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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1 week ago

Readers To Eaters

So excited about this on Summer Author Series with Clemson Extension School & Community Gardening, South Carolina Farm to School, and The Bee Cause Project! This August features Rick Swann on Our School Garden! The poetry collection is based on Rick’s own experience as a Seattle school librarian when he helped launch the school garden. Good read on growing a community through food all year round! Free registration @ bit.ly/2TLW23xAuthor series kicksoff with Jacqueline Briggs Martin on 6/29 with her #FoodHeroes series: Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table, Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious & Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix. Katherine Pryor presents Sylvia’s Spinach & Zora’s Zucchini on 7/14. Wonderful way to celebrate food literacy this summer! ..#FoodLiteracy #FoodEducation #GardenEducation #SchoolGarden #CommunityGarden #GardeningWithKids #FarmToSchool #AgClassroom #AgLiteracy #AITC #SummerReading #SummerGardening #SummerLearing #OutdoorEducation South Carolina Library Association (SCLA)South Carolina Association of School LibrariansSlow Food South Carolina South Carolina State LibraryJunior Master Gardener Program Life LabThe American Horticultural Society KidsGardening.org National Farm to School Network

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2 weeks ago

Readers To Eaters

Checked out the new enhanced book edition of Sylvia’s Spinach and Zora’s Zucchini from Vooks, just out this week. Fun to see images come to life! Great sharing for #SummerReading #SummerGardening. Sign up for a free trail. bit.ly/3vKXnWu ..#FoodLiteracy #FoodEducation #GardeningWithKids #GardenEducation #SchoolGarden #OutdoorEducation #KidsGardening #AgClassroom #AgLiteracy #AITC #WIC #SNAPEd Junior Master Gardener Program The American Horticultural Society KidsGardening.org American Farm Bureau Foundation for AgricultureIowa Agriculture Literacy FoundationCalifornia Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom (CFAITC) Washington Ag in the Classroom National WIC Association California WIC Association Clemson Extension School & Community Gardening FoodCorps Whole Kids Foundation Life Lab Common Threads Farm

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2 weeks ago

Life Lab

🥕 VOTE FOR LIFE LAB! 🥕Help us grow healthy children and reduce your carbon footprint. 🌿EVERY time you visit ANY New Leaf Community Market (@NewLeafCMarket) from now until June 20th, find the PAPER BALLOT in the store & VOTE FOR LIFE LAB to be a recipient of the Envirotoken program. 10 cents from every reusable bag can be donated to us. This support has provided a wonderful boost for us over the years–thanks for your votes!

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2 weeks ago

Life Lab

🏳️‍🌈. Happy #PrideMonth! 🏳️‍🌈We take the time to honor some of the leaders that have helped make the month of June a celebration. Pride month wasn’t always parades, rainbow flags and fun. The beginnings of Pride month started with the Stonewall Riots in 1969, however these protests were the culmination of decades of civil rights movements. We honor the leaders of these protests that not only created representation for the queer community but also created representation for black and trans members of the community. Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, and Stormé DeLarverie were leaders in the Stonewall Protest. These trans women and women of color fought and advocated for LGBTQIA rights.This past month PVUSD joined in with California public schools in raising the Progress Pride flag, which includes black, brown, light blue, pink, and white stripes that brings awareness to marginalized people of color, trans individuals, and those living with HIV/AIDS and those who have been lost. Life Lab proudly stands in solidarity with the queer community we invite people to learn more about Stonewall, Pride, and the leaders who have helped us get to where we are today.

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2 weeks ago

Readers To Eaters

June is National Pollinator Month! #GoodRead: The Thing About Bees: A Love Letter by Shabazz Larkin. bit.ly/2VLmEPG*Best Picture Books 2019* "Larkin spins a buoyant monologue to his young sons about why bees are so important and how they are analogous to rambunctious children; the narrative is threaded with unconditional love for both subjects. Hand lettering, bold coloring, and textural, mixed-media artwork add energy while evocative language makes for a spirited and joy-filled read-aloud."—School Library JournalVisit our partner Whole Kids Foundation‘s "World of Honeybees" with extensive resource and you can also order their Honey Bee Activity Box, including a copy of THE THING ABOUT BEES. bit.ly/2M7VVIM. See the WKF reading guide along with with Shabazz reading the book for PBSThirteen WNET New York with his wonderful message on how to care for bees, our environment, and ourselves. bit.ly/34B9f1x..#NationalPollinatorMonth #Pollinators #Bees #Pollination #BeeEducation #BeeGarden #SchoolGarden #EnvironmentalEducation #OutdoorEducation #SciecneEducation #STEM #FarmToSchool #AgClassroom #AgLiteracy #AITC The Bee Cause Project The Pollinator Partnership National Farm to School Network National Agriculture in the ClassroomAmerican Farm Bureau Foundation for AgricultureClemson Extension School & Community Gardening SC Ag in the Classroom South Carolina Farm to School Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation Life LabNC Farm Bureau "Ag in the Classroom"Utah Agriculture in the Classroom FoodCorps Chef Ann Foundation Pilot Light Common Threads Edible Schoolyard NYC The Edible Schoolyard Project

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4 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 Coordinator (Bilingual)🥕 Nutrition Educator in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District🌸 Life Lab Garden Educator in the Pajaro Valley Unified School DistrictFor more information and how to apply, click the link below.lifelab.org/jobs/

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1 month ago

Life Lab

💚Learn to make a Life Lab favorite: Spring Rolls with Sunbutter Dipping Sauce!😋come hungry for this Life Lab virtual community cooking class presented by Life Lab Educator Sierra Barsten and co-sponsored with Pajaro Valley Unified School District and the Sage Garden Project. Join the live stream on May 27th at www.youtube.com/c/pvusdstreaming/live 🌱🥕🥦#springrolls #LifeLab #schoolgardens #kidscook #healthyfood #delicious #cookingclass

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1 month ago

Nikki Patterson

Planting Seeds: A Conversation About Planned Giving 🌱Join us Life Lab Saturday May 15th at 10am for a gentle, free “no ask” opportunity to learn more about financial planning and the reciprocal personal and community benefits of planned giving🥕Similar to a garden, all that is needed is some planning and vision. “You don’t need to be wealthy to make an impact, just an opportunity to learn how to make the most of what you have.” 💚Message me for event link ✨#giving #lifelab #schoolgardens #retirement #plannedgiving #loveoflearning #sharingvalues #legacy

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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
We Are Hiring!

We are excited to announce 3 new job openings.

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