Landfill Bill

If you have been teaching about waste management and would like a fun game to help kids understand, check out Landfill Bill!

Landfill Bill is a very simple game where waste materials come down the conveyor belt and Bill has to throw them to the correct bin: glass, plastic, paper, or metal. It is a surprisingly addictive yet very simple game. After students play it, here are some talking points:

  • Were any of the items coming down the conveyor belt trash? (no)
  • Were you surprised by any of the items that Bill recycled? Do you usually put those items in the trash? What could you do with them next time?
  • What happens if Bill didn’t recycle fast enough? (the items ended up in the landfill)
  • What happens when the landfill gets too full? (the game ends; there is no more space for any kind of waste)

While the game does not make this explicit, the whole point of recycling is to find a better use for waste than the landfill. Proper recycling keeps items out of the landfill, extending their life, and reducing the need for new landfills. Playing Landfill Bill is an engaging way to introduce that idea to your students!

PBS Kids and Teachers Recycling (and more)

If you are teaching about recycling and other forms of waste management, check out the PBS Website, which has numerous ideas for educators and parents teaching kids about waste management.

Here are some ideas you will find there:

Zoom has instructions for making your own recycled paper using simple materials. There’s nothing like a good science project to help kids really understand that an old product can be made into a new one!

For younger learners, you can start with a litter campaign. Before kids can understand trash and recycling, litter is a starting point for thinking about the idea that used items have to be gotten rid of.

Eeko World’s Garbage and Recycling page takes students through an animated waste tour. The video is long, but kid-friendly, comprehensive, and detailed. There’s a great accompanying lesson plan to sort trash from recyclables including math extensions.

For these ideas and more, check out the PBS Teachers page on recycling!

Recycle: What’s it all about?

We have talked about reducing your waste, reusing waste, composting and mulching… what’s left?

Recycling!

As we’ve pointed out before, recycling is a sustainable buzzword. But too often kids (and their adults) learn very little about the mechanics of recycling. So that is going to be our focus for the next few days.

If you’re teaching kids about recycling, start with a video. Here in New York City, the Department of Sanitation contracts recycling to certain companies. Pratt Industries is one such company – they buy half of New York City’s paper and take it to a factory on Staten Island, where it is turned into cardboard boxes.

Check out this video from Pratt Industries to see the process in action. The video is hosted on Vimeo, which mean you can watch it in your classroom.

When kids see the process of recycling, they better understand the concept – taking waste and turning into something new. Watching this video will take recycling from a buzzword to a concept that kids can relate to and understand.

ZipGuides

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?

NYC Audubon

So, just how many different species of birds can you find in New York City?

Mallards are a familiar bird here in New York City...

If you want to find out more about what birds tend to be seen in and around New York City, you can check out the New York City Audubon website. In addition to their general information, here are two sections that might be of interest to you as a resource:

First of all, check out the information about birds and their seasons, in a sort of online field guide. There, you can find year-round information about how frequently which birds can be seen, like the Double-crested Cormorant, Snowy Egret, Gadwall, American Coot, Willet, Chimney Swift, Eastern Phoebe, or American Redstart (all of which nest within New York City).

... but have you ever seen a Black-Crowned Night Heron?

Next, if you want to know where to find these birds, the website also features a list of birding locations you might consider for a birding field trip. Locations suggested spread over all five boroughs of New York City, plus a location in Nassau County. You may discover a location or nature center you’ve never heard of before!

The website is not written for kids, but has simple enough text on the seasons and birding location pages for a child to read. The website is also a great resource for you, the educator, to supplement your own content knowledge.

If this inspires you to go out and find some birds, don’t forget to bring a print field guide with you!

Urban Hawks

We’ve been talking about birds this week and last. If you’re looking for hawks, in addition to all the fantastic Pale Male resources, check out Urban Hawks.

This fantastic blog, written by a local bird enthusiast with great camera skills, includes photographs and videos of hawks, birds, and other wildlife in New York City. Check it out as a classroom resource to supplement the book Urban Roosts, to use with nest cams, or to talk about nature here in New York City.

What cool shots of birds will you find??

A Virtual Forest Tour

We’ve been talking a lot about water, and last week, we mentioned the watershed that supplies water to New York City. If you have older students (grades 4+, although some younger elementary school students might also enjoy this), you can take students on a virtual tour of the Catskill/Delaware Watershed.

This virtual tour, produced by the Watershed Agricultural Council, is a highly visual and informational tour of the Frost Valley Model Forest in upstate New York, where New York City’s water comes from. The tour covers silviculture (taking care of forests), invasive species, clean water, erosion control, and other forest information. As such, the website would be a great resource for your study of forests, nature, or water.

To access the virtual tour and explore for yourself, click here. And, if the virtual tour piques your interest, the Watershed Agricultural Council also sponsors in person tours and has a grant program to support the cost of getting from NYC to the forest. Find out more about in person tours on their website.

Red Leaves Falling Off Trees

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!).

The White House Garden and Let’s Move!

Moving away from Brooklyn, you could include the current White House Garden in your garden study. It is traditional for the First Lady to adopt a cause and promote it throughout her term as First Lady. With Laura Bush, a former librarian, the cause was books and literacy. With Michelle Obama, a notoriously fit woman, the cause is healthy lifestyles including physical activity and eating well. Lots more information can be found on the Let’s Move! website, but here are some ideas you might use in your classroom.

  • There’s a children’s book about the White House Garden, First Garden: The White House Garden and How It Grew by Robin Gourley. The book covers historical gardens at the White House including John Adams and Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden during World War II, but then spends the bulk of the time on Mrs. Obama and the process she and the current garden went through. Students will link their own gardening experience to hers and learn about the current garden at the White House.
  • The Let’s Move! website has 5 simple steps for schools, 5 steps for parents, 5 steps for kids, and steps for others (chefs, health care providers) that really help individuals kick-start their health initiatives. Check out the one for schools, which includes a plan to help start a garden.
  • If you are in Washington, DC, tours of the garden are offered in the spring and fall. Information about the fall tours this past October is available on the White House’s website, which is where future tour dates will be announced.
  • For day care centers, check out Let’s Move Childcare with ideas for encouraging a healthy lifestyle at your day care center.
  • There are lots of resources for eating healthy and planning meals which you could use to plan a parent’s night.
  • In addition, there’s an official cookbook, A White House Garden Cookbook: Healthy Ideas from the First Family to Your Family by Clara Silverstein.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Brooklyn Children’s Museum is part of all this, as a member of Let’s Move! Museums & Gardens. Check back for future details about what Brooklyn Children’s Museum is doing to help kids live a healthy and active life.

Monarch Watch

Speaking of fall, have you seen any monarch butterflies lately? Monarchs are amazing – they travel as much as 3,000 miles, making them the butterflies with the longest migration in the world and the only butterflies to make a long migration twice each year. Monarch butterflies migrate through New York City on their way to Mexico every fall and come back every spring. Peak season for them passing through New York City is early October, so you may have missed them for this year, but here is some information about monarchs anyway. Keep an eye out as there may still be some around, or wait for spring to see them again!

Monarch Watch is a hub for all things monarch. It has amazing resources, including the following:

Some of these resources may be a little old for early childhood, but the gardening and observation element is ideal for all ages. Butterflies are great for teaching about habitat, insect life cycles, and animal diversity.

Another great website out there is the Monarch Monitoring Project, produced by the New Jersey Audubon Department.  Cape May, NJ is the southernmost point in Jersey. It has well maintained marshes and dunes and is along the coast, so it attracts huge numbers of migratory birds and monarchs, too! The blog is great for upper elementary students. It features bar graphs of monarchs spotted each week during migration season, beautiful photographs, and lots of scientific information.

Do you know other monarch resources? What’s your favorite monarch observation spot in New York City?