Looking Upwards: Greenroofing & Rooftop Gardening

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

Grade Level

  • Middle 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 III. Understands relationships among organisms and their physical environment 5. Knows how matter is recycled within ecosystems (e.g., matter is transferred from one organism to another repeatedly, and between organisms and their physical environment; the total amount of matter remains constant, even though its form and location change) 
Standard 8. Level III. Understands the characteristics of ecosystems on Earth's surface 5. Knows the potential impact of human activities within a given ecosystem on the carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen cycles (e.g., the role of air pollution in atmospheric warming or the growing of peas and other legumes, which supply their own nitrogen and do not deplete the soil)
Standard 7. Level III. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts 1. Reads a variety of informational texts (e.g., electronic texts; textbooks; biographical sketches; directions; essays; primary source historical documents, including letters and diaries; print media, including editorials, news stories, periodicals, and magazines; consumer, workplace, and public documents, including catalogs, technical directions, procedures, and bus routes) 3. Summarizes and paraphrases information in texts (e.g., arranges information in chronological, logical, or sequential order; conveys main ideas, critical details, and underlying meaning; uses own words or quoted materials; preserves author's perspective and voice) 4. Uses new information to adjust and extend personal knowledge base
Listening & 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 look at a variety of green roofs. (Google Image Search) As a class, listen to the following audio transcript at https://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? -Rate how effectively you analyzed the information you used to identify your problem. -Rate the effectiveness of your presentation.-Rate how clearly you communicated your ideas. -Rate how clearly you communicated your solution. -Rate your effectiveness as problem solvers. -Rate your creativity.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Activity One: Plant Explorations
Ask your students to research the kinds of plants that are best suited for greenroofing at: https://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:

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