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Archive for the ‘Seasonal’ Category

There is definitely no shortage of resources for starting your own school garden in NYC! We’ve covered how you can DIY with GrowNYC’s Grow to Learn program, start a school garden on a fence with the Wooly School garden program, or even pursue becoming an Edible Schoolyard NYC  garden site.

But if you really want to talk to the experts and get comfortable with the basics, NYBG is hosting another School Gardening workshop on election day- November 8th. Register soon before spaces fill up!

School Gardening Workshop at New York Botanical Garden

8:30 am – noon; Cost: $35

Come learn about the benefits of having a garden on your school site. Join NYBG staff and other gardening organizations to learn about logistics, resources, and curriculum connections for creating, maintaining, and  integrating gardens into your students’ learning. This half-day workshop is the perfect primer for helping you begin planning or even rekindling a garden on your school site.

For more information, contact Judith Hutton, at 718.817.8140 or jhutton@nybg.org. To register, contact Registration at 718.817.8181 or school_programs@nybg.org.

If you can’t make the election day workshop, NYBG also offers more extended Professional Developments around school gardening:

 

School Gardening 101: Creating a Garden February 18-23, 2013

School Gardening 201: Curriculum Connections July 22-27, 2013

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Fall has arrived and we’ve been revving up for the start of our fall school programs at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. Our field trip lineup has been revamped with some new offerings and we also brought back an old favorite we’ve been missing called “Migration Sensation”. In this feathery program, students investigate the adaptations that let birds take flight, learn all about how and why birds fly long distances in the spring and fall, and play a super fun migration game. In the game, the students transform into migratory birds; they must collect food and avoid human hazards on their way to distant wintering grounds. If you’re interested in booking an educational field trip for your school group, visit our School Programs page.

In preparation for a Migration Sensation visit, take your students to a park for some urban bird watching! Your class could even become part of a larger community of bird scientist by participating in Cornell’s “Celebrate Urban Birds” Program. Order a free kit for your classroom which includes facts about 16 species of local birds.

When I walked into the BCM garden today, I was greeted by a chorus of noisy grackles pecking around for seeds. Take a listen to their boisterous chorus!

When grackles migrate, they only travel short distances. Many stay put in the same place all winter. Scarce food is usually the main bird migration motive and grackles are extremely opportunistic. They’ll eat anything from seeds to bugs to trash so you’re likely to be able to spot them all winter long.

File:Common Grackle male RWD.jpg

Did you notice their beautiful iridescent feathers?

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If you teach grades 2- 5 and are looking for more ways to utilize New York as an outdoor classroom, consider heading “Into the Woods” with this four year teacher development program offered by the NY Metro GLOBE program. The first workshops begin in October 2012 and there are only a few slots left!  There will be 11 workshops throughout the first year, held on Saturdays or Sundays. Participating teachers are given a $125 stipend for each 7 hour training day.

Some topics include:

Pond Ecology in various parks in Queens

Stream Ecology, the Bronx River

Geology, parks in Queens and the Bronx

Forest Ecology

Seal Watch

Bird watching and ornithology, Prospect Park

Butterflies

Service Learning Projects

Authentic Student Environmental Research Projects

If you are interested, create a no obligation account online at www.globe.gov

For more information about registering, you can call or e-mail Peter Schmidt at 718-997-4268,  Peter.schmidt@qc.cuny.edu or Roy Harris RHarris2@schools.nyc.gov .
*This project is funded by an Environmental Literacy Grant from NOAA, and is being run by Queens College’s GLOBE NY Metro Program in partnership with the Wallerstein Collaborative for Urban Environmental Education at NYU.

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As we enter into August, some of our most helpful garden visitors – ruby-throated hummingbirds – will be migrating south. These quick little birds can be hard to spot, but you’ll be more likely to encounter one before their journey south if you put out a feeder full of sugar water to fuel their trip. Hummingbirds need to eat every few minutes since they expend an incredible amount of energy beating their wings up to 80 times per second!

This week at the museum, we learned all about hummingbirds and constructed our own feeders to hang in a garden, or out a window, fire escape, or front stoop. All you need are floral tubes like these, some colorful plastic craft materials (we reused old red and orange grocery bags), string, and sugar water!


The colors of the bags are important – hummingbirds have a strong preference for red and orange flowers like bee balm, bleeding heart, cardinal flower, or nasturtium.

We showed our garden helpers how to fold squares of plastic into fours, snip the center corner, and then design their own pretty petal shapes (very similar to snowflake crafting). The next step is to simply shimmy the flower petals up the neck of the floral tubes, fill with 1 part sugar/4 parts water and hang outside! It is recommended to heat your sugar water so the sugar dissolves nicely, and you’ll want to change it every 4 days so it doesn’t ferment.

After your hummingbird feeder’s hanging in a nice sheltered place, sit back and look out for a bright winged blur! Did you know hummingbirds spend so much time in the air catching bugs and slurping nectar that their weak little feet are nearly useless? They can perch, but they typically can’t walk!

Check out this tiny hummingbird nest from our collection. You can find more tips on making your garden a hummingbird nesting ground here. You can even help track their migration by reporting your sightings!

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Some of the most memorable experiences we offer at The Brooklyn Children’s Museum involve adventures with our live animals. There are daily opportunities for kids to feel the scales of a snake, see a sea star extend its bright tubular feet, or let a delicate walking stick move across their outstretched hands. We’d like to introduce you to some of the animals that make teaching at the museum such a thrill.

photo by Nolynn Vega

Indigo, an albino corn snake, is native to North America. Corn snakes are found in the southeastern and central states. Their name comes from a propensity to hang around corn silos in search of small rodents, their favorite meal. Corn snakes are constrictors, meaning they kill or subdue their prey by squeezing before swallowing them whole in one big gulp.

photo by Nolynn Vega

Like all our snakes, they are gentle, non-venomous, and very unlikely to bite. My favorite part about teaching with corn snakes is that they love to move! This corn snake, Dots, loves to maneuver himself through my belt loop or key chain ring. When handling corn snakes, I’m much less likely to get the most commonly asked question: “Is that real?!”

Indigo’s beautiful “ghost morph” pattern and Dots’ “fluorescent orange” color comes from selective breeding, a deliberate  mishmash of dominant and recessive pigment genes. The standard pattern of a corn snake is a beautiful blotchy brownish-orange that blends  well into shaded forest leaf litter. Indigo’s light blue-grey color  and Dots’ vibrant orange would have made it difficult to camouflage in the wild. They would probably have been eaten as young snakes by a predatory bird. We’re so glad they’re with us!

Since we celebrated haikus in our last post…

Indigo corn snake

shines silver blue, singular

morph of gentle air.

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This spring at Brooklyn Children’s Museum, we’ve guided our 2nd and 3rd grade after school kids in their first gardening adventures. Each student got a 2 x 2′ plot to call their own. They removed the weeds, turned the soil, seeded, watered, and after about a week, sprouts began to grow!

Some students seeded with extra enthusiasm and ended up with beautiful, super crowded plots. We told our lil gardeners to choose their most thriving plants and give them room to grow. They plucked out all the sprouts closely surrounding their star specimens. They could either replant the spouts in an empty space or enjoy them as a tasty treat!

After about six weeks of watering and waiting, the kids’ gardens did look quite lush…a little too lush. We discovered common ragweed and crabgrass encroaching on a good chunk of their plots! Did you know that there are an estimated 100,000 dormant seeds in every square meter of arable ground?These native, annual weeds spread thousands and thousands of seeds in their spring-to-winter growing season in hopes that a relatively few will take root.* The kids enjoyed pulling out these pesky plants and reseeding their plots with cinnamon and lime basil seeds.

What challenges will these new gardeners face next? Tune in to follow their progress!

* The “Eastern Forests” Peterson Field Guide by John Kricher and Gordon Morrison offers awesome, concise but thorough paragraphs on common New York plants, animals, and all things ecology. We’re bound to be citing Kricher’s tidbits again and again.

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Earth day is this Sunday! The Brooklyn Children’s Museum will be exploring the outdoors by taking a close look at seeds and how they get around. It’s a little early in the season to experience the full range of seed dispersal methods outside but if you take your class on a nature walk, you may encounter:

Giant clumps of Elm Tree seeds covering the ground.

Big white poufs of dandelions.

The beginnings of cherry tree fruits.

Can your students guess how the seeds they encounter get around? Do they flutter to the ground or float on a breeze? Will an animal eat them, bury them, or shake them off their fur? Could they bob down a river or on an ocean currant (bring in a coconut as a great example of a floating seed!)?

“Baby seeds” need to get away from the parent plant to begin growing. They need their own supply of space, nutrients, water, and sunshine. The shady soil directly under a tree is not ideal.

On Sunday, we’ll be making our own paper seed dispersal mechanisms based on the awesome helicopter-like Maple Tree samaras. How far will they fly?

Your class could also collect the seeds they find outside, pot them up, and see if they begin to grow!

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