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It’s here! Brooklyn Children’s Museum would like to present our new sustainability guide for educators, My Green Community.

The premise is simple: unfortunately, while nature is in the elementary science curriculum, other sustainability topics (energy, water conservation, food, waste management) are not. So, we tied study of community to study of environmentalism, linking social studies and science to create opportunities to introduce these key topics and to create interdisciplinary units of study.

The guide is divided into three sections: nature, sustainability, and a culminating project. The nature section deals with plants, birds, and insects. Sustainability covers energy, food, water, and waste. Finally, the culminating project is a mapping activity in which students examine their neighborhood for evidence of sustainability to decide in what ways their community is and is not green. Activities were designed for grades PK-2 but many will be applicable through middle school and even high school in some cases.

The full guide is available for download. In addition, you can attend a free professional development session as a supplement to the guide here at Brooklyn Children’s Museum on either October 20th or October 22nd. And, finally, this blog exists to supplement the guide. So if you love the Focus on Birds section in the guide, for example, click on the birds tag on the right of this page for more birds activities.

Please share this wonderful resource with your colleagues. If you have any feedback or would like to share how you are using My Green Community, contact us: gogreen@brooklynkids.org.

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The Brooklyn Children’s Museum (BCM) was founded in 1899, making it the oldest dedicated children’s museum in the world. At the time, it lived in an old mansion. By the second half of the 20th century, BCM had a great new building, mostly subterranean as you can see in the picture above. But it just wasn’t big enough!

Totally Tots

In 2008, the museum re-opened with double its original space. New features included a wonderful and enormous early childhood play area (Totally Tots), a series of play stores showing ethnic and cultural diversity in Brooklyn (World Brooklyn), indoor biomes representing natural habitats in Brooklyn (Neighborhood Nature), space to show off the amazing objects owned by BCM (Collections Central), a fabulous greenhouse and garden, and a Science Inquiry Center.

World Brooklyn, click for teacher and family resources

These exhibits are awesome, but that’s not all. The choice was made to re-open BCM in a LEED-certified building. LEED certification is a process run by the US Green Building Council, designed to highlight sustainable buildings. The end result is a beautiful looking building with some great sustainable features.

… and that’s a subject for another post. Check back soon for information on just what BCM did to be sustainable and information about new museum exhibits designed to explain these concepts to children.

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Who doesn’t love free professional development?logo Brooklyn Children's Museum Join the Brooklyn Children’s Museum this fall for a training session all about green communities. You will learn the five elements of a green community, learn and practice hands-on sustainability activities, and receive a copy of the My Green Community teacher’s guide, as well as teaching resources from other sustainability focused organizations based in New York City. The workshop is designed for teachers with grades pk-6, but will have activities that can easily be adapted to all grades.

The training will be held twice:

Thursday, October 20th from 4pm to 7pm

Saturday, October 22nd from 10am to 1pm

To RSVP, email gogreen@brooklynkids.org or call 718-735-4400 x328.

We look forward to seeing you there. Keep your eyes posted on this blog for future links to free professional development at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum and around New  York City.

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We keep using this phrase “my green community.” By now you may be wondering, what is a green community? A green community is one that takes care of the environment. A green community provides a healthy environment for plants and animals, including people.

This definition may be sufficient for a teacher of very young students. Alternately, you may be interested in a more comprehensive look at what elements make a community truly green. For adults, one great starting point is an exhibition produced by the National Building Museum in 2008 entitled Green Community. Their website (http://www.nbm.org/exhibitions-collections/exhibitions/green-community/green-community.html) has extensive information about what a green community is and is not. This includes five categories of green and information about real places that fit into these categories.

While this is a great resource, it is designed for adults. We at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum have spent time thinking about how to take these complicated ideas and present them appropriately to children.

Here, then, are five actions that together make a community green:

Re-Invent Your City

Our city is growing! Every year, Brooklyn is home to more people. More people need more houses, more food, more everything. What do we do if we run out of space? In a green community, people think creatively about how to use space.

Example: The MTA uses a lot of power to run the subways and buses. To reduce some of their power demands, they installed solar panels on the roof of the Stillwell Avenue Terminal in Coney Island. The canopy of the station went from being wasted space, to renewable energy for the public transit system.

Travel Green

What’s the best mode of transit? You! Whether walking or biking, physical activity is good for your health and good for the planet. If you have to travel a long distance, take the bus or subway. Brooklynites are already some of the greenest people in the United States due to their massive use of public transit!

Use Less

Think of good ways to use less. Turn the lights off. Don’t leave the water running. Re-use a water bottle. Think about how to use less – less water, less plastic, less energy, less of everything!

Grow Green

Take care of the plants and parks around you. Plants are important – they provide oxygen, keep temperatures cool in the summer, provide food and shelter for animals, and look beautiful, too! Seeing nature’s green around you is a sign that you can breathe easy.

Watch Waste

What do we do with the things we don’t need anymore? Not everything needs to be thrown in the garbage. We can separate food waste and recyclables from trash that goes into landfills. Even better, we can reuse things – either reuse them ourselves or give them to somebody who wants what we don’t want anymore. After all, “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure!”

To help identify instances of these five actions, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum has developed a family guide to Brooklyn that looks for evidence of green places and practices in the borough. The print guide and an accompanying online map will be available soon. What would you include in our map of Brooklyn?

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We hear the word “green” a lot. We hear it so much that it almost loses all meaning and we risk “greenwashing” everything, failing to be able to distinguish between actions and ideas that are truly positive for the environment and those that merely claim to be good.

To help prepare students to make careful environmental choices as they grow up, we can teach them the concepts from an early age and then allow them to decide what is truly sustainable and what is mere greenwashing.

Let’s start with some definitions. In My Green Community, we state that “green refers to all things related to environmental and sustainable education.”

In Brooklyn Children’s Museum’s family guide, we alternately defined green in the following way for kids:

What is green? It’s not just a color. Green can be an action too – “being green” means taking care of nature and not wasting things like energy, food and water. All things that are good for the Earth are called “green.” In this way, we use the word “green” to mean “sustainable.”

There are, thus, two large foci of green education: nature and sustainability.

A leaf from a Ginkgo tree: native to Brooklyn

Nature refers to the elements of the Earth not created or significantly changed by human beings. This includes wildlife, both plants and animals. My Green Community includes activities about birds, insects, trees and plants. Nature also includes geology, the study of the Earth, including rocks, minerals, geologic formations and bodies of water. Study of nature at a young age sets the stage for the study of ecology for older learners. Ecology is the study of the environment, ecosystems, how the elements of the natural world interact with each other. This blog will have entries on nature, expanding the information covered in My Green Community, and covering new topics we didn’t have the space to explore there.

Solar panels at the Brooklyn Children's Museum are a sustainable source of energy

Sustainability has been defined by the United Nations as being able to “meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” In other words, acting sustainably means taking care of yourself and taking care of the Earth for many generations to come. The key concept is conservation; preserving the Earth’s natural resources for as long as possible. My Green Community has an introduction to concepts of sustainability, including water conservation, energy conservation, food consumption and waste management. It is not necessary to employ the term sustainability for young students to understand the concept; you could talk to them about reducing waste or preserving nature.

What other terms do you need help defining? How would you improve or amend our definitions? Add your thoughts in the comments section!

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Welcome to Teach Green in Brooklyn! This blog will serve as a compliment to My Green Community and as a forum for educators to share their expertise in teaching environmental education to young learners.

What is My Green Community? It is a publication produced by the Brooklyn Children’s Museum with support from the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences. The guide is designed for educators working with students in grades PK-2, though many of the activities could be easily adapted for older students. The guide has two main sections, about nature about sustainability. Topics include insects, plants, energy, food, water, and waste management. The guide then concludes with a neighborhood mapping activity, designed to help students evaluate just how green their community is. If you are interested in downloading a free copy of this guide, it will be available soon.

This blog, then, will continue the work begun in that guide, linking early childhood teachers to developmentally appropriate, scientifically sound, hands-on activities to prepare young students to act in environmentally conscious ways. Many of the activities may be appropriate for science teachers, but will also have links across the curriculum, to literacy, math, social studies, and the arts.

The blog will contain new activities, links to resources on the web, field trip suggestions, and more. The goal of this blog is to reduce the amount of time teachers have to spend combing the internet for ideas and resources for their classroom. As such, if you have suggestions of great ideas or activities you would like to share with other educators, please email them to gogreen@brooklynkids.org or add them as comments to the blog entries!

Whether you’re here in New York City, or somewhere else around the world, we hope these ideas will help you in the classroom. Thanks for helping your students develop as environmental stewards and, again, please share with us any suggestions you have for other great learning experiences.kids investigate in the garden

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