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.

These activites are ones that can be repeated over time and can contribute to garden care. 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”.

Weather Observation and Recording

There are many ways to track and observe the weather. The followiing 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://www.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

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 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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3 weeks ago

Life Lab

Even though we’re 2 days into 2019 it’s not too late to donate to Life Lab! Our curriculum, our garden educator training, our interns are working with children year round in gardens across the country! Lifelab.org/donate See MoreSee Less

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3 weeks ago

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DONATE TODAY! lifelab.org/donate

We love hearing children in our Watsonville school programs proudly proclaim, “I’m a scientist!” after dissecting flowers and drawing their structures.

By supporting Life Lab you help make these inspiring educational experiences available to all children regardless of what they can pay. See MoreSee Less

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4 weeks ago

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Sharing this citrus salsa recipe! lifelab.org/donate

"After making citrus salsa with the class, I asked all of the students to say ‘cheers’ to the chefs who helped prepare this delicious & healthy snack. One of the students looked up and exclaimed, ‘That’s US! WE are the chefs! WE did it!’ I loved seeing that moment of recognition for him: that he (and his entire class) had actually created this healthy meal for all of us to share and enjoy."

-Life Lab Kids Cook Educator See MoreSee Less

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Donate today! lifelab.org/donate See MoreSee Less

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4 weeks ago

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"All things garden education!"- That’s the easy answer to "What does Life Lab do?" … But we can only continue to do this with your support! lifelab.org/donate

(also, check out this slightly longer version of what we do with a peek into our gardens 😊)Life Lab is a national leader in the garden-based learning movement. This video is a brief overview of Life Lab for you to see! See MoreSee Less

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1 month ago

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We hope you will join us in supporting our local school gardens today: lifelab.org/donate

Life Lab has partnered with Food Corps for more than 5 years! Today Life Lab/Food Corps partnership supports 5 school gardens in Pajaro Valley Unified School Districts with garden educators. Your support allows us to continue to cover the costs of running these programs: garden and kitchen supplies, transportation, and more!

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We asked kids across the country what they’re learning from FoodCorps—and why they think it’s important to eat healthy. See MoreSee Less

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Life Lab has been the most innovative and relevant organization in this field. From providing the best curriculum to their cutting edge professional development, we have relied on Life Lab as our go to organization for support, ideas, and collaboration.
Rachel PringleSenior Director of ProgramsEducation Outside
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