 14:3, pp.28-29.

Lee, C.S., Therriault, D.J. and Linderholm, T., 2012. On the cognitive benefits of cultural experience: Exploring the relationship between studying abroad and creative thinking. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 26(5), pp.768-778. DOI:10.1002/acp.2857

Lovell, S.T., and Taylor, J.R. 2013. Supplying urban ecosystem services through multifunctional green infrastructure in the United States. Landscape Ecol 28, 1447–1463. DOI:10.1007/s10980-013-9912-y

Malmö stad. 2020. Sustainable Malmö. (Accessed: 23 June 2020)

Mapp, S.C. 2012. Effect of Short-Term Study Abroad Programs on Students’ Cultural Adaptability, Journal of Social Work Education, 48:4, 727737. DOI:10.5175/JSWE.2012.201100103

McDonnell, M.J. 2014. Forward. pp ix-xi In: Urban Ecology: Science of Cities. Cambridge University Press, New York.

McDonnell, M.J., Hahs, A.K. and Breuste, J.H. eds., 2009. Ecology of cities and towns: a comparative approach. Cambridge University Press.

McDonnell, M. J. 2011. The history of urban ecology: An ecologist’s perspective. In: Niemelä, J., Breuste, H., Elmqvist, T., Guntenspergen, G., James, P., McIntyre, N. (eds) Urban Ecology: Patterns, Processes and Applications. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

McPhearson, T., Andersson, E., Elmqvist, T. and Frantzeskaki, N. 2015. Resilience of and through urban ecosystem services. Ecosystem Services, 12, pp.152-156. DOI:10.1016/j.ecoser.2014.07.012

Niemelä, J., 2014. Ecology of urban green spaces: The way forward in answering major research questions. Landscape and urban planning, 125, pp.298-303. DOI:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2013.07.014

Pijawka, D., Yabes, R., Frederick, C.P., White, P. 2013. Integration of sustainability in planning and design programs in higher education: evaluating learning outcomes. Journal of Urbanism: International Research on Placemaking and Urban Sustainability, 6(1), pp.24-36. DOI:10.1080/17549175.2013.763623

Regan, V., 1998. Sociolinguistics and language learning in a study abroad context. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 4(3), pp.61-91. DOI:10.36366/frontiers.v4i1.63

Ritz, A.A., 2011. The Educational Value of Short-Term Study Abroad Programs as Course Components, Journal of Teaching in Travel & Tourism, 11:2, 164-178. DOI:10.1080/15313220.2010.525968

City of Rochester. 2020. Roc the Riverway. (Accessed: 24 June 2020)

Russ, A., Krasny, M., 2015. Urban environmental education trends. pp 11-25 In: Russ, A., (ed). Urban Environmental Education. Cornell University Civic Ecology Lab, North American Association for Environmental Education, and EECapacity project. Ithaca, NY and Washington, DC.

Savanick, S., Strong, R. and Manning, C. 2008. Explicitly linking pedagogy and facilities to campus sustainability: Lessons from Carleton College and the University of Minnesota. Environmental Education Research, 14(6), pp.667-679. DOI:10.1080/13504620802469212

Sustainable City Development (Malmö) (Accessed: 23 June 2020)

Svanström, M., Lozano-Garcia, F., Rowe, D. 2008. Learning outcomes for sustainable development in higher education. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 9(3), 339–351. DOI:10.1108/14676370810885925

The World Bank. 2020. Overview on Urban Development. topic/urbandevelopment/overview (Accessed: 24 June 2020)

Tress, G., Tress, B., Fry, G. 2005. Clarifying Integrative Research Concepts in Landscape Ecology. Landscape Ecology 20, 479–493. DOI:10.1007/s10980-004-3290-4

Tytler, R. 2012. Socio-Scientific Issues, Sustainability and Science Education. Res Sci Educ 42, 155–163. DOI:10.1007/s11165-011-9262-1

UN 2020. Sustainable Development Goals. United Nations. (Accessed: 21 June 2020).

How to Cite
Hane, E.; Korfmacher, K. Integrating Multiple Perspectives in an Urban Ecology Course. LO 2020, 82, 1-14.
Short Paper