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Posts Tagged ‘trees’

Last Tuesday marked the official first day of spring. Happy Spring everybody! We’ve been talking about air quality and what better way to celebrate springtime and fresh air than a lesson on New York City trees.

MillionTreesNYC is a project that aims to plant a million new trees throughout the 5 boroughs within a decade, and the participation of New York City public schools is essential to attaining their ambitious goal!

They offer a huge range of programs and curricula for all grade levels. School programs range from year-long green surveying and planting projects to one-day school-wide assemblies to short 15 minute lesson plans for all grade levels.

Bette Midler formally beginning the MillionTrees campaign by planting a Caroline Silverbell in 2007.

Check out the great Kids Section where you can find a fun tree quiz and a leaf ID game to help your students familiarize themselves with common New York city  trees. Take a walk around the neighborhood  and take a tree survey! If you find a tree pit that’s missing a tree, MillionTrees can guide you through the process of acquiring, planting, and caring for your school’s new tree.

Earth Day is coming up on April 22nd.  Spending a day planting trees would be an excellent way to celebrate!

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It’s the time for pine. If you celebrate Christmas or happen to love evergreens, you probably have a fantastic tree in your home right now…  so what do you do when the needles fall off and the whole thing turns brown?

Mulch shredded yard waste

Shredded used wood is called mulch

Mulch it!

Like composting, mulching takes organic waste and turns it into something useful, keeping waste out of the landfill, which is always good.

Every year, New York City collects used Christmas trees and turns them into mulch. Mulch is a layer of protective wood chips placed in garden beds to prevent weeds, keep moisture in the soil, and reduce garden erosion.

Gardenology.org-IMG 2515 ucla09

Mulch helped this plant grow

In other words, your no longer wanted Christmas tree will be turned into a very useful product for gardeners. Mulching your tree is one form of waste management, like reducing, composting, and recycling. Rather than ending up in a landfill, you can turn your tree into mulch.

Join the fun by bringing your tree to a participating location on January 7th or January 8th, 2012. Check out the MulchFest website for a full list of drop-off locations. There are 70 locations throughout the five boroughs. At half of those locations, you can take the mulch home with you for use in your garden!

… and if you’re dropping a tree off at Brower Park, swing by the Brooklyn Children’s Museum next door and say hi!

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Earlier, we mentioned available grants for watershed education projects. In addition to those, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection is offering grants specifically for watershed forestry bus tours. Grants are available to cover day and overnight programs.

According to their website, grants are available to schools for 4-12th grade student trips, colleges and universities, youth groups, and other organizations within New York City or the Catskill/Delaware and Croton watersheds. Applications are due by January 15, 2012, so if you have an idea, find out more on the DEP’s website.

The after school program here at Brooklyn Children's Museum did a tree survey recently; what would you do with a forest field trip?

Tomorrow, we’re back to the idea of waste management with a post about what do with an extra evergreen tree you may have laying around your house.

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In addition to all the birds we mentioned yesterday, there are numerous plant and animal species here in New York City. One resource for finding out more about each one is the online field guide at eNature called ZipGuides.

You go the ZipGuides website, type in your zip code or region, and up pops a list of birds, butterflies, mammals, reptiles/amphibians, trees, and wildflowers in your neighborhood. So it doesn’t cover every single natural category, but it is quite comprehensive. Here’s what we found near the Brooklyn Children’s Museum:

What species of plants and animals will you find living near you?

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So, last week we introduced you to Greta. This week, we’ve mentioned the amazing culture gardens and mural she worked on this spring and summer. Today, we want to share with you Greta’s latest science project.

Greta has her own blog, Brooklyn Greenhouse, that she uses to talk about what’s new in the greenhouse and garden as well as awesome things that kids say and do. Last week she wrote and fascinating entry about the red leaves of the Japanese Maple.

Greta is teaching the 2nd and 3rd graders all about plants throughout the seasons, and Greta did some research and discovered that… red leaves are an ongoing scientific mystery! There are many theories about why leaves turn red, so Greta and the students are doing an experiment to test one of the theories.

Want to find out more about leaves and this interesting red leaf theory? For more information about leaves, yellow and orange leaves, and the fascinating theory about red leaves, check out this entry on Greta’s blog!

And once you’ve learned all about the science of leaves, you can return to our fall favorite, The Little Yellow Leaf (with a guest appearance from a red leaf!).

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Study of seasons is an important part of learning about growth and change. Why not take a fall tree walk to observe the colors change before it gets too cold to walk around outside?

To prepare, read a seasonal book like The Little Yellow Leaf. Then, take a walk around the block or to a local park. Have students observe the trees and pick three leaves off the ground (loose plant parts are fair game for picking up).

Back in the classroom, there are lots of things these leaves could be used for. You could do sorting activities with them. The leaves could be used to talk about symmetry. You could have students draw the leaves from observation or design their own imaginary leaf. Students could practice writing words, sentences, or paragraphs about them.

Another option, of course, is to learn the names of the trees each leaf came from. A great book for this purpose is New York City Trees by Edward Sibley Barnard. The book covers 125 local species of trees with full color photographs, suggestions on great tree walks, and information about historic trees (the book even covers NJ, Long Island, and Westchester County). The book is also durable enough for outdoor or child use.

Tree Finder: A Manual for Identification of Trees by their Leaves (Eastern US) by May Theilgaard Watts is an option for older kids or for teacher reference. This very handy book is a dichotomous key to trees. Dichotomous keys work like a “choose your own adventure book.” The key asks questions with two possible answers (e.g., is the leaf tip pointed or blunt?) and then tells you where to turn. Once all possible questions have been asked, you will know by the leaf which tree it came from. This kind of intricate observation is too complicated for very young kids, but would be great with very curious older elementary students or for teacher reference when planning observation.

Have fun outside! Enjoy the crisp fall while you can.

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A great starting point for preparing students to be conservationists is The Lorax by Dr. Seuss.

This book tells the story of the Once-ler, who chops down all the Truffula Trees, and the Lorax, who tries to prevent their destruction. “I am the Lorax,” he says, “I speak for the trees.”

I have read the book many times since I was a child, and it really does speak to every age. The Lorax will get students to think about resource depletion and conservation, taking the perspective of the Lorax who protects the trees even when no one else will.

After reading the book, ask students what resources they need to live and to try to imagine a world without those things.  Perhaps they have lived in or visited places where there was not enough clean water; what was that like? Explain to them that a conservationist, like the Lorax, is someone who protects natural resources and that if enough of the people in the world become conservationists, they can work together to take care of plants, animals, and other natural resources.

Also, if movies help get your kids excited, The Lorax will soon be an animated film (with a promising cast of voice actors).

For more ideas on conservation, check out Brooklyn Children’s Museum’s educator’s guide, My Green Community.

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Have you been to Wave Hill? This wonderful garden and cultural center in the Bronx overlooks the Hudson River. It’s a great place to take a class; their programs go from grades PK-6 and feature topics such as seeds, birds, and trees.

On top of that, the site offers professional development, many sessions for free. The Outdoor Classroom, for example, trains teachers to incorporate Wave Hill into their curriculum. This session is being offered Tuesday, November 8th from 10am-noon. It will be offered again on April 12, 2012.

For a full list of school programs as well as inexpensive professional development options (some for credit), check out their website. It really is a wonderful site and a great one for young learners!

PS: Don’t forget. We have our own professional development at Brooklyn Children’s Museum next week on green communities!

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So, why all these recent posts about composting? Here are some reasons you might teach about decay or compost in your classroom:

  • Study of decay is great for the scientific method. Get students to ask what will happen and why, then observe, and record. Try out different decay conditions – how is decomposition affected by light, water, air?
  • It links to your science curriculum. In New York City, you could teach about decay in the context of seasonal trees (kindergarten), worm anatomy (1st grade), soil (2nd grade), plant and animal adaptations (3rd grade), etc…
  • Proper compost is used to grow new food. Teaching about compost and its role in agriculture supplements study of nutrition and gets kids involved in their food production, which in turn helps them eat healthier.
  • It prepares students to be act sustainably. Recycling is dandy, but is not the full solution to waste management. Compost eliminates organic waste from landfills, reducing their volume, and at the same time provides a free fertilizer for soil. Compost is thus a great use of resources.

These are some reasons to teach about compost. What would you add?

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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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