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Are you looking for ways to re-invigorate your teaching? There are lots of great options for professional development this winter! Check out these workshops that will help you add a sustainable focus to your classroom:

Environmental Explorations NYC at Van Cortlandt Park

This program uses hands-on activities to bring NYC’s local outdoor resources and nature into the classroom and enhance classroom learning. Materials covered include Project WILD, Project WET, Project Learning Tree and more, in addition to introducing teachers to local environmental resources. Teachers will be provided with new strategies for introducing environmental topics in connection with math, literacy, and art, fostering student leadership and developing higher order thinking skills.

The program is from February 20 to February 25, 2012. To register, visit the After School Professional Development’s website at http://schools.nyc.gov/Teachers/aspdp and view their spring course catalog. With questions, contact Sara Kempton, Friends of Van Cortlandt Park, 718-601-1553 or sara@vancortlandt.org.

Creative Infusion: The Art of Reuse at Materials for the Arts

Materials for the Arts is an amazing warehouse of art supplies in Queens. This course, which offers P-credits, gives you access to the warehouse and teaches you how to problem solve through reuse and how to create games, books, costumes and sets, puppets, and mosaics. The course incorporates literacy and math into activities. The program takes place over 6 Saturdays. For details and information about registration and fees, check out their website.

Other opportunities:

Do you know of any other great professional development for teachers in New York City?

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If you are teaching about recycling and other forms of waste management, check out the PBS Website, which has numerous ideas for educators and parents teaching kids about waste management.

Here are some ideas you will find there:

Zoom has instructions for making your own recycled paper using simple materials. There’s nothing like a good science project to help kids really understand that an old product can be made into a new one!

For younger learners, you can start with a litter campaign. Before kids can understand trash and recycling, litter is a starting point for thinking about the idea that used items have to be gotten rid of.

Eeko World’s Garbage and Recycling page takes students through an animated waste tour. The video is long, but kid-friendly, comprehensive, and detailed. There’s a great accompanying lesson plan to sort trash from recyclables including math extensions.

For these ideas and more, check out the PBS Teachers page on recycling!

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Do you teach 5th grade? The New York State Department of Conservation has an annual Arbor Day contest, looking for the best Arbor Day Poster. The theme for this year’s contest is Trees Are Terrific in All Shapes and Sizes. Here’s last year’s winner:

All contest entries are due by January 12, 2012 so they can be judged and the winner announced before Arbor Day, which is April 27, 2012.

Check out the contest website for full rules and details as well as lesson ideas for your 5th grade class, tying into mathematics, science, and arts standards. You can also see winning posters for past years.

What amazing art will your students come up with?

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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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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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Before teaching science, I taught math. Today’s post, therefore, is dedicated to those of you who teach math and want your curriculum to have a real-life connection.

The botanical garden at UC Berkeley, along with the Lawrence Hall of Science, has developed a great resource called Math in the Garden to do exactly that: teach math outdoors, in the context of a garden. To learn more, go to their sample page. There, you will find a standards chart and two sample activities. The Hand Span activity looks great for early learners who are just starting to begin study of measurement. The standards chart breaks down the activities by age, math topic, and science topic.

Then, today when I was searching for the link to Math in the Garden, I found an about.com page with information about other math in the garden activities you might do with students of varying ages, designed to help parents who are homeschooling. I have not read all of the activities, but I loved the link to Vegetable Garden, a conceptual problem designed for early fractions practice. Find the full page here.

What other math resources are you familiar with that link the mathematics standards to nature and sustainability?

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