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Archive for November, 2011

What a fantastic question! New York City uses over one billion gallons of water every day. That essential water comes to us via aqueducts that connect us to two different watersheds – the Croton watershed just up the Hudson and the Catskill / Delaware Watershed Area further upstate.

(A watershed is all the land whose water feeds through tributaries into a given larger body of water, like a lake, river, or bay. Therefore, the Croton watershed is all the area whose water, including rain water and snow melt, eventually flows into the Croton River.)

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection is responsible for overseeing the quality of our water, including working with upstate authorities to keep our aqueducts full of clean water (emphasis on both full and clean).

If you’re explaining this to students, its a great idea to talk about what these upstate reservoirs are like. You most likely have students who have never been to another part of New York state. To help them envision the scene, read the first few pages of Water Dance by Thomas Locker. This beautifully illustrated book is set in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York, the  region where our water originates.

After reading Water Dance, have a conversation with students about what would happen if people took too much water from the lake for wasteful purposes – would rain replace every drop we took? Would it change the natural landscape shown in the book? Then, ask students what they might do to use only the water they need from the lakes and reservoirs upstate. Students who aware of the source of our water and understand that it is not, in fact, an unlimited resource are more likely to appreciate the need to conserve water.

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We’ve talked a lot about water in this blog, but it should be said that before kids can understand water conservation, they have to understand just how much water they use on a daily basis. Here’s an activity borrowed from our educator’s guide, My Green Community, to help kids keep track of water use.

People often don’t realize how much water they use on a daily basis. Try asking a 4 year-old, “Have you used water today?” Unless he or she has had a drink of water, the answer will be no, until you explicitly ask, “what about brushing your teeth or washing your hands?!”

Ask the class to brainstorm, then draw or list all the ways they have used water today. The following day, have students keep track of these things throughout the day. This is a great opportunity to introduce tallying. How many times a day do they turn on a faucet or drink from a fountain? Have students carry around a sheet and tally these activities throughout the day.

After students are in the habit of keeping track of daily water use, extend the activity to include products that need water to grow or function properly. For example, rain water helped grow the banana you are eating and irrigation helped grow the cotton used to make your t-shirt. Water cools the engine of the bus or car you rode to school. Once students realize how omnipresent water is in their daily lives, they will be more mentally prepared for talk about water conservation.

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Do you teach 5th grade? The New York State Department of Conservation has an annual Arbor Day contest, looking for the best Arbor Day Poster. The theme for this year’s contest is Trees Are Terrific in All Shapes and Sizes. Here’s last year’s winner:

All contest entries are due by January 12, 2012 so they can be judged and the winner announced before Arbor Day, which is April 27, 2012.

Check out the contest website for full rules and details as well as lesson ideas for your 5th grade class, tying into mathematics, science, and arts standards. You can also see winning posters for past years.

What amazing art will your students come up with?

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Brooklyn Children’s Museum is closed today, so we’re on hiatus, but we wanted to share a Thanksgiving message from the Collections Department:

Click on the image to learn what each mineral is!

This Thanksgiving message is brought to you by Mineral of the Day, another blog here at Brooklyn Children’s Museum. Mineral of the Day follows the Collections Department as they catalog the extensive collection of rocks and minerals here at the Museum. Rocks and minerals are, of course, natural and taking care of rocks and minerals in a careful way is another kind of sustainability.

We hope to bring you more from the Collections Department in the future; in the meantime, enjoy the turkey! Teach Green in Brooklyn will be back next Monday.

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So, last week we introduced you to Greta. This week, we’ve mentioned the amazing culture gardens and mural she worked on this spring and summer. Today, we want to share with you Greta’s latest science project.

Greta has her own blog, Brooklyn Greenhouse, that she uses to talk about what’s new in the greenhouse and garden as well as awesome things that kids say and do. Last week she wrote and fascinating entry about the red leaves of the Japanese Maple.

Greta is teaching the 2nd and 3rd graders all about plants throughout the seasons, and Greta did some research and discovered that… red leaves are an ongoing scientific mystery! There are many theories about why leaves turn red, so Greta and the students are doing an experiment to test one of the theories.

Want to find out more about leaves and this interesting red leaf theory? For more information about leaves, yellow and orange leaves, and the fascinating theory about red leaves, check out this entry on Greta’s blog!

And once you’ve learned all about the science of leaves, you can return to our fall favorite, The Little Yellow Leaf (with a guest appearance from a red leaf!).

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Are you interested in incorporating art into your garden study? Great!

Yesterday, we talked about the culture gardens made by Greta. She took plants from each of 14 countries around the world and made mini-gardens to help kids learn about the culture of each country. But she wasn’t done there!

Greta also decided to make a mural showing off her research. She picked plants common in certain parts of the world and placed them on top of a world map:

Then, Greta got to painting, with help of kids in our after-school program and one of our teen interns. In April, it looked like this:

And here it is in August:

Right now, there are too many leaves on the trees to get you an image of the whole mural, but after the leaves fall off, we promise more photographs! Check out Greta’s blog for updates.

And Happy (almost) Thanksgiving to you all – we hope your festive meals this week are as fantastically delicious as the cornucopia Greta drew in the world map above!

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One of our mottoes here at Brooklyn Children’s Museum is a Marty Markowitz quotation:

Brooklyn is home to everyone from everywhere!

We firmly believe that here and love the opportunity to reflect the cultural diversity of our borough (and New York City, too) and the cultures of the people who have moved to Brooklyn from all around the world. Brooklyn Children’s Museum has an exhibit called World Brooklyn that shrinks Brooklyn stores to kid-size and shows the ethnic diversity of our borough through these stores.

Well, Greta had a great idea for teaching kids about culture through gardens, so she picked 14 countries from around the world: Mexico, China, Uganda, Italy, Peru, Thailand, Nigeria, Israel, Brazil, India, Japan, England, Russia, France, and Jamaica. Then, for each country, she picked a handful of representative plants and planted them together.

Above, the finished gardens are laid out in Brooklyn Children’s Museum’s Greenhouse.

As you can see, each garden also has labels that tell kids something about the country. The labels talk about how the plants are used, how they smell, what they feel like, and often how the plant is used in local cooking. The Thai garden, for example, has the following label with information about the ingredients in Pad Thai:

Another great example is the Peruvian garden!

You might not do 14 of these in your classroom, but it’s quite easy to pick a country you’re studying and grow 3 or 4 plants from that country to help students combine science and social studies knowledge and have an even richer understanding of culture.

You can also link this to the arts – check back tomorrow for information about that!

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