On a 10-acre lot off the beaten path in Encinitas, thousands of elementary students have a new outdoor classroom where DREAMS are realized—that is, design, research, engineering, art, math, and science.
The Encinitas Union School District’s Farm Lab is the first in the nation to become a school-district-owned, certified organic farm supplying its own school lunch program. The farm has five acres devoted to produce for the program, a one-acre community garden, indoor maker spaces, science labs, and a teaching kitchen.
Anne Crenshaw is the teacher on special assignment at the Farm Lab and is running its educational programming. She has been with the district since 1987 and welcomed the opportunity with open arms. “As classroom teachers, we are always looking for ways to get our students out into the real world to learn by doing,” she says. “The Farm Lab is the perfect space for students to apply what they learn in the classroom and discover solutions to problems their community faces.”
Starting this school year, the Farm Lab is fully integrated with the district’s nine schools and 5,400 students. One recent project had fourth graders creating infomercials about fruit trees growing on the property. They each conducted research on a tree using tablets, then captured a 60-second video addressing topics such as when it harvests, its health benefits, and how to eat it. Each video was posted to the district website and reachable from a QR code on the tree, so anyone visiting can watch and learn. Students have also planted crops in the Farm Lab to donate to St. Andrew’s Food Pantry, and designed upcycled water bottle planters with crops to take home and cultivate with their families.