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Archive for December, 2011

What’s the best way to deal with waste? Not create waste at all! If you can avoid buying things you don’t need, you save money and avoid generating waste. Here’s a suggestion to practice at home and with your students…

This is the time of year when lots of people exchange gifts. Wrapping paper is quite pretty, but expensive and generates a lot of waste at the end of the day.

Coloured gift paperHow does my family react? We have two simple strategies:

1. Unwrap carefully. This one is hard for little kids, but once you’re past the age of 8, everyone in my family unwraps carefully because we know that all leftover paper will go in a box in my grandmother’s attic to be reused for future presents. I don’t think we’ve bought a roll of wrapping paper in more than 15 years. (Full disclosure – I bought tissue paper this year, to put in reused gift bags.) Each year, we cut off any ripped edges and we use the paper again and again until it disintegrates. The ripped and crumbling bits all get recycled. It’s actually a fun game at my family’s holiday gatherings to try to remember who used which paper first!

Danny DreamerIf you don’t have a stockpile of paper yet, or you have little kids who will rip through it, try strategy #2:

2. Use the funny pages. If you still get the newspaper, the comics page makes for fun wrapping. I always love re-reading the comics before unwrapping my birthday present. The Sunday comics make for great wrapping, because they’re so colorful!

Next step: Practice these strategies with your students. Have student make a winter present for their parents (maybe a fancy snowflake or a cotton ball snowman) and then help them “wrap” it in newsprint.

And don’t get me wrong – I tend to use brand new wrapping paper for wedding gifts and other important presents; but inside my family we know, it’s the thought that counts, not the wrapping paper!

For more sustainable ideas for the holidays and beyond, check out the students blog from the Environmental Protection Agency.

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You’re finished with something. It has served it’s use. You don’t want it anymore. What do you do next?

Today, we’re going to identify 4 places waste can go and 1 way to prevent waste from happening at all, and then we’ll go into those in more depth over the next week plus. These are kid-friendly definitions to use with individuals of all ages.

With waste, you can:

Composting takes food waste, turns it into soil, and then you can grow new food, like tomatoes!

Reuse: It is great to be able to reuse items; unlike recycling, reusing allows you to give things a second or third life without having to make any changes. Consider trading an old book with a friend – you each get something new to read.

Compost: Composting helps take waste and use it to create great soil, which will then be used to grow new food. This blog already has LOTS of information about composting if you want to learn more about that.

Recycle: Recycling helps turn unwanted materials into something new and wanted. However, recycling requires energy and is therefore not quite as sustainable as reusing or composting.

Landfill compactor

Landfills are gross. By reusing, composting, recycling, and reducing, we prevent waste from ending up in one.

Trash:Everything that cannot be reused, recycled, or composted – plastic utensils, cellophane wrappers, Styrofoam trays – is trash.  It will be thrown away and end up in a landfill, which is gross. Reducing the amount of trash keeps landfills from getting out of control!

Reduce: Before you generate waste, you can prevent it. Think before you buy and you will have less waste, which is great.

For the next few entries, we are going to give you more information about reusing, recycling, reducing, and just how icky landfills are!!

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You may have noticed that with the exception of a very brief post on America Recycles Day, we here at Teach Green in Brooklyn haven’t written much about recycling. That’s not an oversight on our part. On the contrary, it’s a deliberate choice – we wanted to make it clear that there is more to “green” than only recycling. But recycling is important and now is the time to talk about why

Is this garbage? What should I do with it?

“You should recycle” is the one sustainable message kids hear early and often. But the message usually stops there.Kids learn to place empty plastic bottles in the blue bin, but they don’t learn what happens to the items in the bin nor do they often learn ways to prevent things from ending up in the blue bin.

So, for the next few days, we’re going to be talking about all the great ideas that exist for reducing the amount of waste you generate and then what to do with any necessary waste, beyond just “you should recycle.”

Are you excited yet? We are!!!

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In addition to all the birds we mentioned yesterday, there are numerous plant and animal species here in New York City. One resource for finding out more about each one is the online field guide at eNature called ZipGuides.

You go the ZipGuides website, type in your zip code or region, and up pops a list of birds, butterflies, mammals, reptiles/amphibians, trees, and wildflowers in your neighborhood. So it doesn’t cover every single natural category, but it is quite comprehensive. Here’s what we found near the Brooklyn Children’s Museum:

What species of plants and animals will you find living near you?

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So, just how many different species of birds can you find in New York City?

Mallards are a familiar bird here in New York City...

If you want to find out more about what birds tend to be seen in and around New York City, you can check out the New York City Audubon website. In addition to their general information, here are two sections that might be of interest to you as a resource:

First of all, check out the information about birds and their seasons, in a sort of online field guide. There, you can find year-round information about how frequently which birds can be seen, like the Double-crested Cormorant, Snowy Egret, Gadwall, American Coot, Willet, Chimney Swift, Eastern Phoebe, or American Redstart (all of which nest within New York City).

... but have you ever seen a Black-Crowned Night Heron?

Next, if you want to know where to find these birds, the website also features a list of birding locations you might consider for a birding field trip. Locations suggested spread over all five boroughs of New York City, plus a location in Nassau County. You may discover a location or nature center you’ve never heard of before!

The website is not written for kids, but has simple enough text on the seasons and birding location pages for a child to read. The website is also a great resource for you, the educator, to supplement your own content knowledge.

If this inspires you to go out and find some birds, don’t forget to bring a print field guide with you!

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So, we’ve been talking a lot about birds – why would you teach birds in your classroom? Here are some great reasons to study and observe birds with your students:

  • Ducklings provide an opportunity to talk about animal families

    Birds are part of your science curriculum. In New York City, you can link birds to your study of animals (K), animal diversity (1st), plant and animal adaptations (3rd), animals and plants in their environments (4th), ecosystems (5th), diversity of life (6th), dynamic equilibrium (7th), reproduction, heredity, and evolution (8th)… You could also link birds and their habitats to your social studies units on family and community.

  • Using a field guide to match a bird you can see to its name is a great opportunity to learn about descriptive adjectives and classification, something that students in New York City study from PK up.

This is a scene you could see in New York City!

  • Lots of kids think there is no nature in a city. That’s totally incorrect – even when nature has been altered by human impact, the natural world is present in cities and forests alike. Going outside to look for birds (or other animals and plants) helps kids see that nature does exist in the city.
  • Kids are already fascinated by birds – they fly! You can use their curiosity as a hook to help students get interested in the natural world in general.
  • Birds could be part of your civics study – what is the national bird? What is your state bird? This is information your students will take pride in knowing!
  • Will you find a yellow warbler while birding?

    Going birding – looking for birds – is an excuse for walking around (maybe even hiking) and it’s always great to encourage physical activity, especially if you give kids a new reason for physical activity. You might have a kid who is really into birds discover that she is really into hiking as well!

  • Birding teaches soft, useful skills like patience and observation. You can also tell stories of adaptation and creativity through stories like that of Pale Male, osprey in New York City, or the birds in Urban Roosts.

What other great reasons can you think of? Let us know why you teach birding with your students or children!

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Urban Hawks

We’ve been talking about birds this week and last. If you’re looking for hawks, in addition to all the fantastic Pale Male resources, check out Urban Hawks.

This fantastic blog, written by a local bird enthusiast with great camera skills, includes photographs and videos of hawks, birds, and other wildlife in New York City. Check it out as a classroom resource to supplement the book Urban Roosts, to use with nest cams, or to talk about nature here in New York City.

What cool shots of birds will you find??

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