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Archive for August, 2011

We hear the word “green” a lot. We hear it so much that it almost loses all meaning and we risk “greenwashing” everything, failing to be able to distinguish between actions and ideas that are truly positive for the environment and those that merely claim to be good.

To help prepare students to make careful environmental choices as they grow up, we can teach them the concepts from an early age and then allow them to decide what is truly sustainable and what is mere greenwashing.

Let’s start with some definitions. In My Green Community, we state that “green refers to all things related to environmental and sustainable education.”

In Brooklyn Children’s Museum’s family guide, we alternately defined green in the following way for kids:

What is green? It’s not just a color. Green can be an action too – “being green” means taking care of nature and not wasting things like energy, food and water. All things that are good for the Earth are called “green.” In this way, we use the word “green” to mean “sustainable.”

There are, thus, two large foci of green education: nature and sustainability.

A leaf from a Ginkgo tree: native to Brooklyn

Nature refers to the elements of the Earth not created or significantly changed by human beings. This includes wildlife, both plants and animals. My Green Community includes activities about birds, insects, trees and plants. Nature also includes geology, the study of the Earth, including rocks, minerals, geologic formations and bodies of water. Study of nature at a young age sets the stage for the study of ecology for older learners. Ecology is the study of the environment, ecosystems, how the elements of the natural world interact with each other. This blog will have entries on nature, expanding the information covered in My Green Community, and covering new topics we didn’t have the space to explore there.

Solar panels at the Brooklyn Children's Museum are a sustainable source of energy

Sustainability has been defined by the United Nations as being able to “meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” In other words, acting sustainably means taking care of yourself and taking care of the Earth for many generations to come. The key concept is conservation; preserving the Earth’s natural resources for as long as possible. My Green Community has an introduction to concepts of sustainability, including water conservation, energy conservation, food consumption and waste management. It is not necessary to employ the term sustainability for young students to understand the concept; you could talk to them about reducing waste or preserving nature.

What other terms do you need help defining? How would you improve or amend our definitions? Add your thoughts in the comments section!

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Welcome to Teach Green in Brooklyn! This blog will serve as a compliment to My Green Community and as a forum for educators to share their expertise in teaching environmental education to young learners.

What is My Green Community? It is a publication produced by the Brooklyn Children’s Museum with support from the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences. The guide is designed for educators working with students in grades PK-2, though many of the activities could be easily adapted for older students. The guide has two main sections, about nature about sustainability. Topics include insects, plants, energy, food, water, and waste management. The guide then concludes with a neighborhood mapping activity, designed to help students evaluate just how green their community is. If you are interested in downloading a free copy of this guide, it will be available soon.

This blog, then, will continue the work begun in that guide, linking early childhood teachers to developmentally appropriate, scientifically sound, hands-on activities to prepare young students to act in environmentally conscious ways. Many of the activities may be appropriate for science teachers, but will also have links across the curriculum, to literacy, math, social studies, and the arts.

The blog will contain new activities, links to resources on the web, field trip suggestions, and more. The goal of this blog is to reduce the amount of time teachers have to spend combing the internet for ideas and resources for their classroom. As such, if you have suggestions of great ideas or activities you would like to share with other educators, please email them to gogreen@brooklynkids.org or add them as comments to the blog entries!

Whether you’re here in New York City, or somewhere else around the world, we hope these ideas will help you in the classroom. Thanks for helping your students develop as environmental stewards and, again, please share with us any suggestions you have for other great learning experiences.kids investigate in the garden

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