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Archive for October, 2011

Thanks to a recommendation from the Early Childhood department here at Brooklyn Children’s Museum, here’s a lovely fall book for your youngest learners, to add to your fall unit.

Autumn Walk is the story of a puppy who goes on a seasonal stroll, through a world that smells like cinnamon and feels “corduroy cold.” The sentences are simple but very descriptive, a great chance to introduce fall words to your students. Autumn Walk‘s illustrations are full of red, yellow, and orange to match the season and, as you can see, this board book is shaped like a leaf. Read this book with your 2-4 year-olds and then take your own walk outside.

And there’s more! Autumn Walk has a seasonal companion Winter Walk, for use a little later this year.

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Yesterday, we explained arthropods to supplement the Focus on Insects section in My Green Community. Today: pitfalls. A pitfall is exactly what it sounds like, a pit that will trap small creatures (insect sized) who fall in. Of course, not everything trapped in a pitfall is going to be an insect…

To make a pitfall, you can use the illustration on the left. Full instructions with a materials list can be found inside our educator’s guide.

Things you might find include worms and arthropods, including insects. Worms, of course, are not arthropods – a worm lacks an exoskeleton. Catching a worm in your pitfall will be a great point of comparison for students, because they can feel the difference between the two. (Many young children will have trouble feeling an exoskeleton on an insect, because it is still much less hard than a rock, say. They can usually, however, feel that a worm is squishy-er than a beetle.)

How are you going to identify the other creatures that end up in your pitfall? Try a website like http://insectidentification.org/, which also covers spiders (spiders, remember, are not insects). Here you can browse by category or enter characteristics of the small creature into a drop down menu to identify what it is.

Or, use a field guide. National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Insects and Spiders & Related Species of North America by Arthur Evans is a kid-friendly, well illustrated guide that should help you identify most, if not all, of what you find. Check out a copy from your local library and your class can identify exactly what you find in your pitfall.

Check back next week for a simple song to help your students remember the characteristics of an insect.

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In the educator’s guide, My Green Community, we have a section focusing on insects. Students build a pitfall to humanely trap insects, observe them, learn basic insect anatomy, and sing a song to reinforce the new words they have learned.

Due to space constraints, we didn’t get into the difference between arthropods and insects. So let’s break it down here.

Arthropods are a sub-group of invertebrates (animals with no backbone). Arthropods, then, are divided into their own subgroups:

  • Insects (cricket; bee and wasp; butterfly and moth; cicada; ant; grasshopper; praying mantis; firefly, ladybug and every kind of beetle)
  • Arachnids (tick; mite; scorpion; spider including tarantula)
  • Crustaceans (all kinds of crab; lobster; shrimp; crawdad; barnacle; pill bug also called roly poly)
  • Other! (like centipede and millipede)

All of those animals are arthropods and they all have two things in common: jointed legs (legs that can bend) and an exoskeleton (their skeleton is on the outside of their bodies). What makes an insect different from other arthropods?

A section from the educator's guide

Insects, in addition to jointed legs and an exoskeleton, have a body divided into three sections: head, thorax, and abdomen.

And that’s enough for now! Check back over the next few days for more insect and arthropod activities…

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Study of seasons is an important part of learning about growth and change. Why not take a fall tree walk to observe the colors change before it gets too cold to walk around outside?

To prepare, read a seasonal book like The Little Yellow Leaf. Then, take a walk around the block or to a local park. Have students observe the trees and pick three leaves off the ground (loose plant parts are fair game for picking up).

Back in the classroom, there are lots of things these leaves could be used for. You could do sorting activities with them. The leaves could be used to talk about symmetry. You could have students draw the leaves from observation or design their own imaginary leaf. Students could practice writing words, sentences, or paragraphs about them.

Another option, of course, is to learn the names of the trees each leaf came from. A great book for this purpose is New York City Trees by Edward Sibley Barnard. The book covers 125 local species of trees with full color photographs, suggestions on great tree walks, and information about historic trees (the book even covers NJ, Long Island, and Westchester County). The book is also durable enough for outdoor or child use.

Tree Finder: A Manual for Identification of Trees by their Leaves (Eastern US) by May Theilgaard Watts is an option for older kids or for teacher reference. This very handy book is a dichotomous key to trees. Dichotomous keys work like a “choose your own adventure book.” The key asks questions with two possible answers (e.g., is the leaf tip pointed or blunt?) and then tells you where to turn. Once all possible questions have been asked, you will know by the leaf which tree it came from. This kind of intricate observation is too complicated for very young kids, but would be great with very curious older elementary students or for teacher reference when planning observation.

Have fun outside! Enjoy the crisp fall while you can.

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Really understanding energy consumption and the need for energy conservation can be hard with young learners. But it can be done! Once you’ve started by helping students identify what energy is and used some of the wonderful NEED resources for energy education, here are some supplementary enery books appropriate for students in elementary school (grades 1-5).

Why Should I Save Energy? by Jen Greene presents kids whose computer crashes due to a blackout, leading the kids to examine energy use around them in their home. They come to realize that lots of machines use energy even when humans aren’t actively using the machine.

What’s so Bad About Gasoline?: Fossil Fuels and What They Do by Anne Rockwell focuses on the potential harmful effects of oil and what objects (cars, buses, etc) use gasoline. This book will help students see just how much oil is used around them.

Alternative Energy by Christine Peterson is a great follow up; now that students know about the drawbacks of oil use, this book catalogs other options, including solar, wind, water, geothermal, and biofuels.

Generating Wind Power by Niki Walker explains how exactly wind power can be turned into electricity as well as the advantages and disadvantages of using wind power.

Solar Power by Tea Benduhn explains what solar power is, how it works, gives a little information on greenhouse gases, and then explores objects that use solar power. PS: this book is also available in a Spanish edition for any bilingual teachers out there!

Do you have any other favorite energy books?

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A great starting point for preparing students to be conservationists is The Lorax by Dr. Seuss.

This book tells the story of the Once-ler, who chops down all the Truffula Trees, and the Lorax, who tries to prevent their destruction. “I am the Lorax,” he says, “I speak for the trees.”

I have read the book many times since I was a child, and it really does speak to every age. The Lorax will get students to think about resource depletion and conservation, taking the perspective of the Lorax who protects the trees even when no one else will.

After reading the book, ask students what resources they need to live and to try to imagine a world without those things.  Perhaps they have lived in or visited places where there was not enough clean water; what was that like? Explain to them that a conservationist, like the Lorax, is someone who protects natural resources and that if enough of the people in the world become conservationists, they can work together to take care of plants, animals, and other natural resources.

Also, if movies help get your kids excited, The Lorax will soon be an animated film (with a promising cast of voice actors).

For more ideas on conservation, check out Brooklyn Children’s Museum’s educator’s guide, My Green Community.

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Just a reminder – next week, Brooklyn Children’s Museum is offering free professional development workshops for educators. The same My Green Community workshop is offered twice:

Thursday, October 20th, 4pm – 7pm

Saturday, October 22nd, 10am – 1pm

Join Brooklyn Children’s Museum’s educational team for a workshop on inquiry-based, hands-on experiences exploring what it means to live in a “green community” like New York City. We will give you a copy and walk you through “My Green Community,” a unit plan designed by BCM that ties in with NYC curriculum and standards for pre-K through grade 6 and explores green community features. Activities and lessons include links to literacy, math, science, social studies and the arts.

Come by to receive a print copy of our educator’s guide, free teacher resources from other New York City institutions, and lots of hands-on lesson ideas for your classroom.

We hope to see you on Thursday or Saturday!

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