Amy Traver – work-in-progress

Professor of Sociology at QCC-CUNY

“Green Grows in Queens:” A 5-Week Project for Introduction to Sociology (SOCY-101)

Queens is the country’s most diverse county, and New York City’s largest borough. Notably, it experienced concentrated development in the period 1915-1928, as both the subway expanded and the idea of “garden cities” grew in popularity. As a result, many Queens residents now live in neighborhoods that facilitate ethno-racial co-residence and provide a limited amount of outside space. This year, I’m planning to engage students in neighborhood-level studies of garden/green spaces in Queens. I envision these studies as photo-based essays that integrate historical and contemporary census data, immigration and ethno-racial studies, plant humanities search-discovery content, urban studies and public policy research, and readings on the sociology of space– all in an effort to frame the borough as an emplaced green, global microcosm. Concurrently, it is my hope that the project will help to: encourage students’ embrace of outside space (a long-established public health/education effort and a reflection of our impoverished indoor spaces); reframe our beleaguered borough as a site of growth, life, and community (a counterpoint to narratives of post-pandemic urban flight and decline); wear away at the juxtaposition of urban and rural spaces (a major divide in American politics); and deepen our collective interest in and work at the intersection of the environmental humanities and sociology.

Please check out Dr. Traver’s DOCUMENT, which contains links to readings and resources for this course-in-progress!


  • Christine Farias


    Thank you for sharing the details of your project “Green Grows in Queens” for your Introduction to Sociology course. Your project is so well thought out. I really like the way you have structured your course with a project to take the students out into their neighborhood and apply what they are learning – action learning.

    Here are some resources that might be of interest:
    Streetonomics: Quantifying culture using street names
    Melanie Bancilhon, Marios Constantinides Edyta Paulina Bogucka, Luca Maria Aiello, Daniele Quercia
    Published: June 30, 2021

  • Cara O'Connor

    Amy, this 5-week class looks like an incredible labor of love. I am amazed at all the frameworks you are able to tie together in one introductory course. I feel like I have so much to learn from your approach to this class. Your students will have the benefit of seeing how exciting sociology can be and how their own observations can help redefine and break down the rural/urban divide (conceptual and political as it is).

    I did have a thought when looking at what you have planned for Module 11: Being Stewards of our Land, which might also set the stage for a contrast with images your students will see in Module 12 when they read “Since when have trees existed only for rich Americans?”

    Here’s the thought: I wonder if it would be relevant or interesting for your students to have a chance to learn about an indigenous community’s successful (and ongoing) fight for the right to care sustainably for land and community. What came to mind for me was an image in this article, of the Menominee reservation forest and the activism of Menominee tribal members, which resulted in gaining the power to do sustainable forestry. While in aerial photos of Philadelphia, green corresponds to economic advantage, aerial photos of the Menominee reservation and surrounding areas show the success of the Menominee nation compared to the non-indigenous (and possibly more wealthy) communities around them in Wisconsin. This is talked about by Daniel Wildcat in his book *Red Alert! Saving the Planet with Indigenous Knowledge.* (

    I wonder what it might mean to a student who lives in Queens to think about political/environmental struggles in the Great Lakes region? Maybe it’s too far away, but it could help to break down the rural/urban dichotomy. Menominee activists were able to fight back from the edge of their nation’s termination in the 1950s and the political work resulted in… well, many more trees and a reputation for sustainable forestry.


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