The Living


Lessons learned with The Living Classroom Curriculum help children connect with nature, and help them understand why that connection is important. Children experience nature first hand, getting real world lessons on plants, animals, soil, ecosystems, biodiversity, and sustainability.

What I hear, I forget. 
What I see, I remember. 
What I do, I understand.

~ Chinese Proverb ~

Our Belief and Purpose

For 25 years, the purpose of The Living Classroom Learning Lab is for children to learn, through hands-on experiences, the intricacies, interdependencies, and mysteries that exist in nature. Our lessons guide children to understand the importance of being Keepers of the Earth. 

We understand that many schools do not have the ability to establish a garden. Our lessons have been modified to use recycled materials and ordinary classroom supplies, so that any school regardless of where they are or the grounds they have access to, can present our lessons to every child. Our lessons are unique and adaptable.

We believe children need to understand their connections to our planet Earth in order to care for their environment. Based on this belief, we developed a nature based curriculum so children gain this knowledge, not only to meet academic standards, but to raise achievement, and experience the wonder and joy in learning.

Our hope is that you use this extraordinary resource.

Plant the seeds of learning, exploration, and discovery
with The Living Classroom Learning Lab!

A Curriculum Based on Inquiry

Each lesson in the LCLL curriculum uses an inquiry-based learning approach in asking children a question which they explore throughout that lesson. As they investigate, the children’s wonderings can lead to further topics to explore in that, or future lessons.

There are four major themes which run through the scope and sequence of this curriculum: Nature Detective, Ecosystems, Seed to Seedling, and Private Eye. The lessons are connected within each theme in an ascending, spiraling dependence upon one another. For a fifth grader to achieve in a Sustainability lesson, he/she must also have the prior knowledge of the basic needs of plants, animals, and humans learned in Kindergarten and First grade.

“An environment-based education movement–at all levels of education–will help students realize that school isn’t supposed to be a polite form of incarceration, but a portal to the wider world.”

~ Richard Louv ~

the themes of the lCLL Curriculum

Nature Detective

Being able to sit quietly and observe everything around one’s self is an important skill in learning about nature. As the children progress through the activities in the Nature Detective series (PreK-5th), they will need to use their senses of sight, sound, smell, and touch to understand the plants and animals that make their home there. The purpose of this lesson is for the children to deepen their observation skills by concentrating on their sense of touch while interacting with the variety of plants present in the Living Classroom as well as the world around them.

ecosystem study

Understanding the relationships between the living and non-living, the consumers and producers, and the decomposers in an ecosystem help children understand the interdependencies in nature, and why each is important. As the children progress through the activities in the Ecosystem Study series (PreK-4th) they begin to understand the vital role every creature and plant plays in creating a harmonious planet.

Private eye

The Private Eye series (PreK-5th), helps children sharpen their observation skills, to express their thoughts, to look closely and wonder, to begin to think metaphorically, and to start to theorize on their own.

Seed to Seedling

In the Seed To Seedling series (PreK-2nd) children learn what a seed is, what a seed needs in order to grow and the lifecycle of a plant. “It is also a magical moment when the children first see the green tips of a seemingly lifeless seed bursting through the black dirt becoming a living plant. Their eyes light up and they want everyone to come and look at what is happening, beaming that they are partly responsible for this amazing occurrence.”

The Concepts Taught Throughout The LCLL Curriculum

~ Ecosystems ~
~ Life Cycles ~

~ Adaptation ~
~ Pollination ~

~ Biodiversity ~
~ Food Chains ~

~ Patterns ~
~ Shapes ~

~ Diversity ~
~ Sustainability ~

Sample Lesson | Making A Seed Tape

This video will walk you through the entire Lesson.
additional Resources And lesson activities follow this video.

The Expandable Rows Below Contain Teacher Resources And Information About The Lesson.
The Activities That Make Up The Lesson Start Below This List.

The main purpose of this lesson is for the children to learn the best way to plant carrot seeds which happen to be very small. Before we used the seed tape method to plant the carrots, we would make furrows and the children would drop the seeds in the furrow by hand. The process of sowing seeds by hand requires thinning. (Thinning is the process of reducing the number of seedlings in a row by physically taking out or cutting seedlings down so that the seedlings that are left are spaced correctly and produce a good yield of plants.) Thinning usually did not happen in our garden. As a result, the children’s carrots would be extremely small. One of the basic needs of all living things is space. Everything needs its own space to live. To understand why this element of space is so important, the children will be conducting an experiment to see if having enough space helps a plant grow best. In order to understand that making seed tapes is a good way to plant seeds, an experiment will be set up that the children will not know the results of until the Fall when they come back to school as second graders.

The question for this lesson will become: What is the best way to plant our carrot seeds?

The experiment will consist of three ways to plant our carrot seeds:
• planting the seeds correctly spaced on a seed tape
• planting the seeds in a furrow by hand
• making 5 holes spaced evenly apart and planting 3 seeds in each hole.

“A secondary purpose of this lesson: Planting a small seed and watching it grow is a magical time for Kindergarten children — for all children. Making the seed tape is easy, fun, and anticipates a trip out to the Living Classroom Learning Lab to begin planting a new crop of vegetables to grow throughout the spring and summer.”

~ Danette “Danny” Riehle ~

Lay the one ply toilet paper on each side of the table to make 2 seed tapes. Each tape should be as long as the table. Place a few seeds in one plate and some paste in another plate and place them both near the appropriate seed tapes. Read the seed packet to see how far apart the seeds should be. Show the children this measurement and connect the same number of Unifix cubes as the measurement. These cubes then become the measurement stick the children will use to measure the distance between each seed. Using the Unifix cubes and a marker, the
children can measure and place a dot where each seed will go. Keep the dots on the side of the toilet paper closest to the child. Have the children take a paint brush or craft stick and place a smudge of paste on the colored dot (One paint brush tip or one craft stick end of paste should do about three to four dots – too much paste may get the seeds to sprout before the seed tape is planted.)

Next, have the children put one seed on each spot of paste. While the paste is still wet, fold the toilet paper in half lengthwise over the seeds to make a cover for the seeds. The seed tape is now complete. The seed tape needs to dry before it can be rolled up. The children can make plant markers for the garden. Once the seed tape is dry, you may roll it up until it is time to plant it.

There should be only 2 children working on each seed tape.

  • chart paper
  • packaged carrot seeds The seeds need to be bought. They need to be marked Non-GMO, Non-hybridized, organic or heirloom. Some companies have fiddled with seeds and now some seeds will not grow at all or will revert back to an early variety.
  • large carrot for each kindergarten
  • one ply toilet paper used to make the seed tapes, cut into 3 foot strips
  • 1 1/2 cups flour (for paste)
  • 1 cup water (for paste)
  • a mixing bowl and spoon to stir the paste
  • containers to hold the paste
  • containers to hold the seeds
  • rulers
  • unifix cubes
  • craft sticks or paint brushes to apply paste
  • craft sticks to identify the place where the seed tapes, seeds in a furrow and seeds in hole are planted
  • markers
  • large sheets of bulletin board paper
  • picture of the beds in the vegetable garden
  • if no outdoor garden is available to plant in: large containers for planting – cardboard produce containers from Costco provide the surface and depth for planting all three experiments
  • soil
  • From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons
  • Vegetables in the Garden: A First Discovery Book

Activity #1: Making a Seed Tape (30 min)
Activity #2: Planting Seed Tapes, Seeds in a Furrow & Planting 3 Seeds in a Hole (30 min)
Activity #4: My Seed Tape Journal (30 min)

  • Bring in one large carrot for each kindergarten
  • Lay out the large sheets of bulletin board paper and the seed tape materials
  • If the toilet paper is not one ply, then separate the toilet paper into one ply strips, cut into 3 foot sections

A month before planting time or immediately after all kindergarten and first grade Seed to Seedling lessons are completed: order the sponge plugs and fertilizer needed for next Spring’s planting in the Bio Domes from Park Seed

Before inserting the sponges into the seed starter kit, the holders and trays need to be washed in a mild bleach solution — 1Tbsp/one gallon of water.

Allow to air dry.

Purchase a package of Jiffy Pots (can also be ordered from Park Seed) – 4 will be needed in the lesson.

Purchase Pepper seeds enough for all Kindergartens. These seeds need to be bought. They need to be marked Non-GMO, Non-hybridized, organic or heirloom. Some companies have fiddled with seeds and now some seeds will not grow at all or will revert back to an early variety. If pepper seeds are not obtainable, the other seeds that could be used to plant indoors are: broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, cucumbers, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, eggplant, leeks, large onions, all types of lettuce.

Bring in seeds from: an avocado seed, a sunflower seed and a peach seed, if they were not left in the kit.

Bring in a pepper, apple, pea pod, and bean pod.

Place the Lima beans in the container and fill it with lukewarm water just to cover the beans about 6 hours before the lesson.

Before the lesson, help the teacher set up the necessary materials in the classroom. Set up the Bio Dome Seed Starting Kit. Directions for the kit are on pages 13 and 14 of this lesson.

To help make this procedure successful, volunteers will move the planted container of peat pots in the Bio Dome to be placed under the grow-light system.

On a rotating system (that needs to be developed), volunteers must check on the water level in the trays once a week and help the children measure the plant growth every five days and record their findings in their journals.

At the same time, check the progress of the two experimental plants.
When planting is complete and before inserting the sponges into the seed starter kit, the holders and trays need to be washed in a mild bleach solution — 1Tbsp/one gallon of water.

Allow to air dry.

Making a seed tape ensures the success of growing healthy vegetables and plants from very small seeds. If seeds are sown in a furrow, thinning the growing plants is necessary to produce healthy mature vegetables. Thinning is the process whereby some plants that are competing against one another for their existence are pulled so others will have plenty of room to develop. In past years in the Vegetable Garden, thinning has not happened, so the vegetables do not have room to grow and

biodegradable: capable of being slowly destroyed and broken down into very small parts by natural processes, bacteria, etc.

germinate: biology definition as it concerns seeds: to begin to grow

hypothesis: best guess

furrow: row

This lesson can be taught anytime between Pre-K and through Second Grade.

Early Spring; late April to Mother’s Day.
The lessons of Seed to Seedling and Making a Seed Tape need to be taught in a two week span.

Seed to Seedling in the Kindergarten Classroom:

This lesson is the beginning of a series of three kindergarten lessons and one first grade lesson that will show how a seed grows and produces a vegetable or fruit that can come to the child’s dinner table. Essential Questions: Where do we get seeds? and What does a seed need to grow? Children watch vegetable seeds grow in the classroom if they are given water and light.
Making a Seed Tape:
Essential Question: What is the best way to plant our seeds? Children learn that vegetables need the right amount of space to grow.
Planting in the Vegetable Garden:
Essential Question: Now that our plants are growing in the garden, how will our plants receive the basic needs that they must have to grow?  Children plant vegetable seedlings and seed tapes in the Vegetable Garden.
Kindergarten, First Grade or Second Grade
Harvesting in the George Washington Vegetable Garden: (Two months later, as first-graders…)
Essential Questions: How do vegetables get to my dinner table? and Can the seeds from the vegetables I am harvesting be used for more plants? Children pick the vegetables and fruits that they have grown from seed. As they observe the many seeds that are present inside the fruits they have picked, they will have seen the life cycle of a seed. The new seeds will be stored to plant the vegetable garden again next Spring.

The purpose of the Living Classroom is to have children learn, through hands on experiences, the intricacies, the interdependencies, and the mysteries that exist in nature. The lessons will guide the children to understand the importance of being caretakers of our Earth in order to preserve our present and future ecosystems.

Disciplinary Core Ideas in the Next Generation Science Standards:

Structure and Function
All organisms have external parts that they use to perform daily functions.
All organisms have external parts. Different animals use their body parts in
different ways to see, hear, grasp objects, protect themselves, move from place to place, and seek, find, and take in food, water and air. Plants have different parts (roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits) that help them survive and grow. (1-LS1-1)

Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms
Food provides animals with the materials and energy they need for body repair, growth, warmth, and motion. Plants acquire material for growth chiefly from air, water, and process matter and obtain energy from sunlight, which is used to maintain conditions necessary for survival. (K-LS1-1)

LS2.A Independent Relationships in Ecosystems
Plants acquire material for growth chiefly from air, water, and process matter and obtain energy from sunlight, which is used to maintain conditions necessary for survival.

The Needs of Living Things
Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive. (K-LS1-1)

Natural Resources
Living things need water, air, and resources from the land, and they live in places that have the things they need. Humans use natural resources for everything they do. (K-ESS3-1)

Understandings about the Nature of Science in the Next Generation Science Standards for K-2:
Connections to the Nature of Science:
> Science Addresses Questions About the Natural and Material World.
> Science Is a Way of Knowing.
> Scientists study the natural and material world.
> Science knowledge helps us know about the world.
> Science investigations begin with a question.
> Scientists use different ways to study the world.
> Scientists use drawings, sketches, and models as a way to communicate ideas.

Common Core State Standards Initiative: Mathematics Kindergarten>> Measurement & Data
Describe and compare measurable attributes.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K. Measurement & Data.A.1
Describe measurable attributes of objects, such as length or weight.

Making a Seed tape, Lesson Activities

Activity #1: Making a Seed Tape (30 min)

Activity #2: Planting Seed Tapes, Seeds in a Furrow & Planting 3 Seeds in a Hole (30 min)

Activity #3: My Seed Tape Journal (30 min)

~ Come Walk through the lCLL Garden ~

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