If you want to talk about kids’ connection to nature and gardening, you will always have the ready ear of Teresa “Tree” Lees, a 2011 presenter at the Central Coast Bioneers Conference. Besides being the Region 8 Coordinator for the California Regional Environmental Education Community, Tree also teaches permaculture at the Laureate School in San Luis Obispo. Tree uses the Life Lab Garden at Laureate to enrich and supplement the science program from K-8th grade.”Our goal is to teach sustainability through garden-based learning,” says Tree.”Each grade level curriculum is tied to the school garden and the garden, in turn, aids the classroom instruction.” If you ever get a chance, the Laureate Life Lab Garden is a fascinating place to visit. There are seven separate garden areas, each with a theme. The kindergarteners have a sensory garden, where they learn about the different colors and smells of the plants. First graders tend a habitat garden for birds, insects and lizards. Second graders are learning about where their food comes from, and grow farm-to-table vegetables and fruits. The third graders are learning about native plants and peoples, so tend a garden filled with California native plants.Since fourth graders are studying California history and the missions, they grow a typical mission garden. The fifth graders have an herb garden and the sixth, seventh and eighth graders have a Mediterranean garden, to tie into their studies of international cultures and ethno-botany. The children also learn about composting and environmental concepts, such as watersheds and conservation. “Another goal of the Life Lab Garden is to be a demo to families whose children attend the school about what they can do at their homes to provide an ecological and edible landscape,” says Tree. Thank you, Tree, for your great work in getting our Central Coast students off to a great start. And thank you, Laureate School, for knowing and understanding the importance of this type of early education.