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.

Weather Observation and Recording

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 independently. 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 straw bale 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.

Compost Temp Record Log

Compost Procedure

  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 Bouquets 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 labeled with flower varieties to save the dried seeds. Learn more about seed saving and making seed envelopes.

Learn more about reseeding annuals and see a list of reseeding annual flowers.

Worm Care

Younger grades are often very attached to worms and caring for them. Having a specific grade level task associated with being the “worm wranglers” (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 every time 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

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. Additionally we can use these tree observation teams for grade level tasks such as mulching, fertilizing, and fruit thinning. We usually mark a 8-12 inch section of branch with two pieces of masking tape with a few buds in between 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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Our partners, Life Lab, are hiring to work with #PVUSD students. Check it out!Nuestros socios, Life Lab, están contratando para trabajar con estudiantes de #PVUSD. ¡Échale un vistazo!lifelab.org/about/internships/jobs/Life Lab PVUSD Parents

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2 weeks ago

Readers To Eaters

Happy National Homemade Bread Day! November is also National Bread Month. Share Bread Lab on the science and joy of whole wheat sourdough breadmaking. bit.ly/2VQjVo7"This engaging picture book about the science and joy of making bread is named for Washington State University’s influential BreadLab and co-written by its managing director, Kim Binczewski, and agricultural scientist Bethany Econopouly. Illustrated lovingly by Hayelin Choi, this book should inspire folks of all ages to explore the world of sourdough baking."Eater SeattleSee video with Kim introducing the book and her work at the WSU Breadlab. bit.ly/3r9RIqz..#NationalHomemadeBreadDay #HomemadeBread #Bread #WholeGrain #WholeWheat #Sourdough #SourdoughStarter #Fermenation #FoodLiteracy #FoodEducation #ScienceEducation #FoodScience #PlantScience #SoilScience #Farming #CulinaryEducation #KidsCooking #FarmToSchool #AgClassroom #AgLiteracy #AITC The Bread Bakers Guild of AmericaNational Agriculture in the Classroom American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture Whole Kids Foundation Pilot Light FoodCorps Life Lab Big Green Washington Ag in the Classroom California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom (CFAITC) California Farm to School Edible Schoolyard NYC The Edible Schoolyard Project Center for Ecoliteracy

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3 weeks ago

Kirby School

Another wonderful Community Involvement day is in the books!Some of the activities students participated in to serve our community today:* Learned and practiced land stewardship (improve biodiversity, revegetation, weed removal)* Food preparation and distribution* Resource conservation* Home construction for low income families* Care and clean up of our community’s shared spacesThank you to these amazing local organizations and groups for their continued work to better our world through the lens of environmental advocacy and social justice: Coastal Watershed CouncilSave Our ShoresHomeless Garden ProjectEvergreen CemeterySan Lorenzo Valley Native Habitat Restoration ProgramGrey BearsLife LabSecond Harvest Food Bank Santa CruzHabitat for Humanity Monterey BayReStore Santa Cruz Home Improvement Store & Donation Centerwww.facebook.com/groups/SantaCruzFoodNotBombsSanta Cruz Museum of Natural HistoryCity of Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation

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3 weeks ago

Readers To Eaters

Happy National STEM Day! #GoodFoodReads for #STEMeducation: The Thing About Bees: A Love LetterFarmer Will Allen and the Growing TableBread LabBook info @ bit.ly/xoWr0H Find CurriculumMatrix for these titles @ National Agriculture in the Classroom bit.ly/3H0J9H4 ..#NationalSTEMDay #STEM #STEAM #stemeducation #scienceeducation #gardeneducation #environmentaleducation #MakerEducation #farmtoschool #agclassroom #agliteracy #AITC #foodliteracy #naeycAC The Alliance for a Healthier GenerationNational Science Teaching AssociationWSTA-Washington Science Teachers AssociationCalifornia Farm to School National Farm to School Network FoodCorps Big Green Life Lab Edible Schoolyard NYC The Edible Schoolyard Project Green Bronx Machine

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3 weeks ago

Readers To Eaters

Happy #NationalSTEMDay & #NationalBreadMonth! Be sure to share Bread Lab! bit.ly/2vISBfa "Bread lovers are in for a treat!… Young Bakers will enjoy learning about the science of #breadmaking."—School Library Journal Check out the Crossword & Word Search games inspired by book. Thanks to our publishing partner at Washington State University BreadLab!..#STEM #STEAM #ScienceEducation #PlantScience #SensoryEducation #MakerEducation #BreadLab #Breadmaking #Fermentation #Microbes #SoilSciene #PlantScience #WomenInScience #FarmToSchol #AgClassroom #AgLiteracy #AITC National Science Teaching AssociationWSTA-Washington Science Teachers AssociationWashington Ag in the Classroom Life Lab Big Green FoodCorps Common Threads Farm Viva Farms Pilot LightThe Alliance for a Healthier Generation Edible Schoolyard NYC

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3 weeks ago

Life Lab

🗣️PSA: Life Lab is Hiring 🗣️We are seeking energetic, experienced and dedicated individuals to join the Life Lab team!We are hiring for 3 different positions:🌱 Pajaro Valley Partner Schools Program Sites Leader🥕Nutrition Instructor in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District🌸 Garden Instructor in Pajaro Valley Unified School DistrictFor more information visit lifelab.org/about/internships/jobs/

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2 months ago

Readers To Eaters

Happy #NationalFarmersDay! We give thanks to all farmers for their work in bringing good food to our table. Share Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table on the urban farmer in starting a good food revolution. His inventive work using #vermicomposting, #aquaponics and #hydroponics won him a MacArthur Foundation "Genius" fellowship. bit.ly/3cA9Br6See National Agriculture in the Classroom curriculum matrix on FARMER WILL ALLEN. bit.ly/3q2WsxDWe’re thrilled that the book is the New York Agriculture in the Classroom Agriculture Literacy Book of 2022. bit.ly/3mOhPT5 ..#NationalFarmersDay #Farmers #UrbanFarmers #BlackFarmers #FarmerWillAllen #vermicomposting #aquaponics #hydroponics #AgClassroom #AgLiteracy #AITC #FarmToSchool #FarmToSchoolMonth #DiverseBooks National Agriculture in the ClassroomAmerican Farm Bureau Foundation for AgricultureIowa Agriculture Literacy FoundationOregon Agriculture in the ClassroomCalifornia Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom (CFAITC) Washington Ag in the Classroom Wisconsin Ag in the Classroom ProgramNational Farm to School Network FoodCorpsWhole Kids Foundation Center for Ecoliteracy Life Lab Green Bronx Machine

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2 months ago

Community Foundation Santa Cruz County

Thank you Community Health Trust of Pajaro Valley for hosting the health fair last Friday! It was filled with families, fun, and resources! We are grateful to you and all the nonprofit partners there for your work in helping our community stay healthy and thriving.With Positive Discipline Community ResourcesLife Lab Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance Regeneration-Pájaro Valley Climate Action

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Stock up your Garden Classroom

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.
Tara NeierCamp ParentSummer camp mom
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