Pacific Elementary Life Lab - School Garden Program
Pacific School has been a leader in school gardening and nutrition programs for decades. The coordinated Life Lab (school garden) and FoodLab (school lunch) programs have received numerous rewards and national and international attention. Together, the two programs teach students of all ages nutrition, gardening, life science, healthy eating, and cooking skills. Below, read more about the Life Lab program. Or click here to learn more about our FoodLab/school lunch program.
Please support our garden program by making a donation to Pacific School Parents Club, or send a check payable to PSF to: PSF Parents Club, PO BOX 358, Davenport CA, 95017. Be sure to note Life Lab on the check.
Spring 2019 Life Lab Garden Update from Instructor Sze-Wing Lau
Thank you for all of you who made it out to Grandfriends day! It is such a pleasure to enjoy the garden with you all and to share some of what the students have done in Life Lab this year.
In the midst of a cold spring and unpredictable weather patterns, the garden is full of flowers and getting ready for summer. Here is what our classes have been up to:
Kindergarten is patiently waiting for tomato seeds to sprout, tasting strawberries, and harvesting beautiful onions
1st/2nd has been busy sowing seeds like sugar snap peas and green beans, and turning over garden beds to plant for summer harvest
3rd/4th has been guarding the garden against weeds, harvesting an abundance of kale and lettuce, and improving soil health by breaking down cover crop
Fall 2018 Life Lab Garden Update from Instructor Sze-Wing Lau
It has been a wonderful autumn in the garden, watching the leaves change color and drop, making room for new growth and saying goodbye to flowers as we welcome the rain. We are grateful for all of our dedicated garden volunteers over the summer and into the school year. Thanks to you all, we have been able to grow and harvest pumpkins, beans, heirloom tomatoes, fall and summer squash, and apples. As winter approaches, our beds are being turned over to cool season crops such as lettuce, kale, broccoli, chard, and carrots, along with cover crop in the garden and the hillside orchard to replenish the soil.
Pacific School students have been working hard in the garden along with exploring and learning from this special space. Here’s what we have been up to:
Preschool has been exploring their garden bed soil with digging tools and weeding through it to prepare for new strawberries and other plants, as well as learning who inhabits the garden through roly-poly, slug, and snail observations.
Kindergarten has been taste testing their way through the garden, from apples to kale to tomatoes and more. They have also been exploring the garden with the rest of their senses, through sensory scavenger hunts and green onion planting.
1st/2nd has been collecting and saving seed from our summer crops such as sunflowers and beans and storing them for next planting season, and observing our worm box along with keeping our worms happy by feeding them garden scraps. Passion fruit enthusiasts have also been making observations about the best time of year to harvest passionfruit and what stage they taste best in.
3rd/4th has been journaling and making weekly observations from a self chosen sit spot, sifting pounds of compost to nourish our garden beds, and harvesting lettuce, radishes and broccoli for Food Lab.
Garden Program Overview
Project Life Lab is Pacific School's gardening program, where the children learn nutrition and natural science in an integrated curriculum with gardening activities.
The full cycle of composting, planting, and harvesting - and then cooking their harvest in the food lab - helps the students to understand where their food comes from and how it nourishes their bodies. By becoming deeply involved in the growing and cooking of their own food, the children learn to be more invested in what they eat.
Our garden is a wonderful and functional workspace that is supported by the Pacific Elementary community! With fifteen raised beds as well as fully-renovated sheds and teaching facilities, students get to learn about water cycles, how plants grow, and how soil gets built in an environment that supports learning to its fullest. A bounty of fresh soil and plenty of space mean the harvests will be bigger, so the children will have a better chance of tasting their own efforts at lunchtime. Thanks to so much community and parent support, our Life Lab program is flourishing.
Pacific School began Project Life Lab in 1983, and was endorsed by the National Science Foundation. Beginning in September 1984, Project Life Lab took on a new importance as children now plan and plant in cycles, according to the needs determined by our Food Lab program. In the summer of 2010, the Parent's Club donated the money to have the Life Lab garden completely upgraded, and these funds, along with much hard work by dedicated volunteers, have worked their magic. Welcome!
Who: Preschool through 4th grade students receive approximately 1-hour classes every week, except in the off season, mid-December through mid-February. Classes are taught by our gardening expert Sze-Wing Lau. Additional instruction is provided by classroom teachers and/or parent volunteers. We are one of a few school programs in the nation that has year-round weekly gardening classes for our students.
Grants and Awards
The Life Lab garden program at Pacific School has won numerous grants and awards, totaling multiple thousands of dollars for the purchase of plants, tools, irrigation systems, facilities improvements, native landscaping, etc. In 2018, Pacific School's Life Lab Program received $1,500 from the California Fertilizer Foundation for various supplies, and $4,000 from NOAA's Ocean Guardian Schools program for native plants, orchard trees, supplies, and consulting time to help students continue to expand the native garden. Pacific School was excited to receive an additional $4,000 for a continuation of the Ocean Guardian Schools program in 2019-20.
In 2016, Pacific School was one of six districts in the state to be awarded the top prize of the California Farm to School Network's Golden Seed Award for demonstrating staying power in gardening, local food procurement, and nutrition education. Other awards to the Life Lab program can be viewed here.
Visit Pacific School's Life Lab Google Site To view photos, lessons, announcement archives, and more.
Site Archive Photos
Lawn Irrigation Installation 2016
Green House Irrigation 2016
Updates, Archives and More
Visit our google site to find:
In the play-yard and in our school garden we have a weather station based on a design from Life Lab. Find more information, links to spare parts, and download a data log and cloud key at www.lifelab.org/weather-station
Learn to use the weather station in the video below.
Our Orchard was planted in 2017. The Jonagold, Hudson Golden Gem, and Kumquat were added in 2019. View Tree Map & Harvest Schedule.
The best way to care for our orchard is to find a community member who knows about growing fruit trees in our coastal area and ask them for their help. Here are good resources to refer to:
CommonVision School Orchard Care Resources
UCSC Farm & Garden Orchard Resources
Orchard Keepers Care Sheets
Orchard Blog Posts
November 2016 - Getting Started
March 2017 - Planting Day
September 2018 - Summary Video
Our irrigation is controlled by the Rainbird Controller on the south-west side of the Multipurpose Room. Valve 6 controls the orchard and area above the retaining wall. There is a valve that can turn off the retaining wall if needed. In rainy winters turn off irrigation during the winter. Refer to the irrigation notes at Orchard Keepers to estimate watering rates. Each tree has a drip line that emits ~ 10 gallons per hour.
Irrigation repair and replacement parts may be in our garden shed or they can be ordered from Dripworks.com. A local garden company may also carry parts. See components of our irrigation system from Dripworks.com
Find our orchard and native signs in this folder.
Find many more photos on our Google Site
This beautiful handmade railing was created by a Pacific School aluma as a Girl Scouts Silver Award project.