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New Urban Pollinator Curriculum Engages Students in Outdoor Learning

“Growing a Wild NYC” Curriculum Introduces Children to Pollinator Conservation

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — A new guide for educators aims to instill an early connection to nature and introduce young students to pollinator conservation. The National Wildlife Federation released Growing a Wild NYC: A K-5 Urban Pollinator Curriculum ahead of National Pollinator Week (June 21-27). The new curriculum will bring students outdoors to observe and identify the hundreds of species of bees, butterflies, moths, flies and birds that inhabit New York City. They will also learn about the connections between plants and pollinators, and pollinators’ essential role in ecosystems. The Growing a Wild NYC curriculum, written by Nina Salzman and designed by Kameny Designs, can be downloaded here.

“Connecting young children to nature is more important than ever,” said Emily Fano, senior education manager for the National Wildlife Federation in New York City. “We know that green spaces can reduce stress, anxiety and depression and increase well-being. At a time when so many of our students – particularly students of color – have seen their mental and emotional health affected by the current COVID-19 pandemic and heinous acts of violence against Black, AAPI and other communities of color, creating green spaces for outdoor learning on school grounds should be a top priority for departments of education everywhere.”

Designed for students in the New York City area, attending Kindergarten through 5th grade, and aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, the Growing a Wild NYC curriculum is comprised of 20 lessons that include both classroom-based activities and outdoor field studies. Students are introduced to the diversity of pollinator species and examine their life cycles, adaptations, and habitat needs.

“Fear and dislike of insects is often learned in childhood, and it has been shown to increase in city dwellers the more time they spend indoors,” said Tina Reres, science teacher at P.S. 29 in Brooklyn, which features a certified National Wildlife Federation Schoolyard Habitat®. “It is critical that we help children living in urban areas understand the important role that insect pollinators play in our world and teach them practical ways they can help protect and preserve pollinator populations. By learning about the behaviors and lives of fascinating insects like bees, we hope to instill a lifelong passion for wildlife conservation in our children.”

Through Growing a Wild NYC, students will design a pollinator habitat on the school grounds, which will grant them the skills to solve real-life, current problems, such as the decline in pollinator numbers and habitat loss. They will also get to restore local native biodiversity and create a healthier, more resilient urban environment. The schoolyard pollinator habitat will also serve as an outdoor classroom that provides the school community with continued opportunities for interdisciplinary studies, environmental stewardship, social-emotional learning, and a vital restorative space in a post-COVID world.

More than 85 percent of flowering plants require insects for pollination, which allows for the production of fruits and seeds that 25 percent of birds, and many mammals, rely on. More than a third of our agricultural crops rely on pollinators – an economy worth $235 billion in the United States and $344 million in New York State specifically. However, pollinator numbers have shown global, national and local declines, due to habitat loss, disease, climate change and overuse of pesticides. Recent research reveals that cities can play an important role in reversing this decline by creating habitat with native flowering plants, clean water, and places to nest and rest.

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