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Posts Tagged ‘animals’

Sure! New York may be a concrete jungle, but it’s also home to forests, ponds, rivers, beaches, estuaries, bays, the ocean, and all the animals and plants that go along with those natural formations.

Don’t believe us? A great resource for learning more is Wild New York: A Guide to the Wildlife, Wild Places and Natural Phenomena of New York City by Margaret Mittelbach. This book will make you look at New York City is a whole new light. It’s a great pre-reading book for the teacher looking to incorporate more local nature into his or her classroom.

Students will enjoy Go Wild in New York City by Brad Matsen. The reading level is closer to 5th grade, but it is an excellently photographed book with images of urban wildlife in New York.

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These two books are a great starting point for urban nature investigation. If you would like more such books, check out the following:

  • Take a City Nature Walk by Jane Kirkland / Great resource for teachers who want to lead a class nature walk
  • Backyard Detective: Critters Up Close by Nic Bishop / Grades K-4, explore who lives in your backyard with pictures and names, includes an excellent pictographic index to help pre-literate students develop early literacy
  • Angell’s Animals: Wild Friends In An Urban World by Madeline Angell / Mostly about birds, short stories from the author’s encounters with urban animals
  • City Kids and City Critters! by The Houston Arboretum & Nature Center, Janet W. Roberts, and Carole Huelbig / Ages 9-12, suggested activities based on years of experience in the Houston area
  • Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City by Eric W. Sanderson / For the curious teacher
  • Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City by Leslie Day / Designed for adults, a great classroom resource; comes with an amazing map of “forever wild” sites comes along with the book
  • Central Park Wildlife: An Introduction to Familiar Species Found in New York City’s Central Park (A Pocket Naturalist Guide) by James Kavanagh / Great for planning a field trip to Central Park (and in other parts of the city) as it covers many species
  • Peterson First Guide to Urban Wildlife by Sarah B. Landry / A simple introduction for kids to a variety of species that may be found in urban areas
  • City at the Water’s Edge: A Natural History of New York by Betsy McCully / Highly readable, background knowledge for adults
  • Woodlands, Wetlands, & Wildlife by Marianne O’Hea Anderson / Beautifully photographed guide to NYC parks, with a focus on the wilder parks

What other books would you recommend?

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When planning to incorporate nature in your classroom, where to start? This may seem obvious, but the key is letting children start by exploring.  All learners, but early learners in particular, need to be given the opportunity to observe for themselves and formulate their own questions before being told what to do. Young students are still learning how the world works and need time to watch and think.

Take an entire period, or more, to have students make observations outdoors. Pick a spot in the schoolyard or a nearby park and have students observe what they see. Here are some ways to encourage that observation and exploration:

  • Snails are an animal that kids can handle safely. They are plentiful (especially after the rain), will walk on a student's hand, and are reasonably durable, as long as students are taught not to squish them.

    Before leaving the classroom, make sure that students know not to touch any animals they find. For plants, explain that if a part of the plant is attached to the ground or to a tree, it should be left alone. Leaves or seeds on the ground can be picked up.

  • Give each student a clipboard and piece of paper. Pre-literate students can draw what they see; literate students can both draw and write their observations.
  • If students are having trouble focusing, give them a prompt to focus on. Ask students to observe the ground for five minutes, then the air, then look for signs of animals, then plants, etc.

    What do you see? How does it move? Asking students to observe, describe, write, and draw will help unleash their natural curiosity and help you decide what to teach next!

  • Students should have some time to sit and draw or write, as well as some time to walk around and explore. Give students boundaries, but allow them to move freely within those boundaries. If one student finds something particularly interesting (a spider web, a puddle, a live animal), you may want to re-gather the class so they all have the chance to see it.
  • When you return to the classroom, have students share what they saw and any questions they may have. Some questions may be answered during the course of your regular curriculum, while others may merit extra research by the class. Take note of which topics they were interested in; these could provide ideas for what to focus on next.

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