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Posts Tagged ‘gardens’

Butterflies are endlessly fascinating. When we looked closely at butterflies last week, the kids took note of the delicate and transparent structure of their wings. Butterfly wings are made up of thin layers of a protein called chitin – the same stuff in insect exoskeletons, snake skins, and human fingernails! When a butterfly emerges from its cocoon, its wings are wet and crumpled. The bug hangs upside down and pumps blood into the lattice of veins that run through those thin chitin layers. After their wings fully extend, they must wait for them to dry completely before flying.

Because their wings are so fragile, butterflies can even sense a drop in air pressure, warning them that a storm is approaching. They take shelter to prevent their wings from being weighed down by relatively heavy rain drops. If they do get wet, they’ll have to bask in the sun before they can fly.

Did you know butterflies taste with their feet? They also collect nectar with a long tube-like proboscis that they have to assemble when they emerge from their cocoon. It starts out in two parts with tiny hooks and fringes that they have to work together to form one long straw!

A great way to attract butterflies to your school garden for observation is to plant a butterfly garden. Butterfly bushes, with their bright purple flowers, grow and spread around easily. You can also find butterfly garden seed mixes full of perennial, brightly colored flowers with nice flat petals for these nectar fiends to land on.

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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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Are you interested in teaching kids more about food, gardening, and cooking at your school? One option is to become an Edible Schoolyard site. The program, started by Alice Waters, turns open space at schools into gardens, and then teaches the students at the school about growing, cooking, and eating food on site.

What can your students learn by growing and eating fresh food like these tomatoes?

So far, Edible Schoolyard has one location in NYC: PS 216, right here in Brooklyn. But they are looking to expand, and plan to have one school in each borough next school year.

That’s where you come in. If you work at a public school located in the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens or Staten Island, you could apply. Your school must serve, at a minimum, kindergarten through fifth grade and be a Title I school. Accepted schools receive tons of help and resources to turn their available space into a teaching garden.

For more information about the program and to apply, go to Edible Schoolyard NYC’s website. Applications are due by February 28, 2012- good luck!

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It’s the time for pine. If you celebrate Christmas or happen to love evergreens, you probably have a fantastic tree in your home right now…  so what do you do when the needles fall off and the whole thing turns brown?

Mulch shredded yard waste

Shredded used wood is called mulch

Mulch it!

Like composting, mulching takes organic waste and turns it into something useful, keeping waste out of the landfill, which is always good.

Every year, New York City collects used Christmas trees and turns them into mulch. Mulch is a layer of protective wood chips placed in garden beds to prevent weeds, keep moisture in the soil, and reduce garden erosion.

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Mulch helped this plant grow

In other words, your no longer wanted Christmas tree will be turned into a very useful product for gardeners. Mulching your tree is one form of waste management, like reducing, composting, and recycling. Rather than ending up in a landfill, you can turn your tree into mulch.

Join the fun by bringing your tree to a participating location on January 7th or January 8th, 2012. Check out the MulchFest website for a full list of drop-off locations. There are 70 locations throughout the five boroughs. At half of those locations, you can take the mulch home with you for use in your garden!

… and if you’re dropping a tree off at Brower Park, swing by the Brooklyn Children’s Museum next door and say hi!

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So, last week we introduced you to Greta. This week, we’ve mentioned the amazing culture gardens and mural she worked on this spring and summer. Today, we want to share with you Greta’s latest science project.

Greta has her own blog, Brooklyn Greenhouse, that she uses to talk about what’s new in the greenhouse and garden as well as awesome things that kids say and do. Last week she wrote and fascinating entry about the red leaves of the Japanese Maple.

Greta is teaching the 2nd and 3rd graders all about plants throughout the seasons, and Greta did some research and discovered that… red leaves are an ongoing scientific mystery! There are many theories about why leaves turn red, so Greta and the students are doing an experiment to test one of the theories.

Want to find out more about leaves and this interesting red leaf theory? For more information about leaves, yellow and orange leaves, and the fascinating theory about red leaves, check out this entry on Greta’s blog!

And once you’ve learned all about the science of leaves, you can return to our fall favorite, The Little Yellow Leaf (with a guest appearance from a red leaf!).

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Are you interested in incorporating art into your garden study? Great!

Yesterday, we talked about the culture gardens made by Greta. She took plants from each of 14 countries around the world and made mini-gardens to help kids learn about the culture of each country. But she wasn’t done there!

Greta also decided to make a mural showing off her research. She picked plants common in certain parts of the world and placed them on top of a world map:

Then, Greta got to painting, with help of kids in our after-school program and one of our teen interns. In April, it looked like this:

And here it is in August:

Right now, there are too many leaves on the trees to get you an image of the whole mural, but after the leaves fall off, we promise more photographs! Check out Greta’s blog for updates.

And Happy (almost) Thanksgiving to you all – we hope your festive meals this week are as fantastically delicious as the cornucopia Greta drew in the world map above!

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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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Welcome to part two in our very occasional introduction series. Since we have been sharing information about gardens, it seemed like high time to say hello to Greta, our Greenhouse and Garden Maintainer and Lead Science Educator.

Here's Greta with one of our after-school students

Greta teaches public programs, school programs, and works with our after-school programs for local students. But her primary responsibility is taking amazing care of our lovely Greenhouse and Garden.

Greta is a creative whiz – she designs awesome gardens around children’s books, world cultures, related murals, and plants to attract pollinators. Some new ideas for the Greenhouse and Garden include a collection of carnivorous plants and planting shade gardens to maximize planting in the garden.

Greta also has her own blog with garden updates, Brooklyn Greenhouse.

Next week, we will feature lots of information (and photographs) about Greta’s culture gardens, which could be a great teaching tool in your classroom.

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Today,  a post related to gardens focused on a very interesting park.

High Line 20th Street looking downtown
The High Line is located on the west side of Manhattan, above 10th Avenue between Gansevoort Street and W 30th Street. This elevated track used to be a used to shuttle freight trains from Penn Station to the factories in the Meatpacking District. As the factories moved, the train line was abandoned and was almost torn down in the mid-1990s. Instead, neighbors of the tracks who looked down on it and saw an abandoned wilderness imagined a new park and Friends of the High Line was born. The first section of the park opened in 2009 and the second in 2011 (a third section is in the works).

So why am I telling you about the High Line? In addition to being awesome, it displays a number of examples of sustainability.

The High Line is an example of creative reuse. Rather than tearing down an existing structure (which would have cost money), money was invested into turning this abandoned space into a public park, which benefits everyone. The High Line provides green space in an industrial neighborhood and provides stunning views that cannot be accessed from anywhere else in the neighborhood. In addition, many of the original train tracks were incorporated into the design, both showcasing the High Line’s history and preventing waste.

NY High Line02
The High Line is home to native plants and provides a habitat for local animals. According to their FAQ, 161 out of the 210 plant species in the design of Section 1 of the High Line are native to New York. Because local plants are adapted to their environment, it takes less artificial work from the gardeners to maintain the plants. Or, as the High Line’s section on sustainability explains it, “By basing the planting design on naturally-created plant communities, we create a well-adapted, site-specific landscape, cutting down on water and other resources needed to maintain it. ” All of these carefully maintained plants lead to homes for pollinators and other local animals.

Gleisanschluss

A section that you can't walk on; it serves as a green roof

The High Line is a green roof. In fact, it’s the largest green roof in the world. New York City has an overtaxed water system. This leads to “combined sewage overflows,” which is as gross as it sounds – when it rains, the rainwater causes our sewer systems to overflow, releasing sewage into local bodies of water. Eww! One solution is to carefully choose plants to act as sponges, absorbing water as it falls and releasing it gradually into the sewers. The High Line uses a specific mix of plants and soils to do just that. This is one very sustainable type of garden that provides a solution to NYC’s water problems (more about that next week).

The High Line is committed to sustainable practices in running the park. They do not use fertilizers or pesticides, reduce chemical treatment for snow in favor of hand shovels and power brooms, monitor and reduce the amount of watering, and are in the process of starting on-site composting. For more details, read their sustainability page.

The High Line is committed to educating the public about their sustainable practices. For adults and families, they periodically host events like composting workshops and guided tours of the park. For students and teachers, the High Line has a field trip option for grades 2-7 that explores biodiversity, native species, and New York City’s ecosystem at the High Line.Highline NYC IMG 9028

In addition to all that, the High Line is a beautiful place for a picnic, stroll, to watch the sunset, or just to sit and read. If you’ve never been to the High Line, stop reading this entry and go. Seriously.

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Earlier this week, the New York Botanical Garden offered a workshop introducing educators to the basics of school gardening. If you’re interested in a more in-depth offering, check out their institutes in 2012 (which coincide with public school breaks):

School Gardening 101: Creating a Garden

Dates: February 20–25, 2012 (Monday–Saturday)

Seedlings Program for Teachers of Grades K–2

Dates: July 9–14, 2012 (Monday–Saturday)

School Gardening 201: Curriculum Connections

Dates: July 23–28, 2012 (Monday–Saturday)

For information, registration, fees, details about P-credits, and more, check out the New York Botanical Garden’s brochure on school and teacher programs.

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