Life Lab

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

There are lots of activities that can be really beneficial to your children such as getting a tennis coach for beginners, but research on nutrition education and cooking activities with kids consistently point to positive and lasting affects on their perception of food. If your family means the world to you, comparing life insurance on Money Expert is a great way to start protecting them.
With this being said, it doesn’t get you out of listening to sing-along songs with your kids, no matter how many times you’ve listened to them. Finding another activity allows you to spend more time with them, which is what every parent wants to do, especially if they are always busy. After being involved with the creation of healthy recipes, kids routinely show an inclination for choosing and enjoying fruits and vegetables. There is even more evidence of this when cooking is paired with garden based education. The full circle really hits home when a child is involved with a seed to fork curriculum, infusing their lives with a true knowledge of where their food comes from. A study called The School Lunch Initiative Evaluation Project was one of the first to look at the many variables involved in school garden, nutrition, and lunch programming. Specifically, the kids in the study showed an increased knowledge of nutrition, preference for leafy greens, a positive attitude about healthy school lunch options, and had a grasp on the idea that our eating habits effect the environment. Furthermore, parents in the study who reported eating dinner with their kids every day, noted an improvement in their food choices at the dinner table.

Another powerful study, discussed in this article by Pamela Koch, takes a look at the link between eating habits and cooking programs within schools.

The third group received a series of classroom lessons called Cookshop (CS), which made direct connections to school lunch through having students cook the same vegetable and whole grain recipes in the classroom that they were served in the lunchroom. While they cooked and ate the food as a class, the students also learned about the food, its nutritional value, history, and the science of plants, as well as how to find and use the most suitable utensils for a particular job, for example, they were told to find the best potato mashers to allow them to mash potatoes and other ingredients properly ready for cooking. The students who received Cookshop significantly increased their intake of the targeted foods. Additionally, the students who received CS had the greatest knowledge gains; the greatest increased preferences for whole, plant foods; and gains in their confidence that they had acquired basic cooking skills. These outcomes suggest that hands-on working with and learning about food specifically cooking and eating healthy foods was a necessary ingredient to motivate students to eat new, healthful offerings in the lunchroom.

When our country is in the throws of such wide-scale obesity and diabetes epidemics, these simple proven results of better nutrition are imperative for the next generation to follow. Take this cost-benefit analysis of Californias Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, a federally funded nutrition education program for low income families, by Block Joy Amy, V. Pradhan, G. Goldman:

Using enrolled participants’ demographics and food-related dietary behavior, results indicated that for every $1.00 spent on the program, $3.87–$8.34 is saved in health care costs. These results demonstrate that nutrition education programs are a good investment.

So it is obvious that we need to continue to advocate for and support gardens and nutrition education in our schools. But we can also start at home with some fun and easy activities. Yes, there will be messy counters and floors, but the value of spending time together, empowering your child to have confidence in the kitchen, and see and taste the results of their own important work, will overpower the small inconveniences tenfold. Below are some great resources to get cookin!


Research articles that support the effectiveness of Garden Enhanced Nutrition Education

Life Lab’s Garden Enhanced Nutrition Education Resource List includes resources for educators including many online lessons.

Check out Life Labs Posts on Cooking and Nutrition which includes a video of Pacific Elementary Schools Food Lab Program – where the students cook every school lunch!

Free workshops on improving school food and wellness in California

Life Lab’s Plant It, Grow It, Eat It Workshop explore ways to teach nutrition to elementary and middle school students through gardening, harvesting, and meal preparation.

Feeling Fine With Fresh Foods Field Trip at the Garden Classroom
A winter field trip for 4-5th grader classes that explores health and nutrition topics and where students make and enjoy a stone soup.

Websites on Family Cooking cooking with kids for a healthy body, planet, and community. Also check out her blog roll for many other great sites. 350+ Cooking videos and recipes from PBS Parents a nice site on cooking with kids

Family Friendly Cookbooks for the Young Chef
The Family Kitchen Garden: How to Plant, Grow, and Cook Together by Karen Liebreich, Jutta Wagner, and Annette Wendland
The Family Kitchen Garden integrates the garden and kitchen in a simple, fun way that parents and children can enjoy together. By teaching kids how to garden, they will be more likely to eat what they grow what a rewarding way to encourage healthy foods!

The Whole Family Cookbook: Your Guide to Cooking Healthy Seasonal Food with your Kids by Michelle Stern
The Whole Family Cookbook offers time-saving strategies for shopping and cooking, along with the resources you need to cook healthy, local food in any season. Delicious recipes will please discriminating adults and will tickle the taste buds of children, getting them excited to eat healthy meals for their bodies and for the benefit of the planet.

Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes by Mollie Katzen
Pretend Soup is the classic cookbook for kids, written by Mollie Katzen, author of the Moosewood Cookbook, and educator Ann Henderson. “The child is the focus here: attention is paid to physical ability, comfortable work levels, and variety of tactile experience. A long list of skills and attitudes children can gain from cooking supports the idea that the process is more important than the product.” – School Library Journal. Recommended for ages 5 to 8. Also check out Katzen’s Honest Pretzels and Other Amazing Recipes for older kids.

Cooking with Children: 15 Lessons for Children, Age 7 and Up, Who Really Want to Learn to Cook by Marion Cunningham
Although not as colorful and hip as some of the other cookbooks on this list, Marion Cunningham (Fannie Farmer Cookbooks) has created a book for adults and children that teaches very useful culinary skills as well as the importance of quality family time preparing meals. For example, in chapter one readers will make Vegetable Soup while learning how to chop vegetables, saut, tell the difference between boil and simmer, and how to be organized. Recommended for ages 7 and up.

Fanny At Chez Panisse by Alice Waters
Opening up the magic world of cooking to children, Alice Waters describes, in the words of seven-year-old Fanny, the path food travels from the garden to the kitchen to the table. Teaching kids where food really comes from not just from the market but also from farms and people who care about the earth, Fanny at Chez Panisse has lessons on the importance of eating with your hands, of garlic and of composting and recycling. With 46 recipes…. – from the publisher. Recommended for ages 9 to 12.

The Silver Spoon for Children: Favorite Italian Recipes
by Phaidon Press
Phaidon Press’ Silver Spoon for Kids. Intelligent Italian recipes with easy instructions from the publishers of the famed Silver Spoon for adults (which is a 50yr old, 1000 page tome of Italian Cooking).

The Gastrokid Cookbook: Feeding a Foodie Family in a Fast-food World by Hugh Garvey & Matthew Yeomans
While not a kid’s cookbook to cook from – Gastrokid is of note here as it’s a great place to start to broaden kid’s food horizons. Think of it as a cook-together book. From the back ” the Foodie Parent’s Guide to Raising Passionate Adventurous Eaters”.

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2 days 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, 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! 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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7 days 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: See MoreSee Less

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1 week 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

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 weeks 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 🌱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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3 weeks 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

Visit 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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4 weeks 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 See MoreSee Less

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4 weeks ago

Life Lab

In celebration of the Fall Equinox 🍁we are excited to share a poignant new film called Kiss the Ground Movie🌱Life Lab is honored to have partnered with Kiss the Ground to develop middle school curriculum and accompanying training video for educators, focused on the process of capturing and storing carbon in living organisms such as soil, plants and algae.🌿

This hopeful film showcases part of the solution to climate change that is right under our feet: biosequestration in the soil. Life Lab invites you to join a Global Watch Party for the film, followed by a live Q and A at 6pm PST / 9pm EST. For more info, go to Kiss the Ground Movie 🌍 #Lifelab #regenerativeagriculture #schoolgardens #soilhealth #earthactivist #climatechangesolutions See MoreSee Less

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1 month ago

Life Lab

It’s World Gratitude Day! 💐Life Lab is grateful for our community and to continue our 40+ year mission of cultivating children’s love of learning, healthy food, and nature through garden based education🌱#life lab #schoolgardens #education #worldgratitudeday #gratitude See MoreSee Less

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1 month ago

Life Lab

Join us on October 10th at 10:30am for Life Lab’s Fall Benefit: A Celebration of Learning and Community.
Register at
This virtual event includes a tour of Life Lab’s evolving work and vision. Plus we have a surprise announcement! We are thankful for your encouragement and support as a member of our Life Lab community. Despite the challenges of this unprecedented year, Life Lab is moving forward with grace and creative innovation. The events of this season have provided opportunities to support our local community and national networks in new ways, expand our reach through virtual connections, and dive more deeply into justice and equity in all of our work. We are strengthening the roots that feed Life Lab programs as we continue to transform the Nature of Education. Continued cultivation of children’s love for learning and connections with healthy food and nature during COVID is essential and brings hope, wonder, and a much needed breath of fresh air. We are excited to share the inspiring work of our dedicated staff with you! #gratitude #schoolgardens #education #lifelab #fundraiser #gardens
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1 month ago

Life Lab

🚨Join us TODAY at 11am PST🚨

💚Bringing Social Emotional Learning and
Mindfulness Education to Your Work💚

Join Sheri S. Dollin, M.Ed., Educational Consultant and Mindfulness Facilitator, and Sunny Wight, Co-Founder of Mindfulness First, for an overview of mindfulness and Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in the distance learning setting.

Together, we will look at how an understanding of trauma, mindfulness and SEL can help us to manage stress while nurturing the scientifically proven “protective factors” that help prevent and manage trauma and mental health issues both for ourselves and our students.

We will specifically learn about the brain science of stress, and practice mindfulness techniques you can teach to your students. We’ll also take a look at Mindfulness First’s synchronous and asynchronous online work, and quickly understand that it’s easier than we think to integrate mindfulness and SEL into online classrooms. Bring: something to draw with and a piece of paper, for Mindful Art.

For more information and to register click the link below 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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