This exercise focuses on determining environmental and quality of life differences along a cross-town transect spanning a socioeconomic gradient in a city (for example, we use a transect that runs along T Street, Washington, DC, spanning approximately 25 blocks from 4th Street (LeDroit Park) NE to 20th Street NW (Dupont Circle)). Data collected along this transect allow students to examine relationships of demographic factors (economic, social, etc.) to environmental quality. While ecological and environment studies have traditionally focused on measurements of species distribution and abundance, this exercise places those measurements with an anthropogenic context and relates environmental conditions to issues of public health and safety. [Lab periods: 1-3; Outside activities: transect establishment, ecological and social assessment, vegetation sampling, bird counts; Inside activities: data management, analysis, and presentation]
George Middendorf1 and Charles Nilon2
1 - Department of Biology, Howard University, Washington, DC 20059, firstname.lastname@example.org
2 - Department of Fisheries & Wildlife Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, MO 65211, email@example.com
One to three lab periods (3 to 6 hours of class time) depending on amount of time instructor wishes to spend on assignment
OUTSIDE OF CLASS TIME
Six to 12 hours, based on two hours of data analysis and report preparation for each hour of class time
The ideal setting is a single, long street that runs through two or more neighborhoods or communities that differ from one another historically, ethnically, or socioeconomically within an urban setting.
We have used this experiment in an environmental studies class and a general ecology class at Howard University, a non-majors natural resource conservation class and a course for wildlife conservation majors at the University of Missouri-Columbia. We ask students to do the work in groups of three to five students for classes with lab sections of 20 to 30 students.
Howard University and University of Missouri-Columbia are public research 1 universities. The lab is taught in a biology department at Howard and in a fisheries and wildlife department at Missouri.
This exercise is extraordinarily transferable. It is not restricted to major metropolitan areas. While we have conducted transects in Washington, DC across historically-segregated communities and in Columbia, MO across communities that differ socio-economically, a colleague has compared “town-gown” communities (student housing vs. a upscale, white-collar neighborhood) in a much less metropolitan city (East Lansing, MI) and we have conducted transects in even smaller “towns.” The exercise is not limited to Ecology courses; we have used it in a variety of courses, including intro- and upper-level major courses, and even non-major courses. The exercise and products can be changed to reflect class size, level, and focus.
Thanks to Joe McCormick, Muriel Poston, Chuck Verharen, Bruce Dahlin, all the students who put up with early versions of the exercise, and participants on the H-Urban List Serve where there has been an extensive discussion on neighborhood walks as tools for teaching about cities. While derived independently of the LTER experience, our knowledge of, interaction with and participation in did help to refine the exercise. We also used our experiences with the OTS 20 Questions exercise to guide the opening portion of the exercise. This submission has benefitted from comments by TIEE Editors and an anonymous reviewer.
George Middendorf and Charles Nilon. April 2005, posting date. A Crosstown Walk to Assess Environmental Changes Along an Urban Socioeconomic Gradient. Teaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology, Vol. 3: Experiment #3 [online]. http://tiee.ecoed.net/vol/v3/experiments/crosstown/abstract.html
Students on the Street Surveying Neighborhood
Photo by Bruce Grant
full size image