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Posts Tagged ‘field guide’

In addition to all the birds we mentioned yesterday, there are numerous plant and animal species here in New York City. One resource for finding out more about each one is the online field guide at eNature called ZipGuides.

You go the ZipGuides website, type in your zip code or region, and up pops a list of birds, butterflies, mammals, reptiles/amphibians, trees, and wildflowers in your neighborhood. So it doesn’t cover every single natural category, but it is quite comprehensive. Here’s what we found near the Brooklyn Children’s Museum:

What species of plants and animals will you find living near you?

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So, just how many different species of birds can you find in New York City?

Mallards are a familiar bird here in New York City...

If you want to find out more about what birds tend to be seen in and around New York City, you can check out the New York City Audubon website. In addition to their general information, here are two sections that might be of interest to you as a resource:

First of all, check out the information about birds and their seasons, in a sort of online field guide. There, you can find year-round information about how frequently which birds can be seen, like the Double-crested Cormorant, Snowy Egret, Gadwall, American Coot, Willet, Chimney Swift, Eastern Phoebe, or American Redstart (all of which nest within New York City).

... but have you ever seen a Black-Crowned Night Heron?

Next, if you want to know where to find these birds, the website also features a list of birding locations you might consider for a birding field trip. Locations suggested spread over all five boroughs of New York City, plus a location in Nassau County. You may discover a location or nature center you’ve never heard of before!

The website is not written for kids, but has simple enough text on the seasons and birding location pages for a child to read. The website is also a great resource for you, the educator, to supplement your own content knowledge.

If this inspires you to go out and find some birds, don’t forget to bring a print field guide with you!

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So, we’ve been talking a lot about birds – why would you teach birds in your classroom? Here are some great reasons to study and observe birds with your students:

  • Ducklings provide an opportunity to talk about animal families

    Birds are part of your science curriculum. In New York City, you can link birds to your study of animals (K), animal diversity (1st), plant and animal adaptations (3rd), animals and plants in their environments (4th), ecosystems (5th), diversity of life (6th), dynamic equilibrium (7th), reproduction, heredity, and evolution (8th)… You could also link birds and their habitats to your social studies units on family and community.

  • Using a field guide to match a bird you can see to its name is a great opportunity to learn about descriptive adjectives and classification, something that students in New York City study from PK up.

This is a scene you could see in New York City!

  • Lots of kids think there is no nature in a city. That’s totally incorrect – even when nature has been altered by human impact, the natural world is present in cities and forests alike. Going outside to look for birds (or other animals and plants) helps kids see that nature does exist in the city.
  • Kids are already fascinated by birds – they fly! You can use their curiosity as a hook to help students get interested in the natural world in general.
  • Birds could be part of your civics study – what is the national bird? What is your state bird? This is information your students will take pride in knowing!
  • Will you find a yellow warbler while birding?

    Going birding – looking for birds – is an excuse for walking around (maybe even hiking) and it’s always great to encourage physical activity, especially if you give kids a new reason for physical activity. You might have a kid who is really into birds discover that she is really into hiking as well!

  • Birding teaches soft, useful skills like patience and observation. You can also tell stories of adaptation and creativity through stories like that of Pale Male, osprey in New York City, or the birds in Urban Roosts.

What other great reasons can you think of? Let us know why you teach birding with your students or children!

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Yesterday, we explained arthropods to supplement the Focus on Insects section in My Green Community. Today: pitfalls. A pitfall is exactly what it sounds like, a pit that will trap small creatures (insect sized) who fall in. Of course, not everything trapped in a pitfall is going to be an insect…

To make a pitfall, you can use the illustration on the left. Full instructions with a materials list can be found inside our educator’s guide.

Things you might find include worms and arthropods, including insects. Worms, of course, are not arthropods – a worm lacks an exoskeleton. Catching a worm in your pitfall will be a great point of comparison for students, because they can feel the difference between the two. (Many young children will have trouble feeling an exoskeleton on an insect, because it is still much less hard than a rock, say. They can usually, however, feel that a worm is squishy-er than a beetle.)

How are you going to identify the other creatures that end up in your pitfall? Try a website like http://insectidentification.org/, which also covers spiders (spiders, remember, are not insects). Here you can browse by category or enter characteristics of the small creature into a drop down menu to identify what it is.

Or, use a field guide. National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Insects and Spiders & Related Species of North America by Arthur Evans is a kid-friendly, well illustrated guide that should help you identify most, if not all, of what you find. Check out a copy from your local library and your class can identify exactly what you find in your pitfall.

Check back next week for a simple song to help your students remember the characteristics of an insect.

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Study of seasons is an important part of learning about growth and change. Why not take a fall tree walk to observe the colors change before it gets too cold to walk around outside?

To prepare, read a seasonal book like The Little Yellow Leaf. Then, take a walk around the block or to a local park. Have students observe the trees and pick three leaves off the ground (loose plant parts are fair game for picking up).

Back in the classroom, there are lots of things these leaves could be used for. You could do sorting activities with them. The leaves could be used to talk about symmetry. You could have students draw the leaves from observation or design their own imaginary leaf. Students could practice writing words, sentences, or paragraphs about them.

Another option, of course, is to learn the names of the trees each leaf came from. A great book for this purpose is New York City Trees by Edward Sibley Barnard. The book covers 125 local species of trees with full color photographs, suggestions on great tree walks, and information about historic trees (the book even covers NJ, Long Island, and Westchester County). The book is also durable enough for outdoor or child use.

Tree Finder: A Manual for Identification of Trees by their Leaves (Eastern US) by May Theilgaard Watts is an option for older kids or for teacher reference. This very handy book is a dichotomous key to trees. Dichotomous keys work like a “choose your own adventure book.” The key asks questions with two possible answers (e.g., is the leaf tip pointed or blunt?) and then tells you where to turn. Once all possible questions have been asked, you will know by the leaf which tree it came from. This kind of intricate observation is too complicated for very young kids, but would be great with very curious older elementary students or for teacher reference when planning observation.

Have fun outside! Enjoy the crisp fall while you can.

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The team here at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum has been looking for the best nature guides to use with early childhood. The goal was a comprehensive guide, light enough to carry around, with limited text, and color photographs.

Yesterday, browsing at a local bookstore, I found them! Check out the Pocket Naturalist Guides from Waterford Press:

These guides are light (1 ounce each), foldable, and laminated for durability. As you can see, they have high color illustrations and basic information about each specimen below the picture. On the back of Central Park Wildlife is a map of Central Park, featuring where to go in Central Park to best look for the animals listed.

Some other guides you might really be interested in:

Urban Wildlife is general to the entire United States.

New York State Wildlife covers over 140 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, butterflies and fish. It is also the only of these guides found in the New York Public Library.

In addition to 140 plant species, New York State Trees & Wildlife includes a map of state botanical sanctuaries.

New York City Birds includes a map of all five boroughs with birding hotspots marked.

You may also be interested in New York State Birds, New York State Butterflies & Moths, Eastern Seashore Life, New Jersey Birds, New Jersey Trees and Wildflowers, New Jersey Butterflies and MothsDangerous Animals and Plants. For a full list of the Pocket Naturalist Guides, you can find them on Waterford Press’ website.

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So, if you’re planning bird research, you’re going to need a great bird guide. Here are a few bird guides to use. Clicking on each image takes you a library entry for the book!

Bird Finder: A Guide to the Common Birds of Eastern North America by Roger Lederer: you won’t find this book in libraries, but it only costs $4! It’s 64 pages long, has simple black and white illustrations, and covers only the most common local birds, which makes it a great first bird guide. Plus, it’s light enough to carry around on field trips.

The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America by David Sibley: this book is beautifully illustrated, so while the text will be too advanced for young students, they will have an easy time matching bird they see to birds in the guide.

Birds of New York by Stan Tekiela: covers birds you expect to find in New York state. If you are reading this blog from somewhere else in the country, this series covers other states as well!

The New York City Audubon Society Guide to Finding Birds in the Metropolitan Area by Marcia Fowle and Paul Kerlinger: this guide covers not only which birds to expect in NYC, but also where to find them, covering sites in all five boroughs as well as Long Island, Westchester, and New Jersey.

We are still on the hunt for scientifically detailed bird guides written for early readers: do you know of any such book you would recommend to other educators?

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