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Archive for the ‘Spring’ Category

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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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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Spring has arrived and there’s no better time to get gardening! If you’ve been interested in starting a school garden but hesitated because your school just doesn’t seem to have the green space to spare, a Woolly School Garden might be a perfect option for you. Woolly Pockets are hanging planters made of recycled plastic and engineered to wick water straight down to your plant’s roots. These gardens can hang on any available wall, rail, or fence at your school.

With a little time and effort, you can also build your own vertical garden. Start with a south facing wall close to a water source….vertical gardens need to be watered 4-5 times a week because they lose water faster than other gardens. If your garden will be hanging on a wall, you’ll need a solid waterproof barrier to prevent water seepage and mold. You also want to be sure that your wall can bear the weight of wet soil and plants. Check out this do-it-yourself guide for more tips on building a vertical garden.
One nice thing about Woolly Pocket edible gardens is that their design helps conserve water and take out the guess work involved in building your own structure. They also come with standards-based nutrition and gardening curriculum and cost relatively little to install compared to the price of installing some full scale school gardens. The whole kit costs $1000 and Woolly Garden offers lots of fundraising options and tips. The even have a “Contribute” section on their site where people can donate to your project!

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This week at the Museum, we have a plethora of sustainability themed programming all leading up to our Earth Day celebration next weekend.

Throughout the week, there will be eco-art projects for all ages where kids can use recycled materials to make beautiful sculptures.

On Wednesday, explore our geothermal exhibit and experiment with water, hoses, and coils to learn how we use the temperature of the earth under the museum to heat or cool our building!


Visit Thursday to learn why Bamboo is a sustainable choice for floors, furniture, and even clothes. Come down to the Greenhouse to make your own Bamboo cutting to take home!

Visit Friday to learn how dams can damage ecosystems by rerouting natural waterways. Build your own dam in Neighborhood Nature.

Enjoy our special Live Animal Encounters throughout the week. We’ll be focusing of native critters, endangered animals, and invasive species.

We also have a very special Animal Encounter next Saturday. Drop by the garden and meet the chickens of BK Farmyards! These soft red beauties will eat greens out of your hand or sit in your lap if you dare!

Check out our full Calendar of Events.

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In an earlier post, we mentioned farm field trips and the gardens at Wave Hill. Here is more detail about educational farming opportunities at historic houses:

Located in Washington Heights, Manhattan, the Morris-Jumel Mansion offers “Garden with History,”  for grades K-12, which teaches students why a colonial home would need its own garden and includes a hands-on activity in the garden.

The Dyckman Farm House, in Inwood, Manhattan, features a program called “Day at the Farmhouse: Seasons on the Farm.” This activity is suggested for grades 3-6 and covers spring planting at the farmhouse. (That program is only available from April to September.)

The Wyckoff Farm House, in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, offers many educational programs, including “Farming and Science” for grades 4-12, which focuses on “organic” and “sustainable” farming in the 17th and 21st centuries. (That program is only available from May to October.)

Do you have any other favorite farm or garden field trips?

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