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Posts Tagged ‘wild’

Can’t get enough of parks? In addition to all those nature centers in city parks mentioned in an earlier post as well as a post on Jamaica Bay, here are profiles two more local parks and information about field trips.

A footbridge over the saltmarshes at Randall's Island

What other local parks are we forgetting? What’s your favorite park in New York City and why?

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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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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.

Books:

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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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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