Posts Tagged ‘Queens’

Open House New York is a wonderful annual festival, featuring behind the scenes access to fascinating sites around New York City. This year, it’s October 15th and 16th, and the full schedule is now available. It’s a big weekend, full of amazing opportunities. Here are some of my favorites, for families and educators interested in sustainability:

  • Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, Sunday the 16th starting at 10am: Check out this farm, on a roof in Greenpoint! It’s a great example of sustainable urban design. (Family friendly)
  • Visitor Center at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, Saturday and Sunday all day: Learn about NYC’s water system and check out the nearby nature trail at this Greenpoint site. (Family friendly)
  • Water, Water Everywhere, Sunday the 16th at 1pm and 2:30pm:  A kid’s introduction to the water towers of New York City. Learn about and build your own water tower. (Family friendly, ages 4-10)
  • East River Waterfront Tour, Sunday the 16th at 3pm: Learn about the design behind this new park on the Manhattan side of the East River. (Family friendly)
  • Sun Works Center for Environmental Studies, Sunday the 16th all day: Check out this environmental education site on the Upper West Side. (Family friendly)
  • Fresh Kills by Bus, Saturday the 15th at 10am and 1pm: Once the largest landfill in the world, this new park is an sustainable masterpiece. Check out the future Staten Island park on this sneak peak bus tour. (Family friendly)
  • Queens County Farm Museum, Saturday and Sunday all day: Check out this awesome, functioning farm which, “brings agricultural history to life for our urban visitors and provides a direct tie to modern-day sustainable agricultural practices and quality foods.” (Family friendly)
  • New York Botanical Garden, Saturday and Sunday all day: Mention Open House New York for a free garden pass to this Bronx attraction. (Family friendly)
  • Rocking the Boat, Saturday the 15th from 12-5: Learn about this Bronx-based non-profit, which teaches boat building and ecology to high school students. (Family Friendly)
  • Bronx River Estuary Paddle, Saturday the 15th and Sunday the 16th at 11am:  Row the river and learn about “the river’s ecology, history and present human impacts and rehabilitation.”
  • Tour the Brooklyn Bridge Park, Saturday the 15th at 1pm and 3pm: Get a staff led tour of this amazing park. And while you’re there, check out…
  • Bike Share Demonstration in Brooklyn Bridge Park, Saturday the 15th, 11am-3pm: This is your chance for a sneak peak at the new bike share program coming to New York City.
  • Gowanus Canal Sponge Park, Saturday the 15th at 11am: The Gowanus Canal, a superfund toxic site, needs all the help it can get to be cleaned up. At this event, learn about the sponge park, which is being designed to remediate the canal and provide park access to the community.

Which events are you most excited about?

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Did you enjoy our earlier posts on Forever Wild sites and Jamaica Bay? If you can’t get enough of nature field trips in New York City, try the nature centers. Below are details about what you might experience in the park. Call 212-NEW-YORK to find out more or arrange a field trip to one of the nature centers.

  • Crotona Park Nature Center – Bronx: this park is home to a variety of tree species (28 in all) and a huge lake, home to turtles, ducks, and fish
  • Orchard Beach Nature Center – Bronx: located in Pelham Bay Park, this nature center offers a chance to view natural shorelines and search for osprey
  • Van Cortland Nature Center – Bronx: though small, this park’s freshwater wetland is ecologically valuable, providing a home for many plant and animal species
  • Audobon Center, Prospect Park – Brooklyn: currently, Prospect Park has had to suspend their school programs, but the park is still open for self-guided exploration

    Salt Marsh Nature Center

  • Salt Marsh Nature Center – Brooklyn: located in Marine Park, Brooklyn’s biggest park, the nature center presents opportunities to learn about marine flora and fauna, including horseshoe crabs and migratory birds
  • Visitors Center at Fort Greene Park – Brooklyn: see monarch butterflies in season! The park has been planted to attract migrating butterflies as they pass through New York City.
  • Belvedere Castle Visitor Center – Manhattan: in the middle of Central Park, the Henry Luce Nature Observatory in the castle provides interactive nature exhibits inside the castle as well as bird-watching kits, which can be used throughout the park.

    Belvedere Castle in Central Park

  • Dana Discovery Center – Manhattan: at the north end of Central Park, offers free education and community programs, seasonal exhibits and holiday celebrations
  • Inwood Hill Nature Center – Manhattan: look for geologic formations that show the landscape the Lenape would have inhabited more than 400 years ago
  • Alley Pond Adventure Center – Queens: features the first public high ropes adventure course, which is a low–cost outdoor education and adventure program
  • Alley Pond Environmental Center – Queens: showcases unique natural features, like freshwater and saltwater wetlands, tidal flats, meadows, and forests, which create a diverse ecosystem and support abundant bird life
  • Forest Park Visitor Center – Queens: here, you can attend an Urban Park Rangers event for an introduction to Forest Park’s geology, forestry, or animals
  • Fort Totten Visitors Center – Queens: during the winter, visit for the opportunity to see migrating waterfowl resting before heading back south

    Blue Heron Nature Center

  • Blue Heron Nature Center – Staten Island: a natural freshwater wetlands, where a wide variety of arts and educational programming is provided by the Urban Park Rangers and the Friends of Blue Heron,  including nature walks, classes, crafts, zoo animals, storytelling, and special holiday events.
  • High Rock Nature Center – Staten Island: this park is designed for walking or hiking; these walks will take you past five ponds, various wetlands, and a large variety of plants and animals

For more information about any of the nature centers listed above, click here.

Where have you been on field trips? Which nature centers did your class like?

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Speaking of wildlife in New York City, Jamaica Bay is an amazing place to study. It’s an estuary surrounding by Brooklyn, Queens, and a little bit of Nassau County. It is one of the largest tidal wetlands in the United States. Jamaica Bay is a fascinating ecosystem, full of biodiversity, which is having a variety of plant and animal species. In addition to salt marsh, grasslands, coastal woodlands, maritime shrublands and brackish and freshwater wetlands, Jamaica Bay is home to mammals, reptiles, insects, 91 different species of fish and 325 species of birds!

All of that information came from the Jamaica Bay Education Resource Directory, online at http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/pdf/jamaica_bay/jamaica_bay_ed_resource_directory_final.pdf. This comprehensive guide will give the curious teacher lots of thoughts of what to do next. Read the entire guide, or you can consider these suggestions.

Students learn about horseshoe crabs on a field trip to Jamaica Bay.

Field trips:

Here, you have lots of options. Two of the most interesting are guided field trips focused on exploring the natural landscape of Jamaica Bay. You can either go to Marine Park in Brooklyn, which is run by the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation. Call 212-NEW-YORK to speak to an Urban Park Ranger and arrange a visit with your class. Or, you can attend the Gateway National Recreation Area, which is run by the National Park Service. Gateway also comprises parks in Staten Island and New Jersey. For information on field trips, check out their website: http://www.nps.gov/gate/forteachers/planafieldtrip.htm. Whether self-guided or ranger guided, teachers must attend a professional development session first, enabling them to best link Jamaica Bay to their classroom. More field trip ideas can be found in the resource directory.


Check out Horseshoe Crabs and Shorebirds: The Story of a Food Web by Victoria Crenson. It is set in the Delaware Bay, but the food web and ecosystem described also applies to Jamaica Bay.

For a great, rhyming introduction to salt marshes, check out A Day in the Salt Marsh by Kevin Kurtz. The book will get students ready to think about all the different life forms in a salt marsh, and there are lots of teacher ideas at the end.

There are many more excellent books listed in the resource directory above.

Brooklyn Children’s Museum:

Don’t forget that we have an indoor beach at the museum, perfect for cold, winter days. There’s a dock tank, a sand play area, an investigation of horseshoe crabs, shells to examine, and a touch tank. Most of the creatures in our touch tank come right from Jamaica Bay. We usually have local horseshoe crab, hermit crabs, mud snails, mussels, and clams as well as sea stars, brittle stars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, larger snails and sea anemones from farther away.

Inside the touch tank at the Brooklyn Children's Museum. The hermit crab and mussels were collected in Jamaica Bay. Note that the mussel in the foreground has its shell open!

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Nature is all around you, even here in New York City. Every plant, animal, body of water, or rock formation is an instance of nature. Some “natural” places have been altered (like Central Park, landscaped by Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux), yet they still have numerous natural features.

But fine… you want pristine natural formations like you might find upstate? You got it. New York City is also home to 51 “Forever Wild Nature Preserves,” places essentially untouched by human beings. Some are so untouched, in fact, that you can’t visit them, but others do make for great field trip spots.

Check out the following, one in each of the five buroughs:

Students participate in a citizen science program with an Urban Park Ranger.

At these and many other parks throughout the city, programs are led by Urban Park Rangers. Follow the link to find out more, including links to nature cameras and more.

For field trip information, go to the website of the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation or call 212-NEW-YORK to schedule a trip.

*** If you’re curious, here’s the full list of 51 Forever Wild sites.

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Growing food in a classroom is great, but it’s also wonderful to go to a farm and see lots of food being grown. Students start to link plants to the food on their plate. Learning about where food comes from will also prepare students to learn about food transportation and related sustainability issues as they grow older.

There are actually lots of farms in New York City and fall is a great time for a visit, enabling students to learn about harvest. Check out these farms, both contemporary and historic, throughout New York City. All of them offer field trip options; farms marked in bold type offer field trips to all grades, including early childhood.

Of course, if you don’t teach in one of these neighborhoods, another option is to find your closest community garden and arrange a visit there. One way to find a local garden is to use the Green Apple Map. Click the link, zoom in to your neighborhood, and find out where a local community garden is located: http://www.greenapplemap.org/. Additionally, to find information about and resources for community gardening, see Green Thumb: http://www.greenthumbnyc.org/. Oasis NYC also has a comprehensive listing of community gardening resources: http://www.oasisnyc.net/garden/resources.aspx

One of many community gardens in Brooklyn

And don’t forget farmer’s markets! Try arranging a field trip to one and give students a chance to talk to the farmers who come from just outside the city to supply New Yorkers with fresh food. For more information, check out: http://www.nyfarmersmarket.com/  or http://www.grownyc.org/greenmarket/ourfarmers

Do you know of other farm or garden resources we forgot? Please share!

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