Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

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Last week a bright and curious group of kids from the Garden of Dreams Foundation visited the museum. They were joined by some special guest stars from the New York Liberty women’s basketball team and together, we explored solar energy in celebration of the WNBA’s Green Week!

We began our energy investigation by discussing  what makes a building “green”, taking a look at the museum’s solar panels, and observing our solar power Green Threads exhibit. In just a few minutes, our energy experts were able to identify the pros and cons of solar energy. We don’t pollute as much by burning fossil fuels, but how do we produce energy on a cloudy day? The kids observed from our solar exhibit that there is much less electricity output on a cloudy day,  when there’s heavy smog, and at night.

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So they can become future solar energy experts and solve these conundrums, we wanted to give these kids a grasp on electrical circuitry, how electrons move from one place to another. We created our first circuit by joining hands in a circle and having two people in the circle each touch a finger to an electrode on the energy ball. The ball blinks and buzzes when the circuit is complete. The kids discovered how they could create a “switch” by unlinking hands anywhere in the circle and breaking the circuit. They especially enjoyed quick paced high fives that made for a silly sound pattern as the energy ball sputtered and buzzed.

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Our energy students then worked to build their own circuits with a battery as their power source. They knew the materials they would need- a socket, a light bulb, and wires. After fiddling with different wire combinations- Wa La! The light bulbs lit up one by one. For a bigger challenge, the teams tried to make their circuits larger by adding conductive materials. They tested brass buttons, felt, paper clips and beads to see which materials stopped electrons in their tracks and which allowed electrons to flow through.

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After the kids had great circuit success, we moved outside with some portable solar panels to see if we could have the same success with a renewable power source. At first, the sun was blocked by some ominous rain clouds. It had been a cloudy afternoon and we were worried the kids would leave with a skeptical view of solar energy. Our Liberty ladies encourages all the kids to wave their hands and try to blow the clouds away. At last, the sun peaked out from a clouds and our mini machines, propelors in this case, started spinning. With a little patience and help from our very tall guest stars, they harnessed the sun!

Photos provided by MSG Photos.”

These solar circuitry kits are a great investment that you can use again and again. We’d love to hear about any energy experiments you do in your classroom!

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Have you spotted any of the haiku traffic signs that have been placed around the city’s five boroughs? The next time you visit the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, check out the sign on our corner – Brooklyn Ave and St. Marks. The New York City Department of Transportation collaborated with artist John Morse in this creative project to get people to think twice about their fragile skin and bones before making any rash moves on our busy city streets.

This project ties together social and environmental aspects of sustainability. One of the biggest disincentives to commuting via bike is the risk of injury. Swerving around parked cars, avoiding car doors, and riding inches from speeding vehicles are all part of the daily life of a bike commuter, but biking in the city also leads to cleaner air and healthier urbanites. These cautionary words and images aim to lower the safety risks by reminding pedestrians, cyclists and drivers to wake up and slow down. Plus, they add some poetry to our street corners and art can be just as important as clean air in creating a vibrant, sustainable community.

Haikus are a great introductory form of poetry for first-time poets. Have kids clap out the syllables of these signs and see if they can figure out the haiku form for themselves. Challenge them to write their own “green street” haiku. What do they want to see on the city streets and can they express it in 17 syllables? We’d love to hear the haikus they come up with!

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Last week, we introduced you to our “It’s Easy Being Green” program with the Farm to Table card game. Students also play another exciting green game in this program, a recycling relay race. New York City produces 14 million tons of waste and recyclables every year and nearly half of that gets recycled. We can do better!  PlaNYC’s goal is for us to divert 75% of our trash from landfills by 2030.

Every household, business, and school in the city is required to recycle by law. The city usually picks up recycling once a week from your curb. You can look up your pick-up day here. Now, it’s just time to sort…an activity that isn’t always as intuitive as you’d think.

For our recycling challenge, we split kids into two teams and give each team three bins: Paper & Cardboard/ Glass, Metal & Plastic/Trash.  Each group gets a bag full of mixed (clean) trash and recyclables. Each child in the group studies the NYC handy dandy recycling fridge magnet and then sorts one waste item into a bin. To make this activity more exciting, each student must wait until the previous student places their item and returns to their seat before they can place their own item in the proper bin. The two teams race to the finish, but of course, it’s a race of accuracy rather than speed. We then go through each bin item by item. If an opposing team thinks an item has been placed incorrectly, they can hold up a hand and say “I Object!”. We talk through the  discrepancy and make sure the item makes it to the proper bin.

Are you recycling savvy? Take our little quiz to find out!

Q 1: Where would you put a yogurt container? 

Yogurt containers can’t be recycled- only 1 & 2 plastic bottles and jugs can be recycled. What if it has a 1 or 2 on it but isn’t a bottle or jug? Nope, won’t work. The plastic in 1 & 2 take-out containers, soup containers, or cups  can’t be melted down with 1 & 2 bottles & jugs. Tricky stuff! Read more on plastics here.

Q2: Does it matter if your recyclables are gunky? 

Yes! Rinse your items before you throw them in the bin. If your recyclables are too gunky, the may be considered “contaminated” and not recycled.

Q3: Do you have to put your recyclables in a clear bag, won’t a black bag do?

When you place your recyclables on the curb, they need to be in a clear plastic bag OR tossed in a bin labeled with an NYC Recycling sticker (but no black bags) . Fill out this form to request recycling decals for your bins.

Q4: Can lids be recycled? 

Recycle metal lids, but toss the plastic ones.

If you ever have a question about any item, NYC WasteLess has an awesome search bar. Enter any item, and it’ll tell you how to dispose of it properly.

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Last month, we got kids thinking about where their trash ends up with Trash Talk and Loop Scoops. But let’s start at the beginning. Where does our food come from? How many places does the slice of cheese on our burger see before it ends up on our plate?

At Brooklyn Children’s Museum, we teach a program for school groups called, “It’s Easy Being Green.” We cover topics like proper recycling, energy efficiency, and sustainable food choices. The food activity splits kids into groups; each group is responsible for piecing together the life cycle of one ingredient on a burger. They’re given cards that each represent one phase in, for instance, the journey of a slice of cheese. Take a look:

The journey starts here at “Sunset Farm”. But why are we starting on a corn field if we’re trying to get to a slice of cheese? 

To feed the cows! Unfortunately, most cows in the US are fed corn rather than the tasty grass that their stomachs were built to digest. The cow’s milk then has to be transported to the cheese factory. That’s two big truck rides so far for one slice of cheese!

The cheese then gets stored in a large warehouse with other grocery goods. 

A truck picks up the cheese from the warehouse and takes it to the grocery store where it’s stocked on shelves and finally awaits your purchase.

Your cheeseburger can now be assembled and enjoyed! And now what? What about the packaging your cheese slice came wrapped up in? What about all your other food scraps? Where do they end up? 

Most of the time, they end up in a landfill.

Now, here’s the challenge: After students have pieced together the journey of their cheese (there are twenty cards or steps for the cheese alone!) they have to figure out how to remove pieces of the production-distribution-consumption-waste system to make the whole thing more sustainable. How can we get this slice of cheese to travel less? This activity can lead to great discussions on Farmer’s Markets, local food, and composting.

Want to try this activity with your class? Email GoGreen[at]Brooklynkids.org for a PDF version of the full set of Hamburger life cycle cards!

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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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One way to have less smoggy and polluted days in our future is to get our next generation of engineers, designers, and educators interested in renewable energy sources like wind. Check out this beautiful Wind Map that shows how much wind power there is at any given hour in the U.S.

Take your students outside to observe the wind! Kidswind.org offers some fun experiments for engaging kids with wind energy. See the Wind begins with a sturdy kite or large helium balloon, some streamers, and a windy day. Attach the streamers at 3 meter intervals along your kite or balloon string. Fly your kite! Students can observe and compare how the streamers close to the ground behave compared to the streamers high up near the kite. Is the wind stronger, smoother, or faster at different elevations? Why do the streamers behave differently? What does this mean for wind power?

Have your students all lay flat on the ground. Can they feel the wind? Now, what changes when they find someplace higher up to stand, like a bridge on the play ground?

How do we harness this plentiful wind?! Stay tuned for pinwheel and Wind Turbine projects.

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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.


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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