Our kids get to visit the Life Lab Garden because the PTA pays for it.
What are the Vine Hill kids doing in life lab?
Early September includes orientation. All students review the safety rules, go over tool use and tool names. We enjoy a garden tour as so much changes over the summer. We keep our eyes out for the resident garden gnome who is constantly changing his hiding spot, also enjoy a cherry tomato tasting. Students harvest and eat their tomatoes.
The later part of Sept., 1st through 5th grades create fresh salsa by harvesting all the veggies from the garden except the lime, they wash and cut the veggies, following a recipe, add all the ingredients into a food processor and create delicious salsa. Rainbow Salsa! We talk about seeds, nutrition and just why each of those vegetables in the salsa are so good for our bodies! Students enjoy it so much they drink the salsa leftovers!
October is about fall harvesting and preparing beds for winter plantings. We have harvest whats useful, clearing the beds of old plants and weeds. We talk compost! We mix in compost and topsoil and it's complete and ready for winter planting. With all this hard work, at the end of class all students enjoy a nice drink of water and a snack of watermelon, tomatoes, peppers, carrots or cucumber all which are harvested from their garden.
Later in October we talk bats, bat crafts, read a story about one special bat and continue work to repair a few beds that have had gopher break-ins!
What is Life Lab?
Life Lab is a garden-based science and nutrition program enabling students to discover the wonder and excitement of scientific inquiry as the outdoors becomes their classroom. Established over 30 years ago, Vine Hill’s Life Lab houses 35 raised garden beds, a green house, a sheltered “classroom”, a tool shed, compost area and flower garden. The program is run by two part-time aides and a Life Lab committee.
The primary goal of the Vine Hill Life Lab is to create a "living laboratory" for the study of the natural world and promote environmental stewardship and a sustainable future. Students learn about site preparation, planting, maintenance and harvesting. Continued emphasis is placed upon interdependence with nature. Problem-solving techniques and an awareness of nature's cycles are some of the valuable goals attained.
Nearly all classes grades K-5 participate in the Life Lab program. Classes rotate and students are in the garden every other week for a 30 or 50-minute block of time. Lessons and activities are planned by the Life Lab Aides, based on season, weather, maintenance needs of the garden, grade level of students, and state science standards. Students tend to their own class garden bed, maintain the overall garden space as well as receive lessons in organic gardening, environmental sciences and nutrition. Art and cooking projects are also included in the curriculum. Health and physical fitness are promoted as students engage in activities such as shoveling, raking and wheel barrowing.
Our garden grows two seasonal crops: A cool weather crop of vegetables such as garlic, peas, carrots, chard, kale, beets, cauliflower, cabbage, turnips and spinach and a summer/fall crop of tomatoes, peppers, beans, squash, eggplant, cucumbers and melons...to name a few. Students learn about the health advantages of a varied diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables. We do several cooking projects throughout the year using student-grown produce, such as fresh salsa, marinara sauce, sautéed kale and/or chard, and salads.
Beginning in 2014, Vine Hill’s Life Lab is now partnering with the district’s food service program to provide fresh organic produce for school lunches. With a grant from the World Hunger Youth program our school district is starting a campaign called “Know Your Farmer-Know Your Food”. Trading cards will be passed out when local farmers’ fruits and vegetables are featured in our lunchrooms—our Life Lab is one of the “farms.” Waste-reduction through recycling and composting is emphasized. We maintain several “open air” compost piles and bins, as well as a worm bin (vermicomposting), and students collect food scraps from their lunches to contribute to our compost efforts.
More info on the Life Lab program (based at UCSC) may be found at www.lifelab.org.