Life Lab

Life Lab cultivates children's love of learning, healthy food, and nature through garden-based education.

 

Early days at Green Acres

Green Acres in 1978 and 1982

Life Lab project started at Green Acres School in Live Oak, California in 1978. Life Lab teachers transform a vacant lot into a thriving garden. They start developing curriculum based on the idea that children are motivated to learn scientific ideas by asking questions while in the garden.

An excerpt from the oral history of Robbie Jaffe, co-founder of Life Lab Science Program, recalling how Life Lab blossomed:
Government agencies could get funding to hire people who met certain qualifications, and they’d be paid through this training program to do certain projects. Well, Live Oak School District, which is in an unincorporated area, had a wonderful community schools director at the time by the name of Mark Seamark… Mark, with the support of the Live Oak School District board, created a project through Comprehensive Training and Employment Act (CETA) that got funded, called Project Blossom. It turned out that the Blossom staff was made up of, I think we had seven or eight people, seven women, and one token guy…It was a phenomenal group of creative energy, creative minds. We were funded, and we were based at Green Acres School in Live Oak… Some of us were working on school-based projects; some of us were working on community projects. It was pretty much a free-for-all. We could create whatever kind of projects we wanted, and we had that creative energy. We were probably all in our twenties, maybe some were in their early thirties, and it was a time to literally blossom, for us.

I got involved in a project creating solar greenhouses…We had some funding from PG& E [Pacific Gas and Electric] for the project, and I think the county government even kicked in some funding. We built the greenhouses on those folks’ homes. Then the principal at Green Acres School, George Buehring said to me, “Well, let’s do one here too,” and I, of course, said, “Oh sure!” We got the funding for that, and we built it adjacent to one of the classrooms, actually with Ruth Antolini who was my mentor teacher….
George said, “Great! You know how to garden, right? Let’s start a garden.” I said, “Sure!” He said, “Let’s do it right outside of my office.” So right next to his office we put in a fifteen feet by twenty foot garden. He invited me to a teacher’s meeting to invite the teachers to participate…George and I said, “Well, who wants to volunteer for it? Whoever wants to do it, I’ll be willing to work with your class.” Ruth, of course, was totally in there. Ruth has a farming background and was a totally experiential teacher. She loved it, and she helped shape what the program was and is. Four or five teachers participated. We had a great time! The combination of what I was getting from Rich Merrill (Cabrillo College Horticulture Instructor), and the whole idea of “This is science,” and understanding the interactions, and learning and living it, is what it was it was all about. The kids totally went that direction. We would follow the kids’ lead. They would develop questions, and we would say, “Let’s experiment. Let’s set it up. Let’s figure it out.” It was this phenomenal inquiry learning taking place at a time when science wasn’t taught at all in elementary schools, much less inquiry learning. It was very, very exciting. It was at that point very small-scale, but what would happen is the parents would start coming in and saying, “What’s going on? How come my kid is not involved? Why isn’t my kid’s class out here?” So there started to build up some momentum around it. In the meantime, (this was all still part of Project Blossom) Project Blossom had a grant writer on the staff, Erica [Lann] Clark. She’s now a storyteller in town. Erica and I worked to get some grant funding to expand this and to create a science and nutrition curriculum to go along with it. We got what was then called, Title IV C. It was part of the whole Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which is federal, which is now No Child Left Behind.


This was in ’79, and we got funding to develop a curriculum and establish a model program using a garden to teach science. That was the real start of Life Lab. George said to the staff, “Well, the first year of the program everyone’s required to participate, and then second year you could choose. But I want everyone to at least start off in it.” He gave us this whole [piece of land]— It was basically a dirt parking lot, an overflow parking lot for Little League, or whatever. All the topsoil had been totally removed. George gave it to us to transform…It was a phenomenal transition. It transformed everything, not only just that the gardens came and were absolutely beautiful, but the kids painted murals on the wall. The whole school took on a whole new energy.

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3 days ago

Life Lab

Join us online for a fun family friendly “Gifts From The Garden” Webinar on November 30th at 4pm! Learn to create your own nature based holiday gifts. Life Lab staff will share tried and true crafts that we have made in our youth garden programs including rolled beeswax candles, pressed leaf & flower creations, and more! 🌸Register at LifeLab.org/events See MoreSee Less

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2 weeks ago

Life Lab

Fall 2020 updates. Stay tuned for NEW Life Lab developments coming soon! #sharingiscaring #change #reimagine #RENEW See MoreSee Less

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4 weeks ago

Life Lab

🚨 Happening Today 🚨

We are grateful for the opportunity to invite you to a FREE Life Lab
screening of this important and beautiful film.

Today, October 30th at 7pm PST

Gather (Gather ), is an intimate portrait of the growing movement amongst Native Americans to reclaim their spiritual, political and cultural identities through food sovereignty and land rights, while battling the trauma of centuries of genocide. With regenerative agriculture and permaculture gaining national attention, it is more important than ever to recognize the tremendous innovations and contributions of Indigenous communities and practices. We are grateful Gather has become a key part of these discussions.

To view the screening this Friday, October 30th at 7pm, please make sure that you have RSVP’d via the Storyspaces screening platform link below.

story-spaces.com/events/gather-behyat See MoreSee Less

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1 month ago

Life Lab

In the face of the myriad challenges of 2020, all of you in SGSOs across the country are innovating in creative and inspiring ways to sustain and enhance garden education for their students. We are eager for other SGSOs to learn from you!💚

We want to honor the time and expertise you all bring to the table and, therefore, with generous support from Whole Kids Foundation we are so pleased to be able to provide stipends for peoples’ contributions to these Working Groups.🌱

This year’s SGSO Institute is open to newcomers and SGSO Institute Alumni! Applications are due Nov 6, 2020.
To learn more about this exciting opportunity and apply, visit: lifelab.org/sgso See MoreSee Less

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1 month ago

Life Lab

The Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation is proudly celebrating five years of supporting nonprofits that teach students and communities about the goodness of fresh ingredients. This year, the Foundation awarded more than 110 Neighborhood Grants to nonprofit organizations, with Life Lab being one of them!

We are grateful for the continued support from Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation. Life Lab is honored to have been chosen as a recipient of the Neighborhood Grants. Our partnership reflects Sprouts Farmers Market’s core values of education, environmental stewardship, and nutrition.

With this support we have been able to launch and sustain BackPocketLearning.org, a robust directory of easy to use activities that require no screen time, promote healthy eating and inspires creativity. This site is perfect for teachers and parents alike! BackPocketLearning.org has garnished over 7k users from all over the world, in almost every continent, since our launch in April.

Sprouts Farmers Market

#sproutsfarmersmarket #MyLifelab #local #nonprofit See MoreSee Less

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1 month ago

Life Lab

🌱 Join the SGSO Leadership Institute 🌱

Every year, we host a School Garden Support Organization Leadership Institute to provide an opportunity for school garden professionals from across the country to collaborate, learn from one another, and develop resources to share with a national audience. Collectively, SGSO Institute participants have improved their own work while also sharing ideas and resources to help others do the same.

In the face of the myriad challenges of 2020, all of you in SGSOs across the country are innovating in creative and inspiring ways to sustain and enhance garden education for their students. We are eager for other SGSOs to learn from you! With generous support from Whole Kids Foundation , we are pleased to be able to provide stipends for peoples’ contributions to these Working Groups.

This year’s SGSO Institute is open to newcomers and SGSO Institute Alumni!

🚨 Applications are due November 6, 2020 🚨

To learn more about this exciting opportunity and apply, visit: lifelab.org/sgso See MoreSee Less

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1 month ago

Life Lab

Life Lab celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day with special recognition of the land on which our gardens grow and by sharing beautiful family friendly resources highlighting indigenous storytelling and efforts of Native peoples to reclaim food sovereignty, cultural identity, and native land stewardship.

The Life Lab Land Acknowledgement, now shared at all formal gatherings in our Garden Classroom on the UCSC campus:

“The land on which we gather is the unceded territory of the Awaswas-speaking Uypi Tribe. The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, comprised of the descendants of indigenous people taken to missions Santa Cruz and San Juan Bautista during Spanish colonization of the Central Coast, is today working hard to restore traditional stewardship practices on these lands and heal from historical trauma.”

*Land acknowledgement developed in partnership with the
Amah Mutsun Tribal Band Chairman and the Amah Mutsun
Relearning Program at the UCSC Arboretum.

Learn more about the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band and the
www.amahmutsunlandtrust.org/

Life Lab is honored to support the film, GATHER (Gather) with a
FREE virtual screening on October 30th at 7pm

📷 credit: Amah Mutsun Land Trust website See MoreSee Less

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2 months ago

Life Lab

Looking for some #garden #joy? Join us for a sweet sharing of Life Lab Reimagined: program updates, inspired learning, and community at our Fall Benefit this Saturday at 10:30am 🌱Register at Lifelab.org/fallbenefit 🌱Learn about our New Curriculum, New Life Lab Educator Certification Program, New Staff, and New Garden Additions👀Plus all the beautiful work we’re doing to support school garden education locally and nationally🌻Participants are automatically eligible to win a raffle prize courtesy of @synergyclothing ❤️ #schoolgarden #education #kisstheground #teachtheyouth #landstewardship #fundraiser See MoreSee Less

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2 months ago

Life Lab

It’s Harvest Festival Week🌻happening virtually October 5-10th. A collaboration between the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems UCSC CASFS Farm Life Lab​, and students of UCSC Food Systems Working Group
Mark your calendar! The week-long series is full of fun virtual activities for all ages, with live streamed musical performances, a lecture on agroecology from a panel of experts, and ending the week with Life Lab’s #Funtastic Fall Benefit highlighting new program updates and staff/garden additions. Register at www.LifeLab.org/fallbenefit

Visit bit.ly/ucscharvestfest for a complete schedule of events and registration instructions.

Monday, October 5
7:00 PM – 7:45 PM
Life Lab Backyard Chickens Q&A

Tuesday, October 6
10:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Saving Seeds, Sustaining Our Communities

Wednesday, October 7
1:30 PM – 2:45 PM
The evolution of agroecology as a practice, a research discipline, and a social movement

7:00 PM – 7:45 PM
Nurture Yourselves With Nature!

Thursday, October 8
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Cider Donut Workshop and The Everything Apple Panel

6:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Celebrating Queers and Nature

7:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Giant Green Anemone! Going Deep Into Local Tide Pool Explorations

Friday, October 9
12:00 PM – 2:00 PM
Planting Seeds For Success: Community Connections to Water Your Garden for Wellness!

2:30 PM – 4:00 PM
What is the Food Systems Working Group and what does it do?

5:00 PM – 7:30 PM
Rachel Carson Garden Cooking + Poetry Workshop/Mic!

Saturday, October 10
10:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Life Lab Fall Benefit Gathering
#schoolgardens #gardeneducation #lifelab #harvest #gratitude See MoreSee Less

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2 months ago

Life Lab

Happy weekend everyone ☀️Enjoy this sweet share of the UCSC Farm featuring Life Lab 🌱and our chickens! 🐓We look forward to sharing more with all of you as part of our upcoming Fall Benefit on October 10th. Register at Lifelab.org/fallbenefit youtu.be/uEAv4SabLoA See MoreSee Less

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Stock up your Garden Classroom

Life Lab 40th
Life Lab’s 40th Gala – Sunday, October 13th  Celebrate 40 years of bringing learning to life in gardens. Learn more  
Life Lab's 40th Gala
Life Lab provides truly inspiring training. Their breadth of experience, joy for teaching, and commitment to sharing knowledge highlight the best practices in food and garden education.
Erica CurryTraining and Professional Development ManagerFoodCorps
Thank you for such a wonderful field trip experience! Your leaders did such a great job at keeping our kids engaged.
Sheila BrickenKindergarten TeacherSan Lorenzo Valley Elementary
Terry had another awesome two weeks at Life Lab. I think he learns more there than in any other part of his year. School is great, but he’s passionate (and often dogmatic) about what he learns there.
Tara NeierCamp ParentSummer camp mom
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