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Posts Tagged ‘plants’

This week, we’ve discovered another reason Brock microscopes are so awesome. With no plug to worry about, you can take them outside! We had our after school kid’s crew students pluck specimens from the garden to observe up close. Take a look at our kids’ eye view of some Hinoki False Cypress.

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This spring at Brooklyn Children’s Museum, we’ve guided our 2nd and 3rd grade after school kids in their first gardening adventures. Each student got a 2 x 2′ plot to call their own. They removed the weeds, turned the soil, seeded, watered, and after about a week, sprouts began to grow!

Some students seeded with extra enthusiasm and ended up with beautiful, super crowded plots. We told our lil gardeners to choose their most thriving plants and give them room to grow. They plucked out all the sprouts closely surrounding their star specimens. They could either replant the spouts in an empty space or enjoy them as a tasty treat!

After about six weeks of watering and waiting, the kids’ gardens did look quite lush…a little too lush. We discovered common ragweed and crabgrass encroaching on a good chunk of their plots! Did you know that there are an estimated 100,000 dormant seeds in every square meter of arable ground?These native, annual weeds spread thousands and thousands of seeds in their spring-to-winter growing season in hopes that a relatively few will take root.* The kids enjoyed pulling out these pesky plants and reseeding their plots with cinnamon and lime basil seeds.

What challenges will these new gardeners face next? Tune in to follow their progress!

* The “Eastern Forests” Peterson Field Guide by John Kricher and Gordon Morrison offers awesome, concise but thorough paragraphs on common New York plants, animals, and all things ecology. We’re bound to be citing Kricher’s tidbits again and again.

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In our last post, we started thinking about where our food comes from. Here are a few food ingredients whose plant source might surprise you!

Vanilla comes from the seeds of a vanilla orchid.

Cinnamon comes from the bark of a tree native to Southeast Asia.

Black pepper comes from the seeds of a woody vine  in the rainforest.

Ask your students to write down their favorite meal. Then see how many ingredients they can name. Which ingredients come from plants?  See if they can take it one step further and name the plant sources of all those ingredients. This could be an excellent research project. Have students report back on their most surprising findings. (The fungi and minerals in our food might throw them for a loop!) Students could even compose a collage of all the plants in their favorite meal.  An example of tracing an ingredient to its plant source might go something like this:  Burger to Beef Patty to Cow to Corn Plant.

This food investigation could go in many directions and offer some unique teaching moments.  How do they know what the cow in their beef patty ate? Students might get stuck on the multisyllabic chemical ingredients in some of their favorite processed foods. Do chemical foods offer the same nutrients and plant foods? What exactly are “artificial flavors”?

We’d love to hear where this food activity takes your class!

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Here’s a sustainability epiphany that many kids may be surprised by. Almost all food either comes from plants or the animals that eat plants! It’s easy to look at a carrot or an orange and understand that it came directly from a plant, but what about candy, cheese burgers, or pancakes? It can be hard to make the seed-to-plate connection when your food doesn’t seem to have much to do with a garden or a farm.

Eric Carle’s book “Pancakes, Pancakes!” could be a great tool for little ones starting to think about where their food comes from. Of course, the beautifully crafted pictures in this book offer a nostalgically outdated version of our food system (think pitchforks and red barns vs. combined animal feeding operations and genetically modified seeds), but the book succeeds in getting the wheels turning regarding how much nature goes into a simple meal.

“Pancakes, Pancakes!” follows a young boy on a farm as he follows his mother’s request to track down all the ingredients needed to make his yummy breakfast.

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Earth day is this Sunday! The Brooklyn Children’s Museum will be exploring the outdoors by taking a close look at seeds and how they get around. It’s a little early in the season to experience the full range of seed dispersal methods outside but if you take your class on a nature walk, you may encounter:

Giant clumps of Elm Tree seeds covering the ground.

Big white poufs of dandelions.

The beginnings of cherry tree fruits.

Can your students guess how the seeds they encounter get around? Do they flutter to the ground or float on a breeze? Will an animal eat them, bury them, or shake them off their fur? Could they bob down a river or on an ocean currant (bring in a coconut as a great example of a floating seed!)?

“Baby seeds” need to get away from the parent plant to begin growing. They need their own supply of space, nutrients, water, and sunshine. The shady soil directly under a tree is not ideal.

On Sunday, we’ll be making our own paper seed dispersal mechanisms based on the awesome helicopter-like Maple Tree samaras. How far will they fly?

Your class could also collect the seeds they find outside, pot them up, and see if they begin to grow!

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This week at the Museum, we have a plethora of sustainability themed programming all leading up to our Earth Day celebration next weekend.

Throughout the week, there will be eco-art projects for all ages where kids can use recycled materials to make beautiful sculptures.

On Wednesday, explore our geothermal exhibit and experiment with water, hoses, and coils to learn how we use the temperature of the earth under the museum to heat or cool our building!


Visit Thursday to learn why Bamboo is a sustainable choice for floors, furniture, and even clothes. Come down to the Greenhouse to make your own Bamboo cutting to take home!

Visit Friday to learn how dams can damage ecosystems by rerouting natural waterways. Build your own dam in Neighborhood Nature.

Enjoy our special Live Animal Encounters throughout the week. We’ll be focusing of native critters, endangered animals, and invasive species.

We also have a very special Animal Encounter next Saturday. Drop by the garden and meet the chickens of BK Farmyards! These soft red beauties will eat greens out of your hand or sit in your lap if you dare!

Check out our full Calendar of Events.

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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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Sure! New York may be a concrete jungle, but it’s also home to forests, ponds, rivers, beaches, estuaries, bays, the ocean, and all the animals and plants that go along with those natural formations.

Don’t believe us? A great resource for learning more is Wild New York: A Guide to the Wildlife, Wild Places and Natural Phenomena of New York City by Margaret Mittelbach. This book will make you look at New York City is a whole new light. It’s a great pre-reading book for the teacher looking to incorporate more local nature into his or her classroom.

Students will enjoy Go Wild in New York City by Brad Matsen. The reading level is closer to 5th grade, but it is an excellently photographed book with images of urban wildlife in New York.

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These two books are a great starting point for urban nature investigation. If you would like more such books, check out the following:

  • Take a City Nature Walk by Jane Kirkland / Great resource for teachers who want to lead a class nature walk
  • Backyard Detective: Critters Up Close by Nic Bishop / Grades K-4, explore who lives in your backyard with pictures and names, includes an excellent pictographic index to help pre-literate students develop early literacy
  • Angell’s Animals: Wild Friends In An Urban World by Madeline Angell / Mostly about birds, short stories from the author’s encounters with urban animals
  • City Kids and City Critters! by The Houston Arboretum & Nature Center, Janet W. Roberts, and Carole Huelbig / Ages 9-12, suggested activities based on years of experience in the Houston area
  • Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City by Eric W. Sanderson / For the curious teacher
  • Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City by Leslie Day / Designed for adults, a great classroom resource; comes with an amazing map of “forever wild” sites comes along with the book
  • Central Park Wildlife: An Introduction to Familiar Species Found in New York City’s Central Park (A Pocket Naturalist Guide) by James Kavanagh / Great for planning a field trip to Central Park (and in other parts of the city) as it covers many species
  • Peterson First Guide to Urban Wildlife by Sarah B. Landry / A simple introduction for kids to a variety of species that may be found in urban areas
  • City at the Water’s Edge: A Natural History of New York by Betsy McCully / Highly readable, background knowledge for adults
  • Woodlands, Wetlands, & Wildlife by Marianne O’Hea Anderson / Beautifully photographed guide to NYC parks, with a focus on the wilder parks

What other books would you recommend?

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Did you enjoy the underwater hornwart experiment to show photosynthesis? Here are some ideas of experiments to do with a geranium, which you should be able to buy for about $3 at a local plant store. (Other plants will work, too; we picked geraniums because they are inexpensive and large enough for little eyes to see.)

Materials: potted plant, construction paper, small paint brushes

  1. Start by just observing the plant. What do you see? What parts does it have? What are those parts designed to do?
  2. Cover both sides of a leaf with construction paper to block the light for two weeks and watch how the leaf turns white as it can’t make food. The construction paper is preventing the chlorophyll in the leaves from absorbing the sun’s energy. This demonstration will help students understand that a plant does, in fact, need the sun.
  3. Feel the fuzzy leaves and hypothesize about why a plant would want fuzzy leaves (it helps keep water droplets off the pores of the leaf and allows it to “breathe” or transpire).
  4. During the spring, look for pollen in the flowers. Take a paint brush and use it to pick up the visible pollen on the stamen, or male reproductive organ of a plant. Then, dust the pollen from the paintbrush to the stigma, or female reproductive organ of the plant (see pictures below). Once the plant has been pollinated, seeds will form! Notice how the seeds curl out of the seed pods after the flowers have dropped off. Later, you can blow the seeds in the wind and notice how their long tails catch the breeze. Where are the seeds going?

What other experiments would you do with a plant to learn more about its parts?

The stamen is where pollen comes from. All of those small yellow dots are pollen.

The stigma receives pollen. Pollen causes pollination, when the egg of the plant develops into a seed.

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Does the word photosynthesis bring back painful memories of trying to memorize the Krebs cycle? It doesn’t have to! Even the youngest learner can see plants exhaling with this simple underwater experiment

Materials: A clear, glass bowl of water (or a small aquarium), a glass jar, an underwater water plant such as hornwort (purchase at your local pet store or anywhere fish supplies are sold)

Procedure:

  • Place the plant in a deep bowl of water. The water should cover the plant.
  • Place the glass jar over the plant, trapping it. The glass jar should be completely full of water. To do so, lower the glass jar on its side into the bowl, letting all the trapped air bubbles escape, and then tip it to cover the plant.
  • Leave the plant in a sunny place and watch what happens.
  • You will notice that bubbles will rise from the plant and eventually there will be a pocket of oxygen that gathers at the top of the jar where there used to be water.
  • Explain to students that, just like all trees and plants, the hornwort’s leaves takes the sun’s light and carbon dioxide and turns it into food for the plant. At the end of this process, the plant produces oxygen, which is what human beings breathe in. You cannot see the oxygen leaving all plants because oxygen just mixes into the air, but since this plant is underwater, you can see the process called photosynthesis at work!

The full concept of photosynthesis won’t be taught until high school, but even young learners can understand that plants breathe out oxygen with this great activity.

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