Marine Park is the biggest park in Brooklyn. It’s full of natural grasslands and salt marshes, which enable animals and plants to thrive, right here in Brooklyn. You can visit the Salt Marsh Nature Center, learn from an Urban Park Ranger, play in a playground or ball field, find a horseshoe crab, walk a nature trail and so much more.
Brooklyn Bridge Park is part of sustainable Brooklyn!
One of the most beautiful parks in the city used to be shipping piers. Check out free movies in the summer, playgrounds and new habitats for local animals. Plus, Brooklyn Bridge Park catches storm water, cleans it and uses it to water plants when the weather is dry.
You can take the the 2/3 to Clark Street, the A/C to High Street, or the F to York Street. For more about the park and it’s offerings for children, check out their website, as well as a whole page of sustainability information.
If you’re interested in recycling field trips, students cannot currently visit any of the recycling centers in New York City. However, the new recycling facility at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, due to open in late 2012 or early 2013, will include an education center where students can see the recycling process. For updates on the project, check out the Department of Sanitation’s page A Material Recovery Facility Grows in Brooklyn.
A field trip to a landfill might sound even less appealing. Consider instead a visit to Fresh Kills Park in Staten Island on the site of the former Fresh Kills Landfill, which when was once the largest landfill in the world. The new park was created by covering the landfill. Education programs offered at Fresh Kills Park focus on both its past as a waste disposal facility and its current ecological and sustainable use.
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.
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.
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:
When planning to incorporate nature in your classroom, where to start? This may seem obvious, but the key is letting children start by exploring. All learners, but early learners in particular, need to be given the opportunity to observe for themselves and formulate their own questions before being told what to do. Young students are still learning how the world works and need time to watch and think.
Take an entire period, or more, to have students make observations outdoors. Pick a spot in the schoolyard or a nearby park and have students observe what they see. Here are some ways to encourage that observation and exploration:
Snails are an animal that kids can handle safely. They are plentiful (especially after the rain), will walk on a student's hand, and are reasonably durable, as long as students are taught not to squish them.
Before leaving the classroom, make sure that students know not to touch any animals they find. For plants, explain that if a part of the plant is attached to the ground or to a tree, it should be left alone. Leaves or seeds on the ground can be picked up.
Give each student a clipboard and piece of paper. Pre-literate students can draw what they see; literate students can both draw and write their observations.
If students are having trouble focusing, give them a prompt to focus on. Ask students to observe the ground for five minutes, then the air, then look for signs of animals, then plants, etc.
What do you see? How does it move? Asking students to observe, describe, write, and draw will help unleash their natural curiosity and help you decide what to teach next!
Students should have some time to sit and draw or write, as well as some time to walk around and explore. Give students boundaries, but allow them to move freely within those boundaries. If one student finds something particularly interesting (a spider web, a puddle, a live animal), you may want to re-gather the class so they all have the chance to see it.
When you return to the classroom, have students share what they saw and any questions they may have. Some questions may be answered during the course of your regular curriculum, while others may merit extra research by the class. Take note of which topics they were interested in; these could provide ideas for what to focus on next.