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.



  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

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:

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2 days ago

Life Lab

It was such a pleasure reconnecting with all the garden educators from the Santa Cruz area yesterday. You all are doing an incredible job! We hoped that you all had a great time sharing your experience in working at your school’s garden. We look forward to seeing you very soon!

If were not able to make it to yesterdays Garden Educator Gathering, please sign up for our mailing list so you can keep up to date with all of our events. We have some really exciting 40th celebrations coming soon. See MoreSee Less

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4 days ago

Life Lab

Thank you to all the educators that came out and participated in our Intro to NGSS workshop. It was great meeting all of you. An extra special thank you to Edible Schoolyard Japan (エディブル・スクールヤード・ジャパン) for coming all the way from Japan to be a part of our workshop!

If you’re interested in joining our upcoming workshops click here See MoreSee Less

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1 week ago

Life Lab

Life Lab is hiring an Educator Training Specialist!!!

We are looking for an individual who is personable, approachable, and flexible nature; that has outstanding teaching and organizational skills.

Life Lab’s Educator Training Specialist will manage our on- and off-site educator workshops and lead some of our workshops. Tasks will include:

• Offsite Workshop Coordination
• Onsite Workshop Coordination
• Lead Educator Workshops
• Curriculum Development

Key Qualities of the Educator Training Specialist are:

• a deep commitment to the mission of Life Lab, which is to cultivate children’s love of learning, healthy food, and nature through garden-based education
• cross-cultural competency, with a deep commitment to equity and inclusion in education
• outstanding teaching skills
• 3 or more years of experience teaching children in a school garden or other outdoor education setting
• experience leading trainings for educators or other adult learners

If this sounds like a job made just for you please click here for more details.

Please Share if you know someone who would love the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on children’s lives. See MoreSee Less

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1 week ago

Life Lab

Looking for ideas to keep your school gardens tended and active during the summer? Are you thinking of new ways to bring garden-based learning to a community garden or farm site? Join us for a webinar on the ins and outs of running kids day camp programs on educational gardens.

Erin Jackson, Education Director at Gallatin Valley Farm to School, and Amy Carlson, Garden Education Director at Life Lab, will share their years of experience and resources for creating day camp programs.

From promotions to post assessments and everything in between, this hour long webinar will provide you with inspiration and ideas to create or enhance summer programming on your educational garden or farm.

To register click here! See MoreSee Less

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1 month ago

Life Lab

Thanks Christine at for sharing a good winter time lesson from The Growing Classroom.Christine shares a hands-on garden planning lesson using mapping, math, and scale drawing skills from one of our best-known resources, The Growing Classroom!… See MoreSee Less

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1 month ago

Life Lab
Join Us For a 2019 Life Lab Garden Classroom Workshop

~ Meet and learn from other garden-based educators

~ Be inspired by our model educational Garden Classroom Site

~ Enjoy a delicious, fresh meal

~ Take home lessons and resources to use in the garden or classroom See MoreSee Less

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2 months ago

Life Lab

Last week we were thrilled to have garden educators from around the country collaborate at our School Garden Support Organization Leadership Institute.

Will you apply next year? Pictures (and smiles) tell it better than our words can.

Thank you all for participating!Kristen and Kat spent last week at the School Garden Support Organization Leadership Institute hosted by Life Lab in Santa Cruz, California. The institute provided the opportunity for us to learn best practices in networking, sustainability, evaluation, school standards, and more from school garden organizations from all over the country. We also got to visit some truly dreamy and fully-integrated school gardens. We can’t wait to share our BIG goals and vision for OKC Harvest with you! 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