Life Lab

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

Great Explorations

Originally Written for Kindergarten

Use your senses as built-in tools for exploration of the physical properties of soil, water, plants, garden animals, and more. Culminate units of study with garden celebrations.

$2.00 per Unit – PDF Download

Life Lab Science was written to align with previous national science standards. We have grouped the following units in their original grade level band. These suggested grade levels may or may not align with your current grade level content.

Each unit download includes a letter to parents to prepare for the unit, a song, multiple lessons, and appendices/lab pages in English and Spanish.

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Exploring Our Senses (Originally Written for Kindergarten)

Theme: Students explore the garden through sensory awareness activities and garden projects such as digging, planting, watering, and harvesting. 

Science Explorations: Students gain an understanding of how they can use their senses to learn about the world around them. 

Process Skills: Students develop cooperative skills by participat­ing in activities and working together to grow a garden.

In this unit, students explore a variety of activities that focus on developing sensory awareness and on growing plants. 

Life Science: Plants have different growing requirements. Work in the garden causes changes that can be described. 

Earth Science: Soil can be wet or dry. Tools can be used to dig in soil. Water can wash away soil. 

Physical Science: Water has physical properties that can be de­scribed. 

Science, Technology, and Society: People can grow food. They can eat it raw or cooked. Different tools are used for different jobs. 

Step into the morning freshness of a garden, and your senses come alive. A rainbow of colors surrounds you as you listen to the birds chirp, smell freshly-turned soil, and feel the velvety texture of a petal. With little conscious effort, your eyes, ears, nose, and hands have begun to explore the natural world. 

Through the activities and free exploration stations provided in this unit, children learn to use their senses to investigate the natural world. The garden becomes a living laboratory, where students can expand their sensory awareness. In future units, students will continue to explore the garden as they investigate water, soil, plants, and animals. Lessons in each unit are either organized as free exploration stations, called Explorer Posts, or teacher-directed activities. Explorer Posts give children the opportunity to freely explore a skill or a material, while the activities present a directed exploration of science concepts and process skills. 

Some gardening projects in this unit are ongoing; others are sea­sonal. All of the information you will need for each gardening activity is included in the lesson or can be found in Gardening Know­How for the ’90s, by Dick Raymond. Make time for gardening activities, even if your garden consists of a planting box. No matter how small the garden, it will become a focus for learning important lessons about caring for living things and cooperating to achieve a common goal. 

This unit marks the start of a year of exploration for you and your students. Use the Planner in each unit to guide your exploration, but feel free to strike out on your own. Choose the activities that best suit your students, your teaching style, and the season of the year. All of the lessons provide opportunities for cooperative learning and challenge students to solve problems and share discoveries. 

2- Song: “Take the Time to Wonder” 

3- Introduction

4- Student Goals 

5- Activity Chart 

7- Unit Planner 

8- Recommended Literature 

9- Parent Letter 

10- Hello, Garden (touring the class garden) 

13- Explorer Post 1: Through the Looking Glass (exploring magnifying lenses).

15- Garden Shape Search (honing observation skill) 

18- Rattling Roundup (developing listening skills). 

21- Know Your Nose (developing sense of smell) 

24- Mirrors (practicing cooperation skills). 

27- Ball Balance (problems solving with a partner)

29- Explorer Post 2: Harvest Time (harvesting and

exploring vegetables).

31- Tools Together (using and sharing garden tools). 

34- Explorer Post 3: Garden Store (pretending to market crops). 

36- Grow a Garden (sowing seeds in the garden) 

39- Alphabet Garden (growing a plant for each letter of the alphabet). 

 

Exploring Soil (Originally Written For Kindergarten)

Theme: Students use their senses and a variety of tools to explore soils and rocks. 

Science Explorations: Students become aware of some of the physical characteristics of soil and rocks, and how soil and rocks react with water. Students observe how living creatures interact with the soil. 

Process Skills: Students continue to develop observation and comparison skills as they share their observations during investiga­tions.

In this unit, students explore a variety of concepts through activities that focus on the physical properties of soil and rocks, the ways soil and rocks react to water and to various animals. 

Life Science: Plants and animals are found in the soil. Their lives depend on properties of the soil. 

Earth Science: Soil is composed of a variety of materials derived from living and nonliving sources. There are different kinds of soil. Rocks vary in color, shape, texture, hardness and type of streak they produce. 

Physical Science: Soil and rocks are changed by water. 

Science, Technology, and Society: How people treat the soil affects the lives of plants and animals. Rocks can be used for writing and drawing. 

Go to the garden and work with the soil. Feel it between your fingers (and maybe even your toes). Breathe in the earth’s aroma. Think back to when soil was something to play in. Did you throw dirt bombs? Dig to China? Jump off piles of mounded soil? Bake mud pies or build mud walls and tunnels? 

Your memories will enrich your students’ explorations in this unit.. As students play with worms, “cook” mud pies, mix dirt soup, and collect soil, they will be using their senses to investigate the physical properties of soil. They will also use a variety of tools including trowels, spoons, unglazed tiles, and paper clips to explore soil and rocks. In the process, they will learn that soil is composed of various substances, and observe how the texture of soil changes when it becomes wet. They will discover how rocks and soil are related. In addition, they will find that some rocks can be used as tools for writing. They will explore, too, how rocks break and how worms move through soil. 

Your kindergartners will use their fingers, hands, eyes, and ears to make these messy but revealing discoveries. Be prepared for them to get dirty! For many children, the best part of the garden is the soil. Most of the activities in this unit are based on games and play activities that children are likely to do on their own in the garden. They will enrich students’ understanding of their previous experi­ences with soil. The activities and the Explorer Posts included in this unit provide many opportunities for children to share their ideas and observations. As they take part in the various investiga­tions, they will develop skills in communicating, comparing, and observing. 

Try to teach this unit at a time of year when students have plenty of opportunities to participate in garden activities that get them in touch with the earth. It may be a time when they can prepare garden beds, weed, or plant. As in previous units, do not feel you must complete every activity. Choose those that best suit your students, your teaching environment, and your teaching style. 



44- Song: “Dirt Made My Lunch” 

45- Introduction 

46- Student Goals 

47- ActivityChart

49- Unit Planner 

50- Recommended Literature 

51- Parent Letter 

52- A Hole Is to Dig (discovering what garden soil

conceals).

55- Explorer Post 1: Soil Sift ( using tools to explore

the properties of soil) 

57-   Pieces of Soil (collecting and sorting soil particles). 

60- Explorer Post 2: Mud Pies (exploring wet soil)

62- Dirt Soup (comparing degrees of change as soil

becomes saturated). 

65- Explorer Post 3: Pet Rocks (using tools to explore properties of rocks).

67- Getting to Know You ( closely observing characteristics of rocks). 

70- The Write Stuff (comparing the ability of different rocks to make streaks). 

73- Rock Hard (comparing the hardness of different

rocks). 

76- Explorer Post 4: Worms (getting acquainted with earthworms).

78- Hello, Worm (observing the characteristics earthworms)

81- Worm Race (exploring earthworms burrowing

into soil)

Exploring Water (Originally Written For Kindergarten)

Theme: Students develop skills in handling and using a variety of tools and materials as they explore liquid water. 

Science Explorations: Students gain knowledge of such physical properties of liquid water as adhesion, fluidity, buoyancy, and absorption through activities and experiments. 

Process Skills: Students continue to develop communication and observation skills, as they are encouraged to make predictions, draw conclusions, and share ideas.

In this unit, students explore a variety of concepts through activities that focus on the physical properties of liquid water and the ways it reacts to other substances. 

Life Science: Liquid water affects both living and nonliving things. 

Earth Science: Water is all around us. 

Physical Science: Water in its liquid state has special properties that can be observed. Some objects float in water, while others sink. 

Science, Technology, and Society: Explorations in science help people better understand materials that they use everyday.

Stand in the garden during a rain and watch the water stream, drip, flow, and ripple, constantly seeking its own level. Notice the way the water beads on leaves, stretches into tear drops, and then oozes down the stems. Study the way it coats rocks, sinks into soil, and forms puddles. See the way leaves, sticks, and seeds float down tiny rivers, swirl past rock islands, and eventually settle far from where they started. 

In this unit, children explore liquid water’s unique physical prop­erties. Students are also introduced to the effects water has on living and nonliving things. Through open and guided explorations, children will experiment with such characteristics of water as adhesion, fluidity, buoyancy, and absorption. They will experience and define each characteristic in their own terms. In their investi­gations, students will also use tools, such as medicine droppers, funnels, and sieves.  As they develop ideas and questions, children will have opportunities to share their thoughts and observations. The activities will also enhance their communication and observa­tion skills. 

As in previous units, the activities may be taught in any order, although free exploration stations (Explorer Posts) are placed in the units to allow students to freely explore a skill or a material prior to a related directed activity. You are not expected to complete every activity. Choose the ones that fit the needs of your students, match your teaching style, and are appropriate for the season of the year.

86- Song: “River Song” 

87- Introduction 

88- Student Goals 

89- Activity Chart 

91- Unit Planner 

92- Recommended Literature

93- Parent Letter

94- Rain Clouds (watering the garden) 

97- Explorer Post 1: Water Jugs (exploring water as it pours). 

99- The Shape of Water (examining water in containers)

102- Explorer Post 2: Water Drops (exploring drops of water) 

104- Sticky Drops (investigating water that clings). 

107- Explorer Post 3: Sink or Float (exploring what sinks or floats in water) 

109- Floating Boats (predicting what will sink or float) 

112- Explorer Post 4: Out in the Rain (exploring absorbency and repellency).

114- Rain Coats (investigating water repellency)

117- Garden Pools (constructing leakproof tools)

120- Explorer Post 5: Leaks Like a Sieve (using sieves to explore water)

122- Watering Cans (experimenting with water and sieves).

125- Seed Shower (watering techniques)

128- Garden Rain (fresh look at watering the garden)

Exploring Plants (Originally Written For Kindergarten)

Theme: As students explore plants, they continue to practice the use of tools, such as scales and magnifying lenses. 

Science Explorations: Students learn that vascular plants are made up of roots, stems, and leaves. 

Process Skills: Students continue to develop observation and com­parison skills, as they communicate what they observe about plants.

In this unit, students explore a variety of concepts through activities that focus on the properties of plant parts. 

Life Science: Plants have different parts. 

Earth Science: Plants grow in soil. 

Physical Science: Plant parts can be described by different charac­teristics. They differ in color, shape, and size. 

Science, Technology, and Society: People eat different parts of plants.

Kindergarten is a time of exploration. Children explore the various parts of their world, including plants, through play. The stalks of broccoli on their dinner plate become trees in a forest. Peas make nifty marbles. As they play, children investigate with all of their senses. They not only look and listen, but also touch, taste, and smell.

In this unit, students play a.s they examine many different plants. In the process, they explore the various parts that make up a plant and discover similarities and differences among plants. Through the activities included in this unit, children also enhance their language skills and expand their vocabulary. Math and art activities assist students in perceiving shapes and in identifying the color and other physical properties of plants.

Plants furnish us with food, shelter, medicine, and clothing. In times past, even very young children helped their families grow food and collect plant parts from fields and forests. Today, most children have no experience with plants and know little or nothing of even those plants we depend on for survival. For example, most children may have heard the word root, but few will associate the word with a carrot. Indeed they may not even know that carrots are plants that grow from seeds.

Do carrots grow? Are sprouts noodles? These are questions that children sometimes ask and that experience can truly answer. Through their garden explorations, students learn not only how plants grow but also where food comes from. When a carrot is pulled from the ground, a child immediately understands that it is a root. When lettuce is picked from a stalk, it is unmistakably a leaf. Try to teach this unit at a time when a variety of plants are ready for harvest. As children harvest these crops, they will deepen their understanding of plants as organisms that people depend on.

132- Song: “Roots, Stems, Leaves” 

133- Introduction 

134- Student Goals 

135- Activity Chart 

137- Unit Planner 

138- Recommended Literature 

139- Parent Letter 

140- Plant Tell (observing plants in the garden)

143- Explorer Post 1: Seeds ( using tools to explore seeds)

145- Seeds Sort (sorting seeds into categories)

148- Sprouts About (germinating edible seeds indoors). 

152- Explorer Post 2: Leaves and Stems (using tools to explore plant parts) 

154- Leaf Rubbings (sorting leaves by characteristics)

157- Trace That Stem (examining plant stems) 

160- Bean Teepees (planting seeds in the garden) 

163- Explorer Post 3: Roots (using tools to explore roots)

165- Root Gardens (examining roots; planting root view boxes).

169- Seedling Home (transplanting seedlings into the garden) 

172- Explorer Post 4: Flowers (exploring flowers and painting flower pictures).

174- Flower Power (discovering structure and properties of flowers)

177- Fruit Salad (comparing fruits and making a fruit salad)

179- Weed Pluckers (recognizing plant characteristics of garden weeds)

182- Anatomy of a Snack (recognizing plant parts of edible plants)

Exploring Garden Animals (Originally Written for Kindergarten)

Theme: Students use their senses to explore animals through drama, math, art, and language arts. 

Science Explorations: Students become aware of some of the physi­cal and behavioral characteristics of animals, how animals respond to people, and what different animals need for survival. 

Process Skills: Students continue to develop observation and com­parison skills as they identify animal behavior, draw a variety of animals, and record information in books and graphs.

In this unit, students explore a variety of concepts related to the properties and characteristics of animals. 

Life Science: Animals have specific structures, behaviors, and survival needs. Many animals depend directly upon plants for food and shelter. 

Earth Science: Some animals use soil and rocks for shelter. 

Physical Science: Animals can be identified by their unique physi­cal characteristics. Animals move in different ways. 

Science, Technology, and Society: Some animals eat plants that people grow for food.

Whether chasing butterflies and grasshoppers, following ant trails, or petting snails, children are avid explorers of animal life. They project themselves and their emotions onto various animals in such interactions. Their interest in animals can provide a springboard for activities that hone observation skills and develop the ability to compare and contrast animals. 

The animals children explore in this unit are not the warm, fuzzy animals they have as pets or even as stuffed animals. There are no mammals in this unit. Most are classified as arthropods-spiders, sow bugs or pill bugs, insects and other similar critters. These are members of the phylum Arthropoda, which means “jointed foot,” and contains the most animal species of all the classifications. Some children may find these animals strange or even frightening. For most, however, that strangeness will be part of the fascination. Give children many opportunities to observe these animals. If you are squeamish about creepy crawlers, try not to pass on your fears to your students. Instead, enlist the help of knowledgeable volunteers or older students to help introduce the animals to the class. 

The garden is home to hundreds of animals. As children garden or participate in other outdoor learning activities, they are bound to encounter many of these creatures. Together, the first five activities in this unit provide a model for the investigation of each new acquaintance, as they can easily be adapted to the study of almost any garden animal. This set of model activities is followed by seven lessons, each of which gives specific suggestions for studying a certain type of common animal-sow bugs and pill bugs, snails and slugs, spiders, caterpillars, millipedes, crickets, and birds. In these lessons, you will also find information about the collection, care, anatomy, and behavior of each of these critters.

186- ​​Song: “We’re Animals” 

187- Introduction 

188- Student Goals 

189- Activity Chart

191- Unit Planner 

192- Recommended Literature

193- Parent Letter 

194- Garden Neighbors (finding animals in the garden).

197- Animal Investigations (using tools to explore garden animals)

199- Animal Antics (observing and miming garden animal behavior.)

202- Animal Math (observing animal characteristics and making a graph)

205- Animal Art (drawing live garden animals) 

208- Animal Book (making a class book about garden animals)

211- Exploring Sow Bugs and Pill Bugs ( using model activities to explore these animals)

215- Exploring Snails and Slugs (using model activities to explore these animals)

219- Exploring Spiders (using model activities to explore this animal)

223- Exploring Caterpillars ( using model activities to explore this animal)

227- Exploring Millipedes (using model activities to explore this animal)

231- Exploring Crickets (using model activities to explore his animal)

235- Exploring Birds ( using model activities to explore this animal) 

239- Animal Hunt Revisited (a fresh look at animals in the garden)

Garden Celebration (Originally Written for Kindergarten)

Theme: Students display what they have learned about using their senses to explore their environment. 

Science Explorations: Students apply their knowledge of soil, water, plants, and garden animals to create lasting projects. 

Process Skills: Students demonstrate their skills in observing, comparing, and communicating through exploration.

In this unit, students apply a variety of concepts that were devel­oped in previous units. 

Life Science: Plants and animals have specific growing require­ments. 

Earth Science: Soil is composed of different things. 

Physical Science: Both living and nonliving things have physical properties that can be observed and described. 

Science, Technology, and Society: People can grow food to eat.

It’s spring and the school year is coming to a close-a good time to reflect on all that you have accomplished. In the garden, you have weeded, watered, and watched seeds grow into blossoming plants. The changes you nurtured were in your students as well as in the garden. They explored, questioned, tested ideas, and expanded their horizons. Their adventures have built a firm foundation for future science learning. They have discovered how their senses can help them investigate the natural world. And they have learned how they can enhance those investigations with tools ranging from magnifying glasses to balances to shovels and rakes. The children have also learned to work together to explore the properties of water and soil, discover how plants grow, and investigate the worlds of garden animals. 

Completing the activities in this unit will encourage students to think about what they have learned throughout the year. They repeat some explorations and activities so that they can display their increased understanding and knowledge. Keep a clipboard and a pen handy as you assess not only your students’ growing knowledge, but also their cooperative skills and their increasing ability to build and reflect on their own learning. In encouraging your students to learn how to learn, you have given them a teacher’s greatest gift. In this unit, students celebrate and pass on that gift by creating a Garden Big Book and planting a Halloween Garden for next year’s kindergartners. They cap their first year of Life Lab with a Garden Festival to celebrate their own achieve­ments and say “thank you” to those who helped make those achievements possible.

244- Song: “Be Happy”

245- Introduction 

246- Student Goals 

247- Activity Chart

248- Unit Planner

249- Recommended Literature

250- Parent Letter

251- Pass It On (creating a class Garden Big Book)

254- A Hole Is to Dig II (a fresh look at what soil conceals)

257- Exploring Water (fresh look at the properties of water) 

260- Animal Explorations (a fresh look at garden animals)

263- Halloween Garden (planting a fall garden for next year’s class)

267- Garden Festival Plans (organizing an end-of year garden celebration.)

270- Garden Salad (reviewing plant parts of salad vegetables.)

272- Garden Festival (end-of-year garden celebration.)

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