Looking Upwards: Greenroofing & Rooftop Gardening

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, September 11, 2006

Grade Level

  • High School


  • Landscape Design

Subject Area

  • Language Arts
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

One or two fifty-minute class periods


The purpose of this activity is to explore the role of greenroofing and rooftop gardening in contemporary architectural design. Students will conduct collaborative research to learn about the history, process, science, and environmental impact of greenroofing. They will create a presentation highlighting what they have learned.

National Standards

Standard 6. Level IV. Understands relationships among organisms and their physical environment 5. Knows ways in which humans can alter the equilibrium of ecosystems, causing potentially irreversible effects (e.g., human population growth, technology, and consumption; human destruction of habitats through direct harvesting, pollution, and atmospheric changes)
Standard 8. Level IV. Understands the characteristics of ecosystems on Earth's surface 4. Knows the effects of both physical and human changes in ecosystems (e.g., the disruption of energy flows and chemical cycles and the reduction of species diversity, how acid rain resulting from air pollution affects water bodies and forests and how depletion of the atmosphere's ozone layer through the use of chemicals may affect the health of humans)
Standard 1. Level IV. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process 5. Uses strategies to address writing to different audiences (e.g., includes explanations and definitions according to the audience's background, age, or knowledge of the topic, adjusts formality of style, considers interests of potential readers)
Standard 7. Level IV. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts 1. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand a variety of informational texts (e.g., textbooks, biographical sketches, letters, diaries, directions, procedures, magazines, essays, primary source historical documents, editorials, news stories, periodicals, catalogs, job-related materials, schedules, speeches, memoranda, public documents, maps) Standard 4. Level IV. Gathers and uses information for research purposes 2. Uses a variety of print and electronic sources to gather information for research topics (e.g., news sources such as magazines, radio, television, newspapers; government publications; microfiche; telephone information services; databases; field studies; speeches; technical documents; periodicals; Internet)
Listening & Speaking
Standard 8. Level IV. Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes 3. Uses a variety of strategies to enhance listening comprehension (e.g., focuses attention on message, monitors message for clarity and understanding, asks relevant questions, provides verbal and nonverbal feedback, notes cues such as change of pace or particular words that indicate a new point is about to be made; uses abbreviation system to record information quickly; selects and organizes essential information) 4. Adjusts message wording and delivery to particular audiences and for particular purposes (e.g., to defend a position, to entertain, to inform, to persuade) 5. Makes formal presentations to the class (e.g., includes definitions for clarity; supports main ideas using anecdotes, examples, statistics, analogies, and other evidence; uses visual aids or technology, such as transparencies, slides, electronic media; cites information sources) 8. Responds to questions and feedback about own presentations (e.g., clarifies and defends ideas, expands on a topic, uses logical arguments, modifies organization, evaluates effectiveness, sets goals for future presentations)
Working With Others
Standard 1. Contributes to the overall effort of a group
Thinking & Reasoning
Standard 5. Applies basic trouble-shooting and problem-solving techniques

Common Core Standards

Anchors for Reading:

Key Ideas and Details:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3 Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10 Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

Anchor standards for Speaking and Listening:

Comprehension and Collaboration:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.3 Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Anchor standards for Language:

Conventions of Standard English:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.


Students will do the following:
  • listen to an audio broadcast to acquire information
  • conduct Internet research
  • evaluate and analyze information from multiple information sources
  • create a presentation
  • respond to writing prompts


  • "Green Design" handout


  • computer with Internet access




Building Background Plants on Roofs?

The purpose of this activity is to provide students with background information on rooftop gardening and greenroofing. 1. With your students, visit the following "Greening Gotham" website, which contains an image of what New York City buildings might look like with a network of rooftop gardens and greenroofs. This may be viewed at: http://www.treehugger.com/lawn-garden/greening-gotham-a-rooftop-initiative.html As a class, listen to the following audio transcript at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1810947. This National Public Radio broadcast describes Earth Pledge's efforts to transform urban rooftops into gardens by planting vegetation over the entirety of the roofs. Ask your students to respond to the following questions:
  • What do you think of the concept of greenroofing?
  • What do you think is the most important advantage of greenroofing and rooftop gardening?
  • What do you think is the most important objection to greenroofing and rooftop gardening?

Steps for Learning Green Design

The purpose of this activity is to engage students' in creating a design plan for a greenroof/rooftop gardening proposal. 1. Divide the class into small groups, and tell the students that they are going to create a presentation on greenroofing and rooftop gardening. 2. Give each group a copy of the "Green Design" handout. 3. Provide time for each small group to present its work to the class. 4. Discuss the different elements of each group presentation, and how each group addressed this task. 5. Ask students to respond in journals to the following prompts:
  • What role do architects play in changing the environment?
  • How are design and environmental issues related?
Ask for volunteers to share their responses with the class.


Create a class rubric with your students that will help them understand the effectiveness of their design process. Use the following guidelines to help create the rubric.-How effective was your brainstorming in generating ideas? Excellent         Good            Adequate            Poor-Rate how effectively you analyzed the information you used to identify your problem. Excellent         Good            Adequate            Poor -Rate the effectiveness of your presentation. Excellent         Good            Adequate            Poor -Rate how clearly you communicated your ideas. Excellent         Good            Adequate            Poor -Rate how clearly you communicated your solution. Excellent         Good            Adequate            Poor -Rate your effectiveness as problem solvers. Excellent         Good            Adequate            Poor -Rate your creativity. Excellent         Good            Adequate            Poor

Enrichment Extension Activities

Activity One: Plant Explorations
Ask your students to research the kinds of plants that are best suited for greenroofing at: http://www.greenroofs.com/Greenroofs101/plants_for_us.htm.
Activity Two: Image Collection
Create a collection of images of rooftop gardens and greenroofs. Share your collection by creating a slideshow, book or videotape.
Activity Three: Green Architecture
Ask your students to conduct research on green architecture. Provide the following resources to begin researching:
  1. This lesson could be adapted to emphasize brainstorming. Instead of crafting a presentation on the concept of roof-top gardening, students could work in groups to generate ideas. These ideas could be collected onto a large brainstorming space. Students in the group could then vote on the best ideas.

    Then, the rest of the class could vote on what they think are the best ideas.

    A resource for brainstorming can be found at: https://dschool.stanford.edu/groups/k12/wiki/3bae4/How_to_brainstorm__video_tutorials.html

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.