Posts Tagged ‘gardens’

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.


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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The garden here at Brooklyn Children's Museum

Last week and this week we’re talking about ideas for incorporating gardening into your classroom… why should you be interested? What a great question! Here are some reasons you might teach gardening in your classroom:

  • Gardens link to your science curriculum. Whether you’re studying trees throughout the seasons (K), weather and seasons (1st), plant diversity (2nd), plant and animal adaptations (3rd), animals and plants in their environment (4th), food and nutrition (5th), the scientific method, or something else entirely, students learn from watching plants grow and helping them grow.
  • Gardens can link to other curriculum as well, providing (for example) a great excuse for an art project a real-life context for mathematics. Don’t believe that you can teach math in the garden? Check out this resource from UC Berkeley.
  • The odds are that your school no longer has an explicit health curriculum and nutrition doesn’t really show up in the NYC science curriculum until 5th grade. Learning about gardens and eating the food they provide will help students make healthy choices. According to an expert at the University of Hawai’i, “Nationally, slightly more than 51 percent of children eat one serving of fruits a day and 29 percent eat less than one serving a day of vegetables that are not fried.
  • In particular, kids need opportunities to try fruits and vegetables many times before they will choose to eat them. Growing your own fruits and vegetables is one way to get kids more interested in these key nutritional products. Fruits and vegetables taste best when they are straight from your own garden!
  • Gardening is a job skill and a life skill. So is cooking. And even if your students don’t grow up to be professional gardeners or chefs, they could raise their own fruits and vegetables at home to save money on produce.
  • Gardening teaches soft skills like perseverance and patience. Students see that their hard work has a pay-off, which is an important realization.
  • Most little kids love dirt and digging in it anyway!

Don’t believe us? According to Grow to Learn NYC‘s website, starting a school garden has the following results: gardening changes eating habits, improves test scores, connects children to the environment, fights childhood obesity, promotes physical activity, and changes attitudes toward learning.

Are you ready? If this inspires you, here are some suggestions to get your school garden started.

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Listen up preschool providers and day care centers: the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has an amazing curriculum called Grow It, Try It, Like It! designed to teach kids aged 3-5 about gardening, food, and nutrition.

The guide starts with comprehensive background information for the educator. Then, there are 6 sections, each devoted to a different fruit or vegetable: crookneck squash, spinach, sweet potato, cantaloupe, peach, and strawberry. If you did every activity in each booklet, you would have enough material for 120 days of class! Or, you could pick and choose from the booklets to create a month-long focus on fruits and vegetables.

The booklets all start with hand-washing, include book suggestions, ideas for arts and crafts, science activities, snack ideas, and more. Students get color illustrations of each fruit and vegetable and can also color their own to make a garden map. This really is an incredible resource. If you work with early childhood and are looking for a food resource, this is one to start with! Check it out: Grow It, Try It, Like It!

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A series of upcoming posts are going to switch from teaching about gardening to teaching about food (which are, of course, intertwined) and this seemed like a good time to talk about that overlap.

To Market, To Market by Nikki McClure is a great, new addition to any garden, farm, or food study in school or the home. The box is visually engaging and scientifically detailed, yet designed for children ages 4 and up. (When we say “and up” we mean it – this book could easily be used from K to 12 in different ways.)

How does Ms. McClure accomplish this? The book tells the story of a boy and his mom who go to the farmers market. They buy apples, kale, salmon, honey, cheese, blueberry turnovers, and hand-dyed napkins. Each product gets two pages. The first, like the apple page seen here, is very simple. It introduces Michael, who grows the apples.

This page, appropriate for students of all ages, is followed by a much more detailed page that further explains the story of Michael and the apples (click the image to see it in full detail).

This page, of course, is much too detailed for most kindergarteners to read on their own. However, you could use this information in a number of ways in your classroom.

The detailed background information could be used by the teacher for reference. Or you could give this book to an advanced student or a student who is very interested in where food comes from for their own independent study. Or, you could design a great group project with this book:

Start with a class read-aloud where you skip the detailed pages completely. Students will learn the basics of what products the family buys. Then, divide your class into groups of mixed ability (each group should have at least one student with a relatively high reading level). One group will study apples, one group kale, one group salmon, etc. The groups will then be responsible for reading the detailed information, learning the process of making or growing the product, and then tell the story in words or pictures, and then present their work to the rest of the class. Students will gain an in-depth knowledge of how much work it takes for one product to get onto their table and hear the work of the other groups explaining the other products.

What other curricular connections do you see? How might you use To Market, To Market in your classroom?

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You can, of course, start an herb, vegetable, or other edible garden. But another option is to garden for the purpose of attracting wildlife or to tie gardens into your literacy or math study. Here are some suggestions for interesting garden design concepts:

Try urban gardening for birds. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a website on gardens that attract birds, including where to garden, which plants birds like, and curricular connections.

A resource from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Or, you could garden to attract butterflies. Check out this website from the University of Kentucky for suggestions on how to create a butterfly friendly garden. Monarch Watch also has butterfly gardening ideas.

What about a literacy garden? Plant a garden to supplement a book your class is reading. For example, the garden at Brooklyn Children’s Museum features a “Rainbow Garden,” with flowers that bloom every color of the rainbow. Our gardener and lead science educator, Greta, designed the garden based on the book Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert. Students read the book, see the garden, and get super excited. This book is also available in Spanish, as Cómo plantar un arco iris.

The beginnings of the Rainbow Garden last spring

And don’t forget gardening for math!

Check back next week for information on Greta’s culture gardens…

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