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What a fantastic question! New York City uses over one billion gallons of water every day. That essential water comes to us via aqueducts that connect us to two different watersheds – the Croton watershed just up the Hudson and the Catskill / Delaware Watershed Area further upstate.

(A watershed is all the land whose water feeds through tributaries into a given larger body of water, like a lake, river, or bay. Therefore, the Croton watershed is all the area whose water, including rain water and snow melt, eventually flows into the Croton River.)

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection is responsible for overseeing the quality of our water, including working with upstate authorities to keep our aqueducts full of clean water (emphasis on both full and clean).

If you’re explaining this to students, its a great idea to talk about what these upstate reservoirs are like. You most likely have students who have never been to another part of New York state. To help them envision the scene, read the first few pages of Water Dance by Thomas Locker. This beautifully illustrated book is set in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York, the  region where our water originates.

After reading Water Dance, have a conversation with students about what would happen if people took too much water from the lake for wasteful purposes – would rain replace every drop we took? Would it change the natural landscape shown in the book? Then, ask students what they might do to use only the water they need from the lakes and reservoirs upstate. Students who aware of the source of our water and understand that it is not, in fact, an unlimited resource are more likely to appreciate the need to conserve water.

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The team here at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum has been looking for the best nature guides to use with early childhood. The goal was a comprehensive guide, light enough to carry around, with limited text, and color photographs.

Yesterday, browsing at a local bookstore, I found them! Check out the Pocket Naturalist Guides from Waterford Press:

These guides are light (1 ounce each), foldable, and laminated for durability. As you can see, they have high color illustrations and basic information about each specimen below the picture. On the back of Central Park Wildlife is a map of Central Park, featuring where to go in Central Park to best look for the animals listed.

Some other guides you might really be interested in:

Urban Wildlife is general to the entire United States.

New York State Wildlife covers over 140 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, butterflies and fish. It is also the only of these guides found in the New York Public Library.

In addition to 140 plant species, New York State Trees & Wildlife includes a map of state botanical sanctuaries.

New York City Birds includes a map of all five boroughs with birding hotspots marked.

You may also be interested in New York State Birds, New York State Butterflies & Moths, Eastern Seashore Life, New Jersey Birds, New Jersey Trees and Wildflowers, New Jersey Butterflies and MothsDangerous Animals and Plants. For a full list of the Pocket Naturalist Guides, you can find them on Waterford Press’ website.

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