Park signs in China

I took these photos in parks in China in October 2010. Although signs had English translation, 周建华, a professor at Beijing Forestry University, has sent me a more accurate translation:

Sign in Beijing: “Flowers and grass are smiling at you; please do not disturb them.”

Sign in Shanghai: “Taking actions is more than having awareness; environmental protection needs taking actions step by step (in everything).”

“Make the land green and purify your soul.”


Ecosystem services of urban trees

Last week we visited the Shanghai Roots & Shoots organization. They are planting one million trees in Inner Mongolia to mitigate desertification and offset greenhouse emissions. At the same time, Roots & Shoots educators want to inform people about a number of other ecosystem services provided by trees. It has reminded me about a one-pager “Ecosystem Services of Urban Trees,” which we have created last year for the Urban Silviculture research and education project (PI: Gretchen Ferenz) in the Urban Environment Program at Cornell University Cooperative Extension-NYC.

Download: Ecosystem Services of Urban Trees.

Future Cities, Future Citizens

Future Cities, Future Citizens was a seminar in Shanghai last week. Organized by the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC), the seminar gathered researchers and students from several countries who presented their urban environmental projects. I collaborated with SRC through the Civic Ecology Lab at Cornell University last summer. I worked with students and an educator at Rocking the Boat in the Bronx, New York City, to describe the impact of their oyster reef restoration project on ecosystem services. We have submitted our data to the Urban Planet Atlas, and then students prepared and conducted a presentation at the seminar in Shanghai.

Download: 2010-Shanghai

Link: Rocking the Boat travel blog

Photo below: Alex Severino and Govin Baichu (students) and Dawn Henning (educator) conducting a presentation at the Nordic Light House in Shanghai.

The Bronx students met with students from Sweden, Kenya, China and India, and shared their environmental restoration and monitoring projects.

Dawn, Govin and Alex – thank you for your thank you card! – Alex

Presentation at an elementary school

During my visit to the Concordia International School in Shanghai, Scott Murphey, an elementary school teacher, invited me to his classroom. I asked students why nature is important in cities, and they proposed a great deal of nice ideas. Then we connected my research and narrative stories that I write with the topic of their class, which was English writing and reading. I think that Scott wanted to teach students that writing skills are important in many areas including academic research.

Scott continues teaching the reading class.

Green roof in Shanghai

Jennifer Chapman and Todd Gordon, high school biology teachers at the Concordia International School in Shanghai have shown me a green roof on their school. The green roof and a green wall are outstanding: they are huge and provide a nice view from classrooms. However, Jennifer would like to add more educational value to these green spaces. We have conducted a brainstorming session with her students to generate ideas what else can be done on the roof to make it more useful for learning. Some of ideas suggested by students include: install a butterfly garden, create a composting area, grow edible plants, plant small trees and shrubs to attract birds, and install solar-powered cascade fountains.

Teachers Todd Gordon (left) and Jennifer Chapman (right) with students visiting the green roof.


The Bronx is very far from Shanghai, but I think that high-school students in Shanghai liked my presentations about the research project on sense of place and environmental education in New York City. I have conducted several classes at the Concordia International School (上海协和国际学校) about my research during my trip to Shanghai, China. One of the most fun activities I did was inspired by a learning session organized by an educator in the Bronx.

To introduce students to the idea of environmental place meaning, I asked groups of 4-5 students to give five descriptive nouns for three places, including Shanghai downtown, community around their school and a national park. Then each group calculated how many nouns for each place were natural. For example, trees is a natural noun, and skyscrapers is not, while some nouns such as parks describe something half-natural. Different student groups gave different natural scores for the same places, but there were some common patterns. This exercise helped us to discuss how people assign different place meanings to the same places, and what are implications of place meaning.