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Archive for the ‘Terminology’ Category

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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Now that you’ve defined energy with your students, you might want to start introducing sources of energy. To help kids understand fossil fuels, renewable energy, and much more, turn to the resources from NEED, the National Energy Education Development Project.

A sample page from the Primary Energy Infobook

Why? Most of their resources are free. They range from Kindergarten to high school, so all teachers will benefit. The material is comprehensive and well organized. It provides a lot or support for teachers, to help the educator feel comfortable with

Some Primary (grades K-2) resources you might love:

  • Primary Energy Infobook: A well-organized, simple introduction to energy. The book covers the many types of energy and the many sources of energy in kid-friendly language. This resource is particularly good for English Language Learners (ELLs) and students with special needs.
  • A sample page from Using and Saving Energy

    Using and Saving Energy: This extensive curriculum covers energy sources, energy tasks, lighting, heating and cooling, appliances and machines, hot water, using energy, trash and energy, and saving energy. Each section has reading cards and activities for the students as well as extensive background material for teachers. This guide covers more material than the Infobook above.

  • Trash Flipbook: Covers everything you ever wanted to know about trash, including how to make less of it.
  • NEED Songbook: Songs are a great way to get kids engage and help them remember information. Check out these songs all about energy, especially “What Do You Do with an Energy Waster”

For the full list of NEED resources, go to their website!

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Energy 101

Before you can teach about energy conservation, or saving energy, or fossil fuels, or renewable energy, kids have to know what energy is! Try this activity with students to help them identify energy in their daily lives.

Even if they can’t define it yet, students have probably heard the word before. Start by asking students when they use energy, and then drawing or listing all the examples they can think of. Share the examples with the class.

Once all students have shared, define energy for students as “the ability to do work” or the power that makes actions happen. On the board, link an energy source to an action with an arrow. In the above drawing, the sun gives the energy so the plant will grow (growth is an action).

As another example, ask students what the energy source is for a moving bicycle. Show the relation between legs pedaling and the bike moving with an arrow between them. Legs pedaling gives the energy so the bike moves (the bike moving is an action).

Have students draw their own examples of energy source, then an arrow, then the outcome. Practice speaking or sentence writing using the stem “________________ gives the energy so the ________________.” When finished, share examples among partners.

This activity will help students start to see how omnipresent energy is, preparing them for later study of energy conservation.

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So, you’ve got worms down – let’s turn to composting.

First of all: what is it? Composting is the process of taking unwanted organic material, allowing it to decompose, and then using the decomposed soil as a great fertilizer for your garden or farm. The idea is to take unwanted items — a rotten tomato, a banana peel — that would otherwise end up in a landfill and put it to productive use. In other words, composting helps take waste and use it to create great soil, which will then be used to grow new food.

To make this work, you have to be careful about what organic material is used: no animal or dairy products!!! You can compost plant parts, including fruits and vegetables, as well as some unusual materials, like eggshells and newspaper. Basically, the materials are all “greens” or “browns” and you can use this complete list from New York City’s Department of Sanitation for reference.

If you decide to compost at home or at school, you will want to read a book or two on the subject. Check out Let it Rot!: The Gardener’s Guide to Composting by Stu Campbell. This book, in print for 30+ years, will teach you everything you need to get started and create great compost for your farm or garden.

Now what? There will be posts later this week and next month on:

  • The NYC Compost Project
  • Composting with Kids
  • Composting as Sustainable Practice
  • Decomposition in the Classroom

Are you excited about compost yet?

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We keep using this phrase “my green community.” By now you may be wondering, what is a green community? A green community is one that takes care of the environment. A green community provides a healthy environment for plants and animals, including people.

This definition may be sufficient for a teacher of very young students. Alternately, you may be interested in a more comprehensive look at what elements make a community truly green. For adults, one great starting point is an exhibition produced by the National Building Museum in 2008 entitled Green Community. Their website (http://www.nbm.org/exhibitions-collections/exhibitions/green-community/green-community.html) has extensive information about what a green community is and is not. This includes five categories of green and information about real places that fit into these categories.

While this is a great resource, it is designed for adults. We at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum have spent time thinking about how to take these complicated ideas and present them appropriately to children.

Here, then, are five actions that together make a community green:

Re-Invent Your City

Our city is growing! Every year, Brooklyn is home to more people. More people need more houses, more food, more everything. What do we do if we run out of space? In a green community, people think creatively about how to use space.

Example: The MTA uses a lot of power to run the subways and buses. To reduce some of their power demands, they installed solar panels on the roof of the Stillwell Avenue Terminal in Coney Island. The canopy of the station went from being wasted space, to renewable energy for the public transit system.

Travel Green

What’s the best mode of transit? You! Whether walking or biking, physical activity is good for your health and good for the planet. If you have to travel a long distance, take the bus or subway. Brooklynites are already some of the greenest people in the United States due to their massive use of public transit!

Use Less

Think of good ways to use less. Turn the lights off. Don’t leave the water running. Re-use a water bottle. Think about how to use less – less water, less plastic, less energy, less of everything!

Grow Green

Take care of the plants and parks around you. Plants are important – they provide oxygen, keep temperatures cool in the summer, provide food and shelter for animals, and look beautiful, too! Seeing nature’s green around you is a sign that you can breathe easy.

Watch Waste

What do we do with the things we don’t need anymore? Not everything needs to be thrown in the garbage. We can separate food waste and recyclables from trash that goes into landfills. Even better, we can reuse things – either reuse them ourselves or give them to somebody who wants what we don’t want anymore. After all, “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure!”

To help identify instances of these five actions, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum has developed a family guide to Brooklyn that looks for evidence of green places and practices in the borough. The print guide and an accompanying online map will be available soon. What would you include in our map of Brooklyn?

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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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