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Archive for February, 2012

Have you been to Brooklyn Children’s Museum lately? The next time you’re here, grab a copy of our family guide, My Green Guide to Brooklyn.

The guide was designed by our friends at Tangerine Cafe. The idea was simple – just as Brooklyn Children’s Museum is a sustainable, kid-friendly destination, we wanted to highlight other sustainable, kid-friendly locations across our borough. This guide is part of our Green Threads initiative.

Based on a concept of green community explored by the National Building Museum, the guide explains five categories of green communities, includes a neighborhood I Spy activity, a community planning activity, and a map of the borough.

Unfortunately, the map is too detailed for us to post the full guide online, so we are going to, instead, use the next few weeks here on Teach Green in Brooklyn to share the map locations with you. And don’t forget to stop by the Museum and grab your own print copy!

And, as a preview, here’s a tiny image of what the whole map looks like. Come to the Museum to pick up a complete, two-sided copy!

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When Brooklyn Children’s Museum was renovated in 2008, all new bathrooms were fitted with low-flow water features. In fact, our boy’s bathrooms even have completely waterless urinals!

The water conservation exhibit helps kids understand the need for low flow by talking about just how much water is used by common features. Kids turn a know, pull a lever, or press a button and find out how much water is used by a bath or a shower.

One popular comparison is between an open fire hydrant and a fire hydrant with a sprinkler cap. The former (displayed on the left) uses a shocking 1,000 gallons per minute of water! That is so much water that it is both wasteful and dangerous – this much water causes decreased water pressure to nearby buildings, a problem in the case of a real fire.

To prevent this problem, you can go to your neighborhood firehouse and ask them to install a sprinkler cap (displayed on the right). Hydrants with sprinkler caps use only 15 gallons of water per minute, a huge reduction.

To learn more, check out the water conservation exhibit, on the Lower Level, across from Fantasia in the Science Inquiry Center.

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Did you know that the Brooklyn Children’s Museum has solar panels? Along with the geothermal energy, the solar panels are one renewable source of energy that powers the Museum.

Solar panels work by capturing the sun’s light and turning it into electricity that can power anything you want. The sun produces enough energy in 1 minute to power the world’s energy needs for 1 year… the trick is designing solar panels that can collect all that energy.

At the Museum’s solar exhibit, children can aim a mirror to direct energy from a light source to the solar panels. The solar energy then powers dancing flower toys! Filters in front of the solar panels mimic night, clouds, and pollution, affecting the flowers.

You can find the solar exhibit on our Upper Level, just past the elephant skeleton. And if you look closely out the window from the exhibit, you can see the Museum’s real solar panels.

A rare back view of the Museum where you can see the solar panels - these ones are located outside of the Kids Cafe

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What happens to a can or bottle after you recycle it? The recycling exhibit here at the Museum aims to answer that question.

The right half of the exhibit shows recycling stories. Spin the blocks to complete the stories – turning a recycled can into a bike, a recycled pair of jeans into insulation, and a recycled tire into playground surface.

When the steps are in the right order, the original image lights up to show that it has been recycled. In the picture on the right, this boy and his father have finished the middle story and the jeans are lit up!

The left half of the exhibit talks about recycling at the Museum. Did you know that the boardwalk in the beach in Neighborhood Nature isn’t made of wood? It’s actually recycled plastic bottles! Touch the boardwalk the next time you’re here and you might just be able to feel it! Come to the recycling exhibit to learn other unusual recycling stories.

You can find the recycling exhibit in World Brooklyn, across from the International Grocery Store.

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Geothermal energy is one of the cooler concepts in sustainable energy – or maybe it’s one of the hotter concepts! The idea is simple, but the way it works is complicated.

This is the actual drill bit we used to drill down to the aquifers

Basically, somewhere far below the Museum are underground aquifers (underground lakes) with water that remains about 57 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. So, we drilled a hole down to the aquifer and…

  • In the summer, the water is cooler than the hot summer air. We pump water (which is relatively cool) into the building and it cools down the air, reducing the need for air conditioning.
  • In the winter, the waster is warmer than the cold winter air. We pump the same water (relatively warm now) into the building and it warms the air, reducing the need for heating.

The energy required to use the pump is very small, so overall a good geothermal system really reduced the amount of energy you need to heat and cool a building, which is both sustainable and money-saving.

It’s a hard concept to explain to kids, so bring them to the Museum to explore our geothermal exhibit. You will find the exhibit on the Lower Level, next to Fantasia in the Science Inquiry Center.

Turning the dial changes the exhibit from winter to summer and then back

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Did you know that the upstairs floors and the staircases at Brooklyn Children’s Museum are made from bamboo?

Why did we choose bamboo? It’s a renewable resource – bamboo plants grow to full height in only 6 years. They can be harvested and replanted in a fraction of the time it takes hardwood trees to grow.

Our new bamboo exhibit at the Museum explains this to children. At the exhibit you can spin a zoetrope, measure yourself against bamboo, feel bamboo samples, and watch a video of bamboo boards being made!

You can find this new exhibit on the 2nd floor, near the elephant skeleton. And yes, when you are standing at the bamboo exhibit, the ground below you is made of bamboo!!

These girls are spinning the zoetrope to animate pictures that show the relative growth of bamboo and a hardwood tree

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