Life Lab

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

A garden classroom is wonderful space for children to “take ownership” of a corner of their school. Here are examples and resources for independent stations that contribute to garden caretaking and/or engage students in the scientific practice of observation. Many of these stations become part of our “garden chore” routine that we do for the first 10 minutes of garden class at Pacific Elementary School Garden.

For similar activities with less of a learning/caretaking angle check out our “Back Pocket” Activities – Quick and Easy Garden Activities every garden coordinator should have in their “back pocket”. These activities are ones that can be repeated over time and can contribute to garden care over time. Though it is important that the garden classroom has an appropriate fence and other materials in order to facilitate activities. Tall blocky fences do make the garden secure but can block out sunlight or make weather observation difficult. Chain-link fences like those supplied by F&W Fence are both secure and let in the sunlight needed for the garden to flourish. Though ultimately it is up to you to decide if a change is nessessary.

Weather Observation and Recording

There are many ways to track and observe the weather, from thermometers to weather sensors. The following video and charts are how I have students observe and track the weather. I have found that 2nd grade and up can do this independtly. Using a minimum/maximum thermometer allows us to track the high, low and current temperature data which could be graphed to show school year trends. Graphing, interpreting and reporting on garden data is a good rainy day activity.

Weather Station Details and Datasheet

Compost Building and Monitoring

Our FoodLab cooking kitchen produces and saves kitchen scraps to be composted and fed to our worms. In addition to lunchroom kitchen scraps a local restaurant saves salad prep scraps in 5 gallon buckets for us to build compost. Each week 4-8 5 gallon buckets of greens are added to our composting systems. We purchase a strawbale that sits next to the compost bin as “browns”. 3rd grade and older students follow this procedure to compost and record data with the help of a compost thermometer. This data is saved and graphed on rainy days. Learn much more about school-based composting.

CompostTempRecordLog

CompostProcedure

  1. Spread new (green) material evenly on top of pile. Chop with spade.
  2. Cover food wastes with a thin layer of finished compost.
  3. Cover all new (green) materials with a thin layer of straw (brown).
  4. Rinse and scrub food waste buckets clean.
  5. Water your new layer with the bucket rinse water or spray your new layer with hose.
  6. Using the compost thermometer record pile temperature data.

Find compost signs like these at https://lifelab.org/garden-signs/

Compost sifting with small plastic trays. We have used nursery trays, sections from stacking worm bins, and bulb crates as sifters. Composting sifting is a good “early finisher” project or an independent station.

Flower Boquets and Deadheading

Each week a class is responsible for cutting bouquets that are placed on our lunch room tables. We use empty Martinelli apple juice bottles as vases. They are short which is good for the lunch room tables. Larger vases are also filled each week for our lunchroom staff and front office. A milk create is used as a flower tote. We have four rules for making a good bouquet. We review the following rules every week. All grades are able to cut and arrange flowers.

  1. Select young, not old or fading flowers
  2. Cut the longest stem possible, you can always shorten it once you put it in the vase
  3. Remove leaves from the stems so they don’t rot in the vase
  4. Use care when handling hand pruners

When we are deadheading flowers with dried seeds we often have bags labled with flower varieties to save the dried seeds. Learn more about seed saving and making seed envelopes.

Worm Care

Younger grades are often very attacted to worms and caring for them. Having a specific grade level task associated with being the “worm warnglers” (caretakers) works well. Having worm bin bingo or identification cards with magnifiers is a nice addition to an independent worm station.

Learn more about caring for worms and teaching about vermi-composting.

Habitat Boards

Habitat boards are nothing more than a 2 foot x 3 foot (or similar size) piece of plywood placed on the ground. The board is labeled habitat board on the upward facing side and is placed in an area with minimum disturbance. Students visit the board everytime they are in the garden and record and observe changes under the board. Often we find different types of bugs under the board. This is a good early finisher task or could be used as an observation station rotation.

Spring Fruit Tree Observations

While we might leave big maintenance jobs like tree trimming and pruning to people like these Certified Houston Tree Service Experts, there are still plenty of things for the children to do when it comes to trees. In the winter and spring we observe dormant tree buds beginning to swell, leaf and/or flower. Teams of students visit the same tree over the spring and make observations for 5 minutes before garden lessons. Moreover, safety is of paramount importance to us and so we also teach attendees 3 Tips for Preventing Common Tree Accidents. Additionally we can use these tree observation teams for grade level tasks such as mulching, fertilizing, and fruit thinning. We usally mark a 8-12 inch section of branch with two pieces of masking tape with a few buds inbetween the taped sections. We use an observation sheet like this one as the buds develop. SpringAppleTreeObservation

Pollinator Observations

As part of a Citizen Science project students can make daily observations a part of the garden classroom routine. Use your garden or school yard to collect data and share with others collecting similar data for a greater cause. In our garden our students participate in The Great Sunflower Project by conducting 5 minute pollinator observations. We use this Pollinator Count Log to record our data.

Find more Citizen Science ideas at the following sites:
scistarter.com/educators
pbskids.org/scigirls/citizen-science
www.commonsense.org/education/top-picks/best-citizen-science-apps-and-sites-for-students

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5 days ago

Life Lab

🌸Growing Gardens of Hope!🌸 Join us as we celebrate the beautiful impacts of school garden education as part of our virtual Spring Benefit Brunch on May 1st at 11am. Guest speakers are Dr. Dilafruz Williams 💐and Francisco Paco Estrada 🤩 Brunch Menu Options include offerings from New Leaf Community Markets Charlie Hong Kong Companion Bakeshop Steamer Lane Supply Thomas Family Farm Flowers 🌱 Register at www.LifeLab.org/spring-benefit #spring #fundraiser #schoolgardens #GardenBasedLearning #LifeLab

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1 week ago

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Come one, come all! 🌻Bring your students for the first-ever, national, virtual school garden tour … hosted by students, for students! #growingschoolgardens #schoolgardens #learninggarden #kidsgardening #healthykids #KidsGardenMonth #LifeLab 🌱

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4 weeks ago

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Gardens of gratitude to @petalumaseedbank for your generous seed donation! 🌱Teamwork makes the school garden dream work🌸#seedbank #schoolgardens #LifeLab #spring #sprouts #ThankYouThursday

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1 month ago

Life Lab

Happy Spring Everyone!!🌱🌸🌱 Join us for our Family Gardening Spring Webinar this Tuesday March 23rd at 3pm to learn about Spring planting and garden based activities like trellising, how to make Root View Cups, garden art, pest management, and reseeding annuals🌸Register at lifelab.org/events. @reneesgardenseeds @originalgopherbasket #LifeLab #springequinox #spring #schoolgardens #gardeneducation #narcissus #webinarseries

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1 month ago

Life Lab

Our Spring Family Gardening Webinar is coming up soon🌱March 23rd at 3pm🌱 Join Life Lab educators for another fun family webinar focused on Spring planting and garden based activities like trellising, how to make Root View Cups, pest management, and reseeding annuals🌸Register at lifelab.org/events

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2 months ago

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Join us for tomorrow’s Family Gardening Winter Webinar at 3pm! Register at LifeLab.org/events 🌱Linktree in our bio as well🌱#naturejournal #compost #soil #wintergardening #family #gardening #lifelab #schoolgardens

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2 months ago

Life Lab

Join Life Lab educators for a fun, family Winter gardening webinar on February 16th at 3pm. We will focus on the various ways to plan, create, and support a healthy garden. Topics include choosing a garden space, creative container options, what to plant now, and preparing for Spring. 🌱#gardeneducation #LifeLab #schoolgardens #familygardening #wintergarden 🌻Registration link in our bio

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3 months ago

Life Lab

🌱 Become a Life Lab Certified Educator!🌱 We only have 3 spots left in our new School Garden Educator Certification Program! Sign-up today for the entire series of courses or for individual courses by visiting website, link below. Our first course, Building Connections in the Garden, starts with asynchronous work on January 21st and our first synchronous session will be on January 28th from 3:30 – 5:00 PST. You may continue to sign up through January 27th or until all spots are filled. If needed, we highly encourage you to join the waitlist to get priority registration for our next cohort in the fall of 2021 or should there become spots available. Upon completion of the 4 courses, participants will receive a certificate and the distinction of being a Life Lab-Certified Garden Educator. Each course will last approximately 8 weeks long and include 4 synchronous meetings, at-home work, and a unique coaching model tailored to each individual’s needs.lifelab.org/educator-certification-program/

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3 months ago

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Looking to 2021 with a magnified view of our impact on nature and our connections with each other. A healthy garden is a diverse and sustainable ecosystem full of wonder and beauty in all seasons. #LifeLab #2021 #gardeneducation #science #bettertogether

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