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Posts Tagged ‘animals’

One of our new school programs this year is called “A Snail’s Place.” This program was born when we discovered that kids don’t just  dig snails, they love them. Whenever we bring out one of these plant-devouring gastropods, which we happily collect from our own garden, kids become transfixed in close observation. The excitement of a snail emerging from its shell and poking out one tentacle feeler at a time, the tactile sensation of their slimy foot moving across their hand, and the surprisingly quick responses of snails can hold kids’ attention for twenty minutes (that’s like two hours in kid-minutes). Snail observation also escapes the fear factor that comes with observing other bugs like our Madagascar hissing cockroaches.

At BCM, we are always working to make our programs less didactic and more inquiry based! Rather than delivering all the interesting snail factoids to passive students, we want our students to feel empowered to do their own research and share their findings. We composed a snail resource sheet for the kids to explore. The students can read and share the facts they find most interesting and compare their live snails to the anatomical diagram. Can they find their eye spots? Can they find their spiral shell? Can they find their breathing hole?

We collect scientific observations and questions as the students observe. Some questions we’ve collected from the public include: Are snails good climbers? How do you think they move? What’s the purpose of that slime? Why do they come out in the rain? What kind of habitat do you think they like?

Our final activity is to review the things that snails need in their environment to be happy. The kids venture outside to collect sticks, rocks and leaves to build the perfect snail habitat! They observe how the snails interact with their new environment. Do they seek out the shade or the light? Do they like to eat all kinds of leaves? The students add their most successful snail architecture to our permanent snail enclosure.
Stay tuned for tips on keeping your own classroom snail tank!

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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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We hope you’ve enjoyed our past few posts on biomimicry. There will be lots of opportunities to study surreal adaptations at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum this summer.

On June 3rd, we’ll be taking a close look at Phantastic Phasmids, the masters of camouflage of the insect world. Kids will get to interact with stick bugs and build their own leaf insect model.

Curious how nocturnal animals thrive in the dark hours? Join us on June 17th for Creatures of the Night where we’ll explore the adaptations that help night prowling moths, hedgehogs, bats and snakes navigate the dark.

On July 26th, we’re going to focus on Teeth, Jaws, Fang, Baleen! How are different animals’ mouths perfectly suited to eating their favorite prey? Kids can decorate their own toothbrushes to keep their chompers clean!

Join us for Mimicry, Schmimicry on August 16th and 19th when we’ll learn about tricky animals that have adapted to look like their scarier, more dangerous co-habitants.

Stay tuned as we highlight our favorite animal quirks!

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Axolotls have some wacky adaptations like feather-like gills on their head and the ability to regenerate limbs. They're endangered due to the non-native Carp and Tilapia that have been introduced into their native environment, gobbling up their primary food source. Come visit this interesting dude at The Brooklyn Children's Museum.

Activities on biomimicry can easily lead to questions about evolution. How did so many creatures evolve to have such wacky and perfectly suited adaptations? The Biomimicry Institute introduces students to the concept of natural selection through a simple hands-on game. Students begin in a circle surrounding a box of paper clips. Each student is handed a piece of paper. They may fold or bend their paper in any way that they think would make it the best “glider”. The object of the game is to get your paper to the box of paper clips in the least amount of throws. Each time a student’s “glider” touches the box the student may collect a paper clip. Read instructions for the full activity here.

The folds that the children make represent a natural mutation, with each round the student can adapt their glider to fly better.  The “gliders” equipped with mutations (folds and creases) most suited to their environment and best able to collect resources (the paper clips) stay in the game…they’ve adapted! Especially adapted gliders might even block other gliders ability to get near the box of paper clips. This helps show students what happens to organisms who share their environment with creatures extremely well adapted to obtaining their same food source. They can get crowded out!

One big piece of the evolution puzzle this game leaves out is “random variation”. Each “mutation” that that students add to their glider is formed with the goal of gliding in mind. Can you think of a way to alter this game that would show students that mutations are random rather than designed?

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One great way to celebrate our planet is to highlight all the wonderful ways nature has inspired human technologies. Biomimicry is when we look to nature for inspiration and innovation for our own tools, buildings, even art.  If millions of years of natural variation and random selection have led to efficient and beautiful solutions to our everyday problems, why not imitate evolution’s designs?

This book Nature Did it First! introduces young ones to ways that animals thrive in the wild using tricks we thought we invented!

You can challenge your students by reading this book backwards and having them guess which modern convention was inspired by the natural phenomenon on the page. For example: What does this termite nest looks like? What do we use  that’s like the long proboscis that the butterfly collects nectar with?

Or you can have them view the modern object first and guess which animal did it first! For example: Do you know of an animal that has a scissor-like mouth? Which animals are able to give themselves showers?

Check in soon for more on the fascinating world of Biomimicry!

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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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This weekend in science at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum we investigated animal nests in our program sponsored by National Grid. Kids piled into the greenhouse where we brought out some awesome examples of creative nests from our collection. Kids had the chance to build their own small nests and worked together to create one giant outdoor nest from recently trimmed tree branches.

From twigs and mud to bubbles and spit, nests can be made out of just about anything. Try our nest building activity in the classroom: Start with a layer of glue on the bottom of a paper bowl, then pass out a big mix of materials. You can either collect twigs and dead leaves from outside or gather up any fabric, string, yarn or other craft materials you have around. Let the kids go wild making nests and see what they create! Using chop sticks as a mock beak makes this activity a little more challenging for older kids. Can they make a sturdier nest by weaving together or braiding their materials? Would they want their nest to be flashy or to blend in?

We’ve talked about the creativity of urban birds on the blog before. While your students are building their nests, the class can also be monitoring one of the Nest Cams that scientists and bird lovers have set up around the city to keep an eye on our populations of Peregrine Falcons and Hawks.

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