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.

 

View the presentation Stations and Rotations for Garden Care and Classroom Management
View the presentation resource handout 

For more activities check out our blog posts labeled Lessons and Activities 

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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#tbt to that time two weeks ago we were at the School Garden Support Organization – SGSO – Network conference organized by Sprouts Farmers Market and Life Lab !Check out this cool recap video Jen put together – love how we’re #growingschoolgardens together!#veggiecatethefirststate #stemeducation #handsonlearning #schoolgardens #kidswhogarden

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3 weeks ago

Life Lab

www.lifelab.org/jobs Full-time Bilingual Garden Educators at PVUSD School Gardens and Summer Program Staff at Garden Classroom on UCSC Farm

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3 weeks ago

Life Lab

Full-time Career and Summer Staff Positions in @pajarovalleyusd school gardens and the Life Lab Garden Classroom. On the @ucscagroecology farm @ucsc @pvusdschoolfood lifeLab.org/jobs

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3 weeks ago

Readers To Eaters

Thrilled that The Thing About Bees: A Love Letter is NC Farm Bureau "Ag in the Classroom" #BookOfTheMonth! Check out their terrific Activity Guide, including a few fun facts:• The honeybee is the state insect for North Carolina and 15 other states? • In North Carolina, bees help to pollinate strawberries, apples, and broccoli to name a few.bit.ly/3tE6nLASee this reading of author/illustrator Shabazz Larkin for PBS/ Thirteen WNET New York. bit.ly/32LQ0S0Good sharing for United Nations #WorldBeeDay on 5/20 and June #NationalPollinatorsMonth. ..#AgClassroom #AgLiteracy #AITC #FarmToSchool #Bees #Pollinators #Pollination #FoodLiteracy #FoodEducation #DiverseBooks National Agriculture in the ClassroomAmerican Farm Bureau Foundation for AgricultureNCLA: North Carolina Library AssociationNC School Library Media AssociationState Library of North CarolinaASAP – Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture ProjectNational Farm to School Network The Bee Cause Project The Pollinator Partnership North Carolina State Beekeepers AssociationNC Beekeepers Forsyth County Beekeepers Association of N.C.Whole Kids Foundation Big Green FoodCorps Life LabThe Black Church Food Security Network The Brown Bookshelf Multicultural Children’s Book Day We Need Diverse Books

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4 weeks ago

Readers To Eaters

Happy #PoetryFriday, #NationalPoetryMonth & #NationalGardenMonth!Sharing #poem "Three Sisters" from Our School Garden!, winner of #GrowingGoodKidsBookAward from Junior Master Gardener Program and The American Horticultural Society bit.ly/1x8LrbK See Curriculum Matrix from National Agriculture in the Classroom, including more on Three Sisters Garden. bit.ly/3Lybfv1 ..#Poetry #ChildrensPoetry #FoodPoetry #FoodLiteracy #SchoolGarden #GardenEducation #FarmToSchool #STEM #STEAM #AITC #AgClassroom #AgLiteracy National Farm to School NetworkCalifornia Farm to School Massachusetts Farm to SchoolSouth Carolina Farm to School Clemson Extension School & Community GardeningIowa Agriculture Literacy FoundationNew York Agriculture in the ClassroomLife Lab Big Green Pilot Light Common Threads FarmWashington Ag in the Classroom Common Threads Farm Viva Farms Edible Schoolyard NYC Slow Food SeattleNational Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI)

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4 weeks ago

Readers To Eaters

"Colorful, stylized art and playful, accessible text… Inspiring and ‘kraut-chi-licious.’" So excited for our first review of Sandor Katz and the Tiny Wild from Kirkus Reviews, just posted today! Full review below. Cheers to co-authors Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee for their followup to Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix, part of the award winning "Food Heroes" series, and the illustration debut for artist Julie Wilson. Such a fun team to work with! Just like June Jo wrote in her Author’s Note on visiting Sandor’s fermentation school, "we were all transformed—livelier, funkier, and more wild." Bay Area friends can come to joint book event with Sandor signing FERMENTATION JOURNEYS and co-author June Jo Lee signing Sandor Katz and the Tiny Wild at South Berkeley Farmers Market/Ecology Center, 5/31, 3-5pm. Sandor will also make pao-cai, a chinese style of fermenting vegetables in a spiced brine that is perpetually reused. bit.ly/3wmhifZKIRKUS REVIEW A biography of food-fermentation guru Sandor Katz.Colorful, stylized art and playful, accessible text draw in readers, beginning with the endpapers’ beautiful cabbages. First, Katz is shown in his world-renowned fermentation school in Walnut Ridge, Tennessee, where his kitchen lies inside a house with a “crickety-crockety porch.” Next, readers learn of his boyhood in New York City, where he grows up loving fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kosher dill pickles. As a young man, Katz watches friends dying of AIDS and then learns that he is HIV-positive. He decides that the best way to take better care of himself is to leave his beloved city and “join a community of queer folks” in rural Tennessee. When their farm is overpopulated with ready-to-harvest cabbage, Katz is inspired to try his hand at sauerkraut. Soon, he combines that recipe with Korean kimchi spices and creates something that he dubs “kraut-chi.” A dazzling double-page spread shows him and his living partners at table as they dub him “Sandorkraut.” Katz markets his product and eventually travels the world, teaching, learning, and writing about fermented foods. The simple instructions—“chop, salt, squeeze, pack, and wait”—become the foundation for an accessible, six-step recipe at the end. Fermentation definitions are deftly sprinkled throughout the pages. Inspiring and “kraut-chi-licious.” • Book info @ bit.ly/35X4frY• Friends @ #TXLA22 can see the book at Publisher Spotlight booth 2140. • SANDOR KATZ will be published this June. Look for June Jo signing at #ALA2020 in DC this June. Stay tuned for more info.• Look for the audiobook from Live Oak Media later this year! ..#FoodLiteracy #FoodHeroes #FoodCulture #Fermentation #NoHeatCooking #Microbes #TinyWild #LGBTQ+ #QueerCommunity #PictureBookBiography #FoodBiography #FoodWriterNational Farm to School Network National Agriculture in the Classroom Life Lab Big Green Slow Food USA Real Food Media The Edible Schoolyard Project Center for Ecoliteracy FoodCorps Pilot Light The Fermentation Association

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4 weeks ago

Stephen Ritz

STANDING OVATION! National Growing School Garden Summit! Thx School Garden Support Organization – SGSO – Network Sprouts Farmers Market Sprouts Foundation Life Lab Denver, Colorado Denver Public Schools This is what #community looks like. #schoolgarden #lettuce #turnip #beet

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Conference Day 3 photo dump!Jen attended the seminars That’s Tasty! Garden and Cafeteria Connections through Taste Tests and Building & Institutionalizing a Sustainable School Garden Program Incorporating Horticultural Science Curriculum, as well as lightning talks about Salad Bar Success, Top 10 Takeaways for Building your Vision, Urban Agroforestry, Amplifying Indigenous Culture in the Classroom, A Community School starting a garden in a pandemic, How to diversify your volunteers.The seminars Lydia attended included Speak Their Language: Easy Peas-y Impact Communications for Diverse Stakeholders and From the Ground Up: Three Perspectives on Building a Districtwide School Garden Program, as well as lightening talks on soil, holistic care in the garden, program evaluation and regenerative forests. Key takeaways include the importance of sharing collected data back to stakeholders and of having ‘mission moments’ at board and staff meetings. Favorite lines from today:"The importance of having control over our own food and a safe plate of food on our table." "The garden is a mirror.""Which weeds in our lives are using up resources and taking up space?""Great conversations happen in the garden.""Empowering students to become agents of change in their communities through science, peace and gardening."The evening concluded with a plant-based dinner-dance party where attendees made music with vegetables (see video!) and @djcaverm had the group shouting "kale life!"#veggiecatethefirststate #growingschoolgardens Life Lab Sprouts Farmers Market School Garden Support Organization – SGSO – Network

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Conference photo dump Day 2!The day started out with a group session where we wrote our best school garden tips on a piece of paper, turned them into paper airplanes and flew them across the room! A fun way to wake everyone up and get the day going!Sessions we attended included: Growing Garden Leaders, not Garden Weeders!, Our Garden Mocktail Mix: Teachers, Models & Advocacy, Use It or Lose It: Maintaining Long-term garden program and Growing our Youngest Gardeners: Garden Design and Creative Education. Some of our favorite quotes of the day are——"The next frontier is right beneath our feet.""Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up.""Soil is the living skin of the earth.""Landscapes shape mind-scapes.""We are part of a movement that honors life."" We need to embrace growth-oriented discomfort"#veggiecatethefirststate #growingschoolgardensSprouts Farmers Market School Garden Support Organization – SGSO – Network Life Lab

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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.
Tara NeierCamp ParentSummer camp mom
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