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Posts Tagged ‘Brooklyn Children’s Museum’

Fantasia on the Loose!

It’s been a while since you’ve seen a face of education at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, and change is in the air! The wonderful groundskeeper of this blog, Lynn, is off to develop education programs at the new Museum of Mathematics. She’ll be missed at BCM, but don’t worry… Teach Green in Brooklyn will continue to share resources and ideas for teaching sustainability in the classroom!

My name is Tiffany Briery and I am a new addition to the Science Education staff at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. I spend my days at BCM teaching Science Programs to school groups and visiting families. From interacting with real snakes in our Life Cycles class to experimenting with tuning forks in our Sound Waves program, learning at BCM always involves a hands-on adventure.

Before coming to BCM, I taught environmental education at The Science Barge: Environmental Education Center, The New York Botanical Garden, The High Line, and The Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum. Aside from teaching at Brooklyn Children’s, I also develop new education programs and help out with the care and maintenance of our garden and amazing animal collection.

I’m thrilled to continue teaching at a place where opportunities to get kids connected with their natural environment abound. Our greenhouse and garden, our indoor ecosystems, and our new Green Threads sustainability exhibits inspire kids to apply ideas about “living green” to the real people and places in their own community! I can’t express enough how excited I am to see kids making those connections now in an interactive way rather than learning about our natural world passively from a book years down the road.

Teaching a Kid's Crew student about arthropods with the help of our friend, the Lubber Grasshopper.

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When Brooklyn Children’s Museum was renovated in 2008, all new bathrooms were fitted with low-flow water features. In fact, our boy’s bathrooms even have completely waterless urinals!

The water conservation exhibit helps kids understand the need for low flow by talking about just how much water is used by common features. Kids turn a know, pull a lever, or press a button and find out how much water is used by a bath or a shower.

One popular comparison is between an open fire hydrant and a fire hydrant with a sprinkler cap. The former (displayed on the left) uses a shocking 1,000 gallons per minute of water! That is so much water that it is both wasteful and dangerous – this much water causes decreased water pressure to nearby buildings, a problem in the case of a real fire.

To prevent this problem, you can go to your neighborhood firehouse and ask them to install a sprinkler cap (displayed on the right). Hydrants with sprinkler caps use only 15 gallons of water per minute, a huge reduction.

To learn more, check out the water conservation exhibit, on the Lower Level, across from Fantasia in the Science Inquiry Center.

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Did you know that the Brooklyn Children’s Museum has solar panels? Along with the geothermal energy, the solar panels are one renewable source of energy that powers the Museum.

Solar panels work by capturing the sun’s light and turning it into electricity that can power anything you want. The sun produces enough energy in 1 minute to power the world’s energy needs for 1 year… the trick is designing solar panels that can collect all that energy.

At the Museum’s solar exhibit, children can aim a mirror to direct energy from a light source to the solar panels. The solar energy then powers dancing flower toys! Filters in front of the solar panels mimic night, clouds, and pollution, affecting the flowers.

You can find the solar exhibit on our Upper Level, just past the elephant skeleton. And if you look closely out the window from the exhibit, you can see the Museum’s real solar panels.

A rare back view of the Museum where you can see the solar panels - these ones are located outside of the Kids Cafe

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What happens to a can or bottle after you recycle it? The recycling exhibit here at the Museum aims to answer that question.

The right half of the exhibit shows recycling stories. Spin the blocks to complete the stories – turning a recycled can into a bike, a recycled pair of jeans into insulation, and a recycled tire into playground surface.

When the steps are in the right order, the original image lights up to show that it has been recycled. In the picture on the right, this boy and his father have finished the middle story and the jeans are lit up!

The left half of the exhibit talks about recycling at the Museum. Did you know that the boardwalk in the beach in Neighborhood Nature isn’t made of wood? It’s actually recycled plastic bottles! Touch the boardwalk the next time you’re here and you might just be able to feel it! Come to the recycling exhibit to learn other unusual recycling stories.

You can find the recycling exhibit in World Brooklyn, across from the International Grocery Store.

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Geothermal energy is one of the cooler concepts in sustainable energy – or maybe it’s one of the hotter concepts! The idea is simple, but the way it works is complicated.

This is the actual drill bit we used to drill down to the aquifers

Basically, somewhere far below the Museum are underground aquifers (underground lakes) with water that remains about 57 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. So, we drilled a hole down to the aquifer and…

  • In the summer, the water is cooler than the hot summer air. We pump water (which is relatively cool) into the building and it cools down the air, reducing the need for air conditioning.
  • In the winter, the waster is warmer than the cold winter air. We pump the same water (relatively warm now) into the building and it warms the air, reducing the need for heating.

The energy required to use the pump is very small, so overall a good geothermal system really reduced the amount of energy you need to heat and cool a building, which is both sustainable and money-saving.

It’s a hard concept to explain to kids, so bring them to the Museum to explore our geothermal exhibit. You will find the exhibit on the Lower Level, next to Fantasia in the Science Inquiry Center.

Turning the dial changes the exhibit from winter to summer and then back

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Did you know that the upstairs floors and the staircases at Brooklyn Children’s Museum are made from bamboo?

Why did we choose bamboo? It’s a renewable resource – bamboo plants grow to full height in only 6 years. They can be harvested and replanted in a fraction of the time it takes hardwood trees to grow.

Our new bamboo exhibit at the Museum explains this to children. At the exhibit you can spin a zoetrope, measure yourself against bamboo, feel bamboo samples, and watch a video of bamboo boards being made!

You can find this new exhibit on the 2nd floor, near the elephant skeleton. And yes, when you are standing at the bamboo exhibit, the ground below you is made of bamboo!!

These girls are spinning the zoetrope to animate pictures that show the relative growth of bamboo and a hardwood tree

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We have exciting news: our Green Threads exhibits are open and ready for business!

This blog is part of a large, sustainability project here at Brooklyn Children’s Museum. In addition to Teach Green in Brooklyn and My Green Community, our education department has been hard at work on public and school programs about sustainability. In addition, we have been hard at work on new exhibits about sustainability.

The first exhibit is the Green Tour in our lobby. The kiosk features information about the other exhibits, sustainability at Brooklyn Children’s Museum, and other web-based resources.

The other five exhibits explain bamboo floors, geothermal energy, recycling, solar energy, and water conservation. Check back over the next two weeks for information about each new exhibit.

And don’t forget to come to Brooklyn Children’s Museum to see them for yourself!

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One of our mottoes here at Brooklyn Children’s Museum is a Marty Markowitz quotation:

Brooklyn is home to everyone from everywhere!

We firmly believe that here and love the opportunity to reflect the cultural diversity of our borough (and New York City, too) and the cultures of the people who have moved to Brooklyn from all around the world. Brooklyn Children’s Museum has an exhibit called World Brooklyn that shrinks Brooklyn stores to kid-size and shows the ethnic diversity of our borough through these stores.

Well, Greta had a great idea for teaching kids about culture through gardens, so she picked 14 countries from around the world: Mexico, China, Uganda, Italy, Peru, Thailand, Nigeria, Israel, Brazil, India, Japan, England, Russia, France, and Jamaica. Then, for each country, she picked a handful of representative plants and planted them together.

Above, the finished gardens are laid out in Brooklyn Children’s Museum’s Greenhouse.

As you can see, each garden also has labels that tell kids something about the country. The labels talk about how the plants are used, how they smell, what they feel like, and often how the plant is used in local cooking. The Thai garden, for example, has the following label with information about the ingredients in Pad Thai:

Another great example is the Peruvian garden!

You might not do 14 of these in your classroom, but it’s quite easy to pick a country you’re studying and grow 3 or 4 plants from that country to help students combine science and social studies knowledge and have an even richer understanding of culture.

You can also link this to the arts – check back tomorrow for information about that!

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Just a reminder – next week, Brooklyn Children’s Museum is offering free professional development workshops for educators. The same My Green Community workshop is offered twice:

Thursday, October 20th, 4pm – 7pm

Saturday, October 22nd, 10am – 1pm

Join Brooklyn Children’s Museum’s educational team for a workshop on inquiry-based, hands-on experiences exploring what it means to live in a “green community” like New York City. We will give you a copy and walk you through “My Green Community,” a unit plan designed by BCM that ties in with NYC curriculum and standards for pre-K through grade 6 and explores green community features. Activities and lessons include links to literacy, math, science, social studies and the arts.

Come by to receive a print copy of our educator’s guide, free teacher resources from other New York City institutions, and lots of hands-on lesson ideas for your classroom.

We hope to see you on Thursday or Saturday!

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Speaking of wildlife in New York City, Jamaica Bay is an amazing place to study. It’s an estuary surrounding by Brooklyn, Queens, and a little bit of Nassau County. It is one of the largest tidal wetlands in the United States. Jamaica Bay is a fascinating ecosystem, full of biodiversity, which is having a variety of plant and animal species. In addition to salt marsh, grasslands, coastal woodlands, maritime shrublands and brackish and freshwater wetlands, Jamaica Bay is home to mammals, reptiles, insects, 91 different species of fish and 325 species of birds!

All of that information came from the Jamaica Bay Education Resource Directory, online at http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/pdf/jamaica_bay/jamaica_bay_ed_resource_directory_final.pdf. This comprehensive guide will give the curious teacher lots of thoughts of what to do next. Read the entire guide, or you can consider these suggestions.

Students learn about horseshoe crabs on a field trip to Jamaica Bay.

Field trips:

Here, you have lots of options. Two of the most interesting are guided field trips focused on exploring the natural landscape of Jamaica Bay. You can either go to Marine Park in Brooklyn, which is run by the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation. Call 212-NEW-YORK to speak to an Urban Park Ranger and arrange a visit with your class. Or, you can attend the Gateway National Recreation Area, which is run by the National Park Service. Gateway also comprises parks in Staten Island and New Jersey. For information on field trips, check out their website: http://www.nps.gov/gate/forteachers/planafieldtrip.htm. Whether self-guided or ranger guided, teachers must attend a professional development session first, enabling them to best link Jamaica Bay to their classroom. More field trip ideas can be found in the resource directory.

Books:

Check out Horseshoe Crabs and Shorebirds: The Story of a Food Web by Victoria Crenson. It is set in the Delaware Bay, but the food web and ecosystem described also applies to Jamaica Bay.

For a great, rhyming introduction to salt marshes, check out A Day in the Salt Marsh by Kevin Kurtz. The book will get students ready to think about all the different life forms in a salt marsh, and there are lots of teacher ideas at the end.

There are many more excellent books listed in the resource directory above.

Brooklyn Children’s Museum:

Don’t forget that we have an indoor beach at the museum, perfect for cold, winter days. There’s a dock tank, a sand play area, an investigation of horseshoe crabs, shells to examine, and a touch tank. Most of the creatures in our touch tank come right from Jamaica Bay. We usually have local horseshoe crab, hermit crabs, mud snails, mussels, and clams as well as sea stars, brittle stars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, larger snails and sea anemones from farther away.

Inside the touch tank at the Brooklyn Children's Museum. The hermit crab and mussels were collected in Jamaica Bay. Note that the mussel in the foreground has its shell open!

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