Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Sunlight streaming onto the plants in the Native Flora Garden.
Sunlight illuminating the Native Flora Garden. Photo by Steven Severinghaus.
BBG Summer at Home
Dear Garden Friends, 

This week, we're sharing some fun things to do at home to use the power of the sun's light and energy.

Plants have the amazing ability to use the power of the sun to make their own food. When the sun is shining, people love to feel the sun on their skin, just like a plant does on their leaves, but for a different reason: It makes us feel good. 

Why is there so much sunlight during summer? You might not be able to tell from just standing up, but the entire planet is tilted! During summer months in Brooklyn, we are tilted closer to the sun than other times of the year. Because of this, we get more sunlight, the days are longer, and it feels hotter. 
Let’s Make: Sun Tea
(All ages, 23 hours of sunshine)
Pitcher surrounded by various tea bags.
Pitcher and mason jar filled with water and tea bags sitting in the sun.
Pitcher and mason jar with tea in the sunshine.
Glass with ice and sun tea next to a mint plant.
 Photos by Ellen McCarthy.
What is sun tea? 
Sun tea is a drink that you can make with tea leaves and other herbs. Instead of using boiling water to make the tea in just a few minutes, the heat from the sun brews this tea slowly. You will need a sunny windowsill or spot outdoors and a glass container with a lid. 

Tea leaves or tea bags and water. We suggest other ingredients such as mint leaves, chamomile flowers, lemon slices, honey, or other sweetener of choice. 

Fill jar with water and add tea bags and other herbs. We recommend using 2 tea bags for a 32-ounce jar, and 8 tea bags for a gallon of water. Add any sweeteners and citrus and place in the sunlight outside or on a sunny windowsill. After 2–3 hours, it’s ready to enjoy!
Let’s Experiment: Light Maze
(Ages 4 and up, 1 hour to make maze + 3 weeks for growing) 
Plant in a box with cardboard slats, with a cutout to let in sunlight.
Plant growing through a cardboard box toward the sunlight.
Photos by Ashley Gagñay.
Can plants find their way through a maze? This experiment will test out phototropism, or the growth of plants toward sunlight. 

Cardboard box or shoebox, scissors, tape, small cup or plant pot, soil, and any dried seeds from your kitchen: dried beans, mustard seeds, coriander, raw peanuts, raw sesame, or raw popcorn seeds. 

  • Build your maze: Cut a hole for sunlight at the top of your box. Use tape and smaller pieces of cardboard to design a maze for your plant. Make sure to leave enough room for your pot on the bottom. 
  • Plant 2 or 3 seeds in the small plant container 1-inch deep. Water the pot and press the soil down gently. If you can, poke some small holes for drainage at the bottom of the cup before adding the soil. 
  • Place your plant at the bottom of the maze and close the box, but don’t seal it. You should be able to open your box to water your plant and check on it daily. Place in a sunny spot. 
  • Observe your experiment over the next 2–3 weeks.

Optional: Compare different types of seeds from your kitchen. Which one grew the fastest? Biggest?
Let’s Investigate: Nature Ice Cubes
(Ages 2 and up, a few hours for freezing and 10–30 minutes for melting) 
Ice containing flower petals and leaves.
Photo by Meera Jagroop.
Plant parts from old bouquets, plant scraps from your kitchen, or leaves, tree fruit, and other plant material collected from the ground outside. You will also need ice cube trays, recycled plastic containers, or small cooking pans. 

Fill your container with water, place plant parts inside, and put in the freezer for a few hours. Once frozen, place your ice block in the sun and watch it melt! You can even use tools, like a spray bottle of warm water, to try and get the plant parts out. We recommend doing this activity outside, or on a sunny windowsill.
We hope you can soak up some sun this week! Please share photos of your projects or stories of your nature adventures at home. 

—BBG Children’s Education Team
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