Life Lab

Life Lab cultivates children's love of learning, healthy food, and nature through garden-based education.

Life Lab’s Effective Outdoor Management Handout (Two page PDF or view text below.)

More resources on effective outdoor management:

How Can I Possibly Manage 30 Kids Outdoors in a Garden?

Outdoor classroom management is an integral part of a successful school garden program. Many teachers find it challenging to work with their classes outside because of students’ high energy and the distractions that exist outdoors. There is a higher risk of injury too, which is a concern. MFASCO and similar sites offer first aid supplies which is definitely something you need when taking 30 children outside. When we are able to channel students’ energy and enthusiasm toward focused learning activities, however, and use “distractions” — such as spider webs, birdcalls, or ripe strawberries — as teaching tools, then the garden becomes an exceptionally effective and exciting space for learning. Ultimately, a well-managed garden provides teachers with new ways to motivate students and demonstrate concepts, and provides students with abundant opportunities to explore the natural world, apply skills learned in multiple academic areas, discover the joys of healthy eating, and work together. Educators have identified the following management strategies for making garden-based learning effective and enjoyable.

Perceptions

The school garden is a unique learning environment, with activities that are usually more structured than recess, but also often more physical and open-ended than those done in the classroom. In order to set the tone of this new learning environment:

  • Design the garden so that it is easy for students to follow the rules. For example, make pathways wide, mark beds clearly, and create a labeled and organized space to store all tools.
  • When introducing the garden, use language that reflects the goals of the space, such as “garden classroom” or “living laboratory.”
  • Create and follow predictable routines, such as starting each class by gathering in a circle to talk about the main idea and activities for the day, and review behavior expectations.
  • To foster the perception of the garden as something to look forward to …
    • Start your year out with something highly engaging, like harvesting and eating Six Plant Part Burritos or feeding the worms in the worm bin.
    • Provide plentiful opportunities for students to harvest and eat from the garden, and also to use tools they can manage.
    • Look for opportunities to provide students with choices. They may be able to choose, for example, which chore to work on or which seeds to plant.

Personal Relationships

  • Give students opportunities to practice cooperative learning skills, such as listening and sharing responsibilities. The first chapter of The Growing Classroom is full of activities designed to encourage these behaviors.
  • Divide students into small groups for hands-on activities. In some instances, all the groups might be doing the same thing in different parts of the garden. In other instances, you might have multiple stations for groups to rotate through.

Parameters

Clarify for yourself and then for your students what types of behaviors are appropriate in the school garden, and how expectations and consequences will be similar and/or different from in the classroom. For example, informal conversation is often more welcome in a school garden than in a classroom, but put downs are not allowed in either location.

  • Discuss the importance of staying safe and respecting all living things, including plants, animals, one another, and the adults in the garden. Enlist students’ ideas to establish a simple list of garden rules toward this end, as in the illustrated sample.
  • When using tools, establish and model safe use of those specific tools. Some sample tool rules include:
    • Keep the pointed end below your knee at all times.
    • Always walk when moving with a tool.
    • Clean and put tools away when finished working.
  • Establish a call back signal, such as a coyote howl or a ringing gong, to let students know when it is time to rotate groups or return to the circle.
  • Help students stay comfortable: When you’re addressing the group, wear a sunhat and look into the sun so that they won’t have to. A shaded gathering area can be very helpful. Also consider other equipment, such as work gloves for hands and carpet squares for kneeling or sitting on the ground.

Participation

  • Make sure that everyone in a group has a clear task. For example, a group building a compost pile might have a browns team, a greens team, a soil team, etc.
  • Balance quiet, reflective activities with active, hands-on activities.
  • When possible, use support from other school staff, parent or community volunteers, university students, or other invested adults to reduce the adult-to- student ratio in the garden.
  • Consider buddying a younger class with an older class for cross-age-tutoring out in the garden.

Be Prepared

  • In addition to your planned activities, have a set of “back pocket activities” ready to go, in case a student or group finishes their task early or requires some redirection. See the Back Pocket handout for ideas.
  • Keep a first aid kit and make sure you have supplied first aid kit refills for this, sunscreen, and drinking water in your garden.

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7 days ago

Life Lab

Thank you all that joined us for our Spring Benefit💚 Our esteemed guest speakers Dr Dilafruz Williams and Paco Estrada shared moving testimony to the proven impacts of school garden education. We are thankful to have the opportunity to inspire children’s love of learning, healthy food, and nature through garden based education. We are thankful for our local and national communities. We are thankful for each and every one of you! #supportschoolgardens #thewholechild #bettertogether #lifelab #interconnected #healthyfood #nature #loveoflearning #donate

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7 days ago

Readers To Eaters

Thrilled that The Thing About Bees: A Love Letter is the SC Ag in the Classroom May Book of the Month selection, just in time for Teacher Appreciation Week and United Nations World Bee Day. (WBD info: bit.ly/3cF6i2d) See book creator Shabazz Larkin read the book on PBSThirteen WNET New York‘s "Let’s Learn." bit.ly/32LQ0S0..#Bees #Pollinators #Pollination #SaveTheBees #GiveBeesAChance #BeeFear #BeeLove #AgClassroom #AgLiteracy #AITC #FarmToSchool #TeacherAppreciationWeek #WorldBeeDay #SchoolGarden #GardenEducation #EnvironmentalEducation #ClimateEducation #OutdoorEducation #EnvironmentalDiversity #DiverseBooksNational Agriculture in the Classroom American Farm Bureau Foundation for AgricultureNC Farm Bureau "Ag in the Classroom"California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom (CFAITC) Washington Ag in the Classroom The Bee Cause Project South Carolina 4-H Youth Development Clemson Extension School & Community GardeningSouth Carolina 4-H Youth Development South Carolina State Library Charleston County Public LibraryLife Lab Big Green Pilot Light FoodCorpsHAPPY TEACHER APPRECIATION WEEK! {Read through our post for giveaway info!}It’s already May, and you know what the new month brings – a NEW featured book of the month! Shabazz Larkins’ "The Thing About Bees" is a wonderful tribute to the bees that pollinate the foods we love to eat. Check out our lesson plan here: www.scfb.org/book-of-the-monthALSO – this is your last chance to sign up for our "All About Bees" workshop TOMORROW! us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZItc-qoqT4iGtF9ZoqqLnlWDGx4q2Cn-1CfAND LAST, but certainly not least, a giveaway for a deserving teacher! Every day this week we will post a giveaway for Teacher Appreciation Week. Today’s prize will be a free subscription for one year to our Ag Book of the Month program. Comment below with your school and grade level to enter today’s drawing!

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1 week ago

Readers To Eaters

Celebrating last day of National Poetry Month and National Garden Month with "I Am A Farmer" from A Moose Boosh: A Few Choice Words About Food by Shabazz Larkin. bit.ly/3cKEucz• "Readers and eaters are taken on a comical romp through the world of food using poetry and a visual feast of photographs enhanced with playful doodles."— American Library Association Notable Children’s Book• "Varied in style and tone —much like food itself—the witty, quirky poems take on many different topics . . . This is a charming and original book that should start some quality conversation about food."—School Library Journal..#NationalGardenMonth #NationalPoetryMonth #FoodPoetry #FoodPoem #IAmAFarmer #Farming #UrbanFarmer #YoungFarmer #FoodLiteracy #FoodEducation #FarmToSchool #AgClassroom #AgLiteracy #AITC #DiverseBooks National Agriculture in the ClassroomAmerican Farm Bureau Foundation for AgricultureNational Farm to School NetworkFoodCorps Pilot Light Common Threads Big Green Harlem Grown Green Bronx Machine DC Grown The Food Trust Detroit Hives Ron Finley Brown Bookshelf The Family Dinner Project Whole Kids Foundation The Bee Cause Project Life LabClemson Extension School & Community GardeningThe Edible Schoolyard Project Edible Schoolyard NYC Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy

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1 week ago

Nikki Patterson

Join me tomorrow for an inspiring celebration of the beautiful impacts and interconnections cultivated through school gardens. This one hour zoom fundraiser begins at 11🌱Please give as you can. #supportschoolgardens #schoolgardeneducation #LifeLab Life Lab 🌻 register at www.LifeLab.org/spring-benefit

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2 weeks ago

Life Lab

🌸 Growing Gardens of Hope! 🌸We are so excited for Life Lab’s Spring Benefit Brunch this Saturday at 11am! We are delighted to share our guest speakers: Dilafruz Williams and Francisco “Paco” Estrada, who will speak on the interconnected relationships cultivated through school garden education and the healing, inspirational impact on students, families, and our broader community.Dr. Dilafruz Williams is Professor and co-founder of Leadership for Sustainability Education. Dilafruz’s recent research has focused extensively on garden-based education – its conceptualization and effectiveness in engagement of children and youth that enhances their holistic and academic learning. She directs the NSF-funded project: Science in the Learning Gardens. She has studied school gardens across 12 states in the USA and in many countries across continents. Dilafruz’s passion for gardens is evident in her own delight and engagement with soil and life in its multitude of manifestations of wonders and mystery. 🌱 Register today! 🌱lifelab.org/spring-benefit/

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2 weeks ago

Life Lab

The Life Lab Spring Benefit Brunch Menu is available now! 🌻 Choose from selected items provided by our generous community partners @charlie_hong_kong @newleafcmarket @companionbakeshop @steamerlanesupply 🌱Limited inventory available! Purchase at LifeLab.org/spring-benefit/#menu

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3 weeks ago

Life Lab

Life Lab celebrates Earth Day every day!🌎 🌱 #EarthDay #schoolgardens #gardensofhope

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3 weeks ago

Readers To Eaters

Happy Earth Day, National Environmental Education Week and National Garden Month!Good read for young environmentalists & gardeners: Zora’s Zucchini and the Spanish edition, LAS CALABACITAS DE ZORA. bit.ly/3eCjEOh"We’ll never make headway with the pressing environmental issues of our time—such as climate change, community-building and food waste—without brilliant, fun little books like Zora’s Zucchini."—EcoConsumer • See author Katherine Pryor read the book with conversation starter on food waste. bit.ly/3eRGH7m• Check out Pilot Light‘s new lesson plan for the book, with theme on "Sharing Food with Our Community" for Early Childhood and K – 2 English Language Arts. bit.ly/3gtKRG8• Hear LAS CALABACITAS DE ZORA, new in audiobook from Live Oak Media. bit.ly/32Hc9k5..#EarthDay #NationalEnvironmentalEducationWeek #NationalGardenMonth #ClimateActionMonth #EnvironmentalEducation #GardenEducation #KidsGardening #ClimateAction #FoodShare #FoodWaste #FoodLiteracy #FoodEducation #EarlyChildhood #LanguageArts #FarmToSchool #SchoolGarden #AgClassroom #AgLiteracy #AITC #WIC #SNAPEdJunior Master Gardener Program The American Horticultural Society Life Lab FoodCorps KidsGardening.org The Edible Schoolyard Project Whole Kids Foundation Chef Ann FoundationNational WIC Association California WIC Association

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Life Lab 40th
Life Lab’s 40th Gala – Sunday, October 13th  Celebrate 40 years of bringing learning to life in gardens. Learn more  
Life Lab's 40th Gala
Life Lab provides truly inspiring training. Their breadth of experience, joy for teaching, and commitment to sharing knowledge highlight the best practices in food and garden education.
Erica CurryTraining and Professional Development ManagerFoodCorps
Thank you for such a wonderful field trip experience! Your leaders did such a great job at keeping our kids engaged.
Sheila BrickenKindergarten TeacherSan Lorenzo Valley Elementary
Terry had another awesome two weeks at Life Lab. I think he learns more there than in any other part of his year. School is great, but he’s passionate (and often dogmatic) about what he learns there.
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