Archive for the “Decision-making” Category
A Cornell University study published in a special issue of Developmental Psychology (Vol. 49:3) reveals that “children are natural scientists” who can “gather and assess evidence from the world around them.”
The study, lead by Tamar Kushnir, the Evalyn Edwards Milman Assistant Professor of Child Development and the director of the Cornell College of Human Ecology’s Early Childhood Cognition Laboratory, shows that preschooler’s can “infer what a person might know from watching what they do…and they can then use this [information] to choose whom to learn from.”
Researchers found that three to four-year olds’ understanding of cause and effect is influenced by information from other people, and that they can discern good sources of information from bad. Three to four-year olds, the study finds, are not entirely credulous.
Want to teach and cultivate the next generation of “natural scientists?” Cornell Garden-Based Learning offers a variety of multi-disciplinary activities which target knowledge and skill-building in the garden. Seed to Salad emphasizes decision-making and a multi-disciplinary approach while youth grow salad gardens. Dig Art! Cultivating Creativity in the Garden integrates gardening with the arts and ecological literacy. Vegetable Varieties for Gardeners (VVfG) and Vegetable Varieties Investigation (VVi) utilizes a citizen science approach to teach middle and high school aged youth about preserving biodiversity and connecting with the community.
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It can be a challenge to meaningfully integrate gardening and learning. We really like the way Angela McGregor Hedstrom uses essential questions to expand on the gardening experience, and organize the big ideas, particularly with our youngest audiences.
Read this succinct and well-written article, and get started soon!
Angela McGregor Hedstrom taught at the Dryden Elementary School and Happy Way Childcare Center, Dryden, NY, while working with Cornell Garden-Based Learning.
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Stump Culture photo from Canadian Xmas Tree Assoc (click for website)
Many gardening and horticulture pursuits are on pause for the dormant season this winter, but many homeowners affect their surrounding landscapes with a traditional purchase for inside the home: the Christmas tree. Approximately 25 to 30 million trees are sold each year in the United States, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. Consumer demand for trees makes for a large impact, with over 350, 000 US acres currently in Christmas tree production.
Christmas tree farming has a mixed environmental impact. The trees, which take anywhere from 4 to 20 years to mature, provide wildlife habitat and hold soil and water as compared to annual field crops. Some farms have to use pesticides to deal with pest problems and have to mow frequently to keep grasses down. (see NC State Extension for more information on environmental impacts). And at the end a stands life-cycle, the ground has to be plowed and re-planted from imported seedlings.
Even still, purchasing a real tree is arguably much better for the environment when compared to the impact of purchasing a fake tree, not in terms of environment, but also in the economic benefits of supporting local tree farmers.
One environmentally-friendly method that has a growing interest among tree growers is called “stump culture”, where trees are cut in such a way that they can re-sprout and grow another tree. This cycle can be continued for many years. Here is video about Pieropan Christmas Tree Farm in Western Massachusetts, where trees planted over 50 years ago are still producing healthy trees from the same stump! (here is another video, if you want to hear a song about this process!)
Finally, what about our environmental impact when the holiday season comes to a close? There are several options to consider. One is to purchase a balled-in-burlap tree, which can then be planted in your backyard. If you have purchased a cut tree, you can check with you local cooperative extension office to find out where you can recycle your tree. Or, consider composting the tree yourself at home. You can cut up the tree into small pieces and integrate into your current compost pile. Happy Holidays!
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Classic Cornell Extension Manual on Nut Cultivation (Click for PDF download)
The New York Times has been putting out some great articles lately, including a recent one about the American Chestnut and one highlighting growing interest in Agroforestry practices, which combines gardening and farming with the cultivation of tree crops. The main benefits of trees in the landscape are the preservation of soil and water, the sequestering of carbon, and support of a greater diversity of wildlife. Once we plant and establish these trees, we can also enjoy the long term benefits of harvesting a nutritious crop each season with less work.
I recently finished an amazing book by Susan Freinkel called “American Chestnut: The Life, Death and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree,” which not only tells the story of the mass spread of the blight, which wiped out 3 to 4 billion trees in the early decades of the 1900s, but also examines the human responses to large scale ecosystem disturbance, from efforts to stop the spread of the fungus to the scores of devoted Americans who have worked for decades to back-breed a cross of the American and Chinese chestnut to improve blight resistance, and effort led largely by the American Chestnut Foundation.
Dr. William Murrill, a mycologist from Cornell University, discovered the life cycle of the fungus Cryphonectria parasitica or the chestnut blight.
This story gives reason for pause as New Yorkers look ahead to several forest threats coming down the line, including the Emerald Ash Borer, which Cooperative Extension is actively educating the public about with some excellent EAB resources at the NY Invasive Species Clearinghouse. Efforts to monitor the spread of this and other potential problem pests, and efforts to slow the spread through firewood restrictions are important.
One lesson we can learn from the history of American Chestnut is that even the most intense pest invasions cannot be cause for panic. Around the 1920s hope had largely been lost on controlling the spread of the disease, and it was actually US Forest Service policy to encourage that ALL chestnuts be cut down, dead or alive. This had the effect of removing any possible trees that had natural blight resistance, which could have been used to speed up current efforts to reintroduce the tree to the forest.
This stresses the importance of continuing to manage local forests for overall health while keeping a keen eye on the movement of the Emerald Ash Borer.
Map of EAB discoveries & quarantine zones in NY
There are likely healthy and genetically superior ash trees that will demonstrate resistance to infestation. The EAB is in NewConsult your local extension office at the following resources for more information:
CCE ForestConnect Publication: Silviculture and Invasive Insects
CCE Factsheet: Private Woodland Management in Anticipation of Emerald Ash Borer (2007)
Forest Management with Emerald Ash Borer – 2006 Ohio State University Extension
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We are happy to announce the latest addition to our curriculum resources: Discovering Our Food System (DFS), newly revised and updated for 2011!
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The CITY project employs young people in green jobs, including work on community gardens, recycling, composting, environmentally-friendly construction and neighborhood clean-ups. CITY teen leaders are gearing up for another exciting summer of leadership.
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Wicked Delicate Garden Contest is a challenge for student groups across the U.S.–kindergarten through graduate–to grow food in surprising places. “We want to see lettuce growing in the arms of statues and carrots sprouting out of cowboy boots. Help us prove that you really can grow food anywhere!”
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Seed to Salad is an adaptable program that engages elementary school students or after school program participants in growing salad gardens of their own. Emphasizing a high level of youth decision-making and an interdisciplinary approach, Seed to Salad requires minimal garden space and offers a school-year friendly time line for planning, planting, harvesting, and celebrating.
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High school students model their plant-based creations at the 2009 Fairchild Challenge Botanical Fashion Show in Miami.
True, it is snowing outside my window here at Cornell, but as I click through photos from November’s Fairchild Challenge Botanical Fashion Show, I’m filled with warmth and inspiration. Yes the photos radiate with lush green plants, blue skies, golden sunshine, and smiling students. But they also tell a story that fuels the educators fire—one of authentic youth engagement, creativity, collaboration, and integrated learning.
An innovative outreach program of the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden near Miami, The Fairchild Challenge offers up a menu of options for middle and high school students participating in the program each year. The Challenge options are standards-based, ranging from research projects to performing arts, and use the environment as an integrating context for promoting “science literacy, civic engagement, creative expression, and lifelong learning in students and, by extension, in their respective circles of influence.”
One of the unique aspects of this environmental education program is its competitive component. First students compete in project-based activities at the school-level, with the winning student entries moving on to compete with other schools. All schools who meet an annual point goal are awarded the Fairchild Challenge Award, with the highest scoring schools receiving monetary awards to help fund their environmental projects.
Middle School students compete at the 2009 Fairchild Challenge Botanical Fashion Show.
For students in the 2009 Botanical Fashion Show, creating garments almost entirely out of plants is no easy task. Their
Challenge option required a host of skills developed through hands-on experience researching plants, designing, creating, and modeling their original plant-based fashions to a panel of judges and a public audience. The results are truly incredible—warming rays of opportunity and innovation in the face of a challenging environmental future.
Learn more about the Fairchild Challenge and their national and international satellite partner projects at www.fairchildchallenge.org.
See more photos.
Watch videos of student projects.
All photos from the 2009 Fairchild Challenge Botanical Fashion Show, courtesy of Fairchild Challenge. The Botanical Fashion Show is part of the 2009-2010 Fairchild Challenge, a multidisciplinary environmental education outreach program offered annually by Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables (Miami), Florida. Fairchild also provides training and support for Fairchild Challenge Satellite Programs at sites nationally and internationally.
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Take a survey, inform students’ study of garden-based learning networks!
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