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Posts Tagged ‘habitat’

This weekend in science at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum we investigated animal nests in our program sponsored by National Grid. Kids piled into the greenhouse where we brought out some awesome examples of creative nests from our collection. Kids had the chance to build their own small nests and worked together to create one giant outdoor nest from recently trimmed tree branches.

From twigs and mud to bubbles and spit, nests can be made out of just about anything. Try our nest building activity in the classroom: Start with a layer of glue on the bottom of a paper bowl, then pass out a big mix of materials. You can either collect twigs and dead leaves from outside or gather up any fabric, string, yarn or other craft materials you have around. Let the kids go wild making nests and see what they create! Using chop sticks as a mock beak makes this activity a little more challenging for older kids. Can they make a sturdier nest by weaving together or braiding their materials? Would they want their nest to be flashy or to blend in?

We’ve talked about the creativity of urban birds on the blog before. While your students are building their nests, the class can also be monitoring one of the Nest Cams that scientists and bird lovers have set up around the city to keep an eye on our populations of Peregrine Falcons and Hawks.

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Since we’ve been talking about nests and urban birds, here’s a book that examines just where birds live in a city and how they adapt to their human-altered homes.

Urban Roosts investigates 13 different types of birds, including finches, barn owls, the average pigeon, and the extraordinary peregrine falcon. The book uses illustrations to tell most of its story, so while its reading level is upper elementary, children of all ages will learn something new from reading Urban Roosts.

Consider using this book to supplement your study of habitat, birds, adaptations, or observation in general!

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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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You probably already teach about animals and their habitats – why should you teach about insects in particular?

Insects and other small animals are a key part in any food chain, a subject your students will study in 4th grade science. Knowing about them and having respect for insects now will help them better appreciate insects’ importance later.

If you are interested in a great game that combines food chains with human impact on the environment, check out the game Deadly Links in an educational guide produced by the Girl Scouts (scroll to page 18). This role play examines the relationship between three animals (mosquito, fish, eagle) and what happens when human beings try to get rid of the mosquitoes. Deadly Links is appropriate for grades 4+ in its current form, but could easily be adapted for younger students.

Little kids might not be ready to learn about food chains, but they're always welcome to come to Brooklyn Children's Museum and build an insect of their own!

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Looking for other great sources of science activities? Check out HowToSmile.org, a database of science and math activities (they list more than 2,000). Activities range from PK to high school and you can filter search results by grade, cost, time involved, and more.

Searching for early childhood (PK-K) and environmental topics, here are some of the great ideas I found:

  • Habitat Observation: this lesson provides discussion points for observing an animal and figuring out how it survives in its habitat (can be done indoors or outside)
  • Potato Battery: this one is a great demonstration for your study of energy. Make a clock run using a potato and use that experience to talk about other sources of energy!
  • Fruit Fly Trap: use an empty bottle to tap fruit flies and observe their life cycle (works best in warmer weather)
  • Ladybug Spots: this activity brings in art, science, and math to learn about symmetry in the wild
  • Bird Binoculars: if you’re taking a bird walk, make pretend binoculars with toilet paper rolls to help kids feel like serious bird watchers (you might allow one child to use a set of binoculars you purchased and the others can use their pretend binoculars while they wait). Don’t forget a field guide!

Check out HowToSmile – what other lesson ideas do you love?

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It’s almost the end of September and you’ve got your rules and routines in place in your classroom. What’s next? Planning a great field trip to get kids engaged in learning at a local park, zoo, or museum, for a different experience than the one they get in class!

Starting a school program in World Brooklyn

To help you plan, we would like to announce the 2011-2012 schedule of school programs at Brooklyn Children’s Museum. Programs are available for grades PK-8, focusing on either science or culture. The full list is available on our website, including instructions on how to register and cost.

Here are some highlighted programs for environmental and sustainable education:

  • Habitat Brooklyn: Amazing Arthropods (grades PK-1) — explore the amazing body structure of joint-legged creatures known as arthropods. Students conduct hands-on investigations of objects from the Museum’s collection and live specimens such as crabs, Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches, crickets, and more in the Neighborhood Nature exhibit.
  • Habitat Brooklyn: Urban Botanist (grades 2-4) — Leaves that ooze sticky glue, leaves that prick, leaves that snap shut or shy away from your touch — visit the museum greenhouse to learn about weird and wonderful ways plants have adapted to their environments. Learn what plants and animals need to grow and thrive, and build a snail habitat in the museum garden.
  • Habitat Brooklyn: Critter Comebacks (grades 5-6) — Wildlife is forced out of cities all the time, but with careful intervention, some species are starting to stage stunning comebacks in New York City.  Flex your advocacy and citizenship skills as you learn to protect salt marsh ecosystems, peregrine falcons, or horseshoe crabs.
  • Forces in Action: It’s Easy Being Green (grades 5+) — Get the inside scoop on how the first LEED-certified museum in NYC helps save energy and water. Students will enjoy an interactive scavenger hunt and activities where they learn that little steps can lead to a big difference for our environment. This program can easily be done with older students; we have had multiple high school groups come to learn about the Museum’s sustainable building.

Check out the full list of programs. We hope to see you this year at Brooklyn Children’s Museum!

Come and check out the museum! You can find us at the corner of St. Marks Ave and Brooklyn Ave in Crown Heights, Brooklyn

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