Edible Schoolyard NYC

Are you interested in teaching kids more about food, gardening, and cooking at your school? One option is to become an Edible Schoolyard site. The program, started by Alice Waters, turns open space at schools into gardens, and then teaches the students at the school about growing, cooking, and eating food on site.

What can your students learn by growing and eating fresh food like these tomatoes?

So far, Edible Schoolyard has one location in NYC: PS 216, right here in Brooklyn. But they are looking to expand, and plan to have one school in each borough next school year.

That’s where you come in. If you work at a public school located in the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens or Staten Island, you could apply. Your school must serve, at a minimum, kindergarten through fifth grade and be a Title I school. Accepted schools receive tons of help and resources to turn their available space into a teaching garden.

For more information about the program and to apply, go to Edible Schoolyard NYC’s website. Applications are due by February 28, 2012- good luck!

Waste Field Trips

Sounds like fun, right?

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.

In addition, the Department of Sanitation also has a website that explains in words and pictures the process of recycling. You can use this information until the center in Sunset Park opens.

Fresh Kills then...

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.

... and now.

Check out the City of New York Parks & Recreation’s website for more information. If you’re interested in visiting, email FreshkillsPark@parks.nyc.gov or call 212-788-8277 to arrange a personalized educational experience.

Reuse: Swap Your Stuff

If you reuse something you no longer wants, it ceases to be waste! You can reuse by repairing a broken toy, sewing a ripped pair of pants, or turning last year's calendar into wall art.

Even better, for kids with growing bodies and changing tastes, you can arrange to trade unwanted items with another kid. Swap books you've already read and get a brand new reading experience, for free!

In My Green Community, our teacher's guide, we suggest organizing a toy or book swap in your classroom. Full instructions are in that downloadable guide.

Vieux livres 20050512Another option is to partner with a local organization like GrowNYC to take part in a bigger swap. GrowNYC handles all kinds of sustainability projects, including their frequent Stop 'N' Swaps. On periodic weekends throughout the year in all five boroughs, they organize a space where people can show up. You can bring your unwanted items (or not) and take other's unwanted items, with no restrictions on what or how much you take. Items include clothes, shoes, books, toys, household items, and more. The leftovers at the end of the event get reused or recycled or taken to a swap at a later date.

Last year, three Stop 'N'Swaps were hosted here at Brooklyn Children's Museum, and we hope to hold more here in the future!

For more information, check out GrowNYC's website. There are no remaining swaps in 2011, but look for one near you in 2012.

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!

Parks, continued

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?

Open House New York 2011

Open House New York is a wonderful annual festival, featuring behind the scenes access to fascinating sites around New York City. This year, it’s October 15th and 16th, and the full schedule is now available. It’s a big weekend, full of amazing opportunities. Here are some of my favorites, for families and educators interested in sustainability:

  • Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, Sunday the 16th starting at 10am: Check out this farm, on a roof in Greenpoint! It’s a great example of sustainable urban design. (Family friendly)
  • Visitor Center at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, Saturday and Sunday all day: Learn about NYC’s water system and check out the nearby nature trail at this Greenpoint site. (Family friendly)
  • Water, Water Everywhere, Sunday the 16th at 1pm and 2:30pm:  A kid’s introduction to the water towers of New York City. Learn about and build your own water tower. (Family friendly, ages 4-10)
  • East River Waterfront Tour, Sunday the 16th at 3pm: Learn about the design behind this new park on the Manhattan side of the East River. (Family friendly)
  • Sun Works Center for Environmental Studies, Sunday the 16th all day: Check out this environmental education site on the Upper West Side. (Family friendly)
  • Fresh Kills by Bus, Saturday the 15th at 10am and 1pm: Once the largest landfill in the world, this new park is an sustainable masterpiece. Check out the future Staten Island park on this sneak peak bus tour. (Family friendly)
  • Queens County Farm Museum, Saturday and Sunday all day: Check out this awesome, functioning farm which, “brings agricultural history to life for our urban visitors and provides a direct tie to modern-day sustainable agricultural practices and quality foods.” (Family friendly)
  • New York Botanical Garden, Saturday and Sunday all day: Mention Open House New York for a free garden pass to this Bronx attraction. (Family friendly)
  • Rocking the Boat, Saturday the 15th from 12-5: Learn about this Bronx-based non-profit, which teaches boat building and ecology to high school students. (Family Friendly)
  • Bronx River Estuary Paddle, Saturday the 15th and Sunday the 16th at 11am:  Row the river and learn about “the river’s ecology, history and present human impacts and rehabilitation.”
  • Tour the Brooklyn Bridge Park, Saturday the 15th at 1pm and 3pm: Get a staff led tour of this amazing park. And while you’re there, check out…
  • Bike Share Demonstration in Brooklyn Bridge Park, Saturday the 15th, 11am-3pm: This is your chance for a sneak peak at the new bike share program coming to New York City.
  • Gowanus Canal Sponge Park, Saturday the 15th at 11am: The Gowanus Canal, a superfund toxic site, needs all the help it can get to be cleaned up. At this event, learn about the sponge park, which is being designed to remediate the canal and provide park access to the community.

Which events are you most excited about?

Nature Centers

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?

Forever Wild

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:

Students participate in a citizen science program with an Urban Park Ranger.

At these and many other parks throughout the city, programs are led by Urban Park Rangers. Follow the link to find out more, including links to nature cameras and more.

For field trip information, go to the website of the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation or call 212-NEW-YORK to schedule a trip.

*** If you’re curious, here’s the full list of 51 Forever Wild sites.

Find a Farm (or garden!)

Growing food in a classroom is great, but it’s also wonderful to go to a farm and see lots of food being grown. Students start to link plants to the food on their plate. Learning about where food comes from will also prepare students to learn about food transportation and related sustainability issues as they grow older.

There are actually lots of farms in New York City and fall is a great time for a visit, enabling students to learn about harvest. Check out these farms, both contemporary and historic, throughout New York City. All of them offer field trip options; farms marked in bold type offer field trips to all grades, including early childhood.

Of course, if you don’t teach in one of these neighborhoods, another option is to find your closest community garden and arrange a visit there. One way to find a local garden is to use the Green Apple Map. Click the link, zoom in to your neighborhood, and find out where a local community garden is located: http://www.greenapplemap.org/. Additionally, to find information about and resources for community gardening, see Green Thumb: http://www.greenthumbnyc.org/. Oasis NYC also has a comprehensive listing of community gardening resources: http://www.oasisnyc.net/garden/resources.aspx

One of many community gardens in Brooklyn

And don’t forget farmer’s markets! Try arranging a field trip to one and give students a chance to talk to the farmers who come from just outside the city to supply New Yorkers with fresh food. For more information, check out: http://www.nyfarmersmarket.com/  or http://www.grownyc.org/greenmarket/ourfarmers

Do you know of other farm or garden resources we forgot? Please share!