SUST 390 “Writing Urban Nature” Course Preview (Summer 2015)

RU students paddle the North Branch of the Chicago River, Fall 2013 (M. Bryson)

RU students paddle the North Branch of the Chicago River, Fall 2012 (M. Bryson)

This May 2015 one-week-intensive section of SUST 390 Writing Urban Nature is an environmental literature and writing special topics course distinguished by in-the-field explorations of various natural and urban environments. The class provides a unique immersive experience in “nature close at hand” at sites of ecological and cultural significance in the Chicago region. Strong emphasis on close observing place and people; walking and exploring landscapes and neighborhoods; and reflecting on / discussing compelling ideas, stories, and images of urban nature, broadly defined.

Sand County AlmanacAssigned readings will include selections from May Watts, Reading the Landscape of America; Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac; Joel Greenberg, Of Prairie, Woods, and Water; blogs such as City Creatures and The Nature of Cities; and other texts. The reading list will be distributed well in advance of the class so that students will have time to read ahead prior to the week’s explorations and discussions.

Daily activities will consist of field excursions to sites of interest in Chicago’s urban landscape; discussion of assigned readings; quiet time for personal reflection, journal writing, and photography; and potential service work for local environmental organizations. Students’ daily journal and photo archive will provide material for a personal/critical reflection essay (due one week after the class ends) that incorporates text and image, critically analyzes selections from the course reading list, and reflects on the student’s individual experience in the class. Collectively, the class will produce an online project (“Chicago’s Urban Nature”) as part of the SUST at RU Blog that features creative/reflective writing that reflects upon their experience and incorporates both text and image.

SUST students visit the North Park Village Nature Center, Fall 2012 (M. Bryson)

SUST students visit the North Park Village Nature Center, Fall 2012 (M. Bryson)

Potential sites we will explore include Chicago’s lakeshore parklands and public spaces, the Chicago River (on foot and/or by canoe), neighborhood parks of cultural and ecological significance, nature centers on the North and South Sides, selected urban farms within the city, and the natural and industrial lands of the Calumet Region on the far South Side. The week’s schedule is still under development, but the varied locations will give students an opportunity to explore many seldom-seen parts of the city within a unique learning context. Most of these activities will be free, though a small fee may be charged to cover certain trips (e.g., canoe trip on the Chicago River). Public transportation will be used to access most sites. Carpooling options will be discussed at the May 6 pre-session (see below).

Who Should Take this Class

SUST students working at the Eden Place Nature Center on Chicago's South Side, 2 Dec 2014 (M. Bryson)

SUST students working at the Eden Place Nature Center on Chicago’s South Side, 2 Dec 2014 (M. Bryson)

SUST 390 Writing Urban Nature is cross-listed with ENG 340 Writing Urban Nature and PLS 371 Humanities Seminar II. SUST majors can take SUST 390 Writing Urban Nature for major credit as a SUST core course, as a Relevant Elective within their major, or as a general elective. Students who have taken a previous version of SUST 390 are eligible to take this version for credit. English majors may use this as an upper-level ENG credit or as an elective course in SUST or ENG. Students in the PLS Flex-Track program may register for PLS 371 for Humanities II credit as an upper-level general education course, or take SUST 390 for elective credit.

Registration Information

  • SUST 390-X1 Writing Urban Nature — CRN 30666 / Pre-req: ENG 102 with a grade of C- or better
  • ENG 340-X1 Writing Urban Nature — CRN 30689 / Pre-req: ENG 220 with a grade of C- or better
  • PLS 371-X1 Humanities Seminar II — CRN 30690 / Pre-req: PLS 370 or concurrent; admission to Flex-Track program for adults or advisor consent

Meets May 18-22 from 10:30am to 5pm at RU’s Chicago Campus. Required pre-session on May 6 from 4:30-6pm, room TBA. Some additional work online required; final assignment due May 29.

For more information, contact Prof. Mike Bryson ( or 312-281-3148).

This entry was posted in Arts, Chicago, Classes, Education, Faculty, Field Trips, Humanities, Literature, Parklands, Roosevelt, Sustainability, Urban nature. Bookmark the permalink.