Life Lab

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

A New Kind of Leadership and Shared Vision for Life Lab  

Amid the beauty of summer on the farm and the wonderful energy of our camp kids here, there was a different and very special Moment in July that we’re excited to share with you. On July 8th, Judit Camacho joined the Life Lab staff as Co-Executive Director with Don Burgett, an exciting opportunity for shared leadership of Life Lab toward a growing vision for our local and national programs. We are both so thrilled to have this opportunity to work together and with all of Life Lab’s community and partners! Here are notes from each of us on what this means to us:

From Don:  

I’ve known of Judit’s professional work and her family’s connections to Life Lab since 2013, and we had a chance to meet in person in April 2017. She was living and working in México then, but still offered to help Life Lab in any way she could. Amid the daily rush of Life Lab here, I was hard pressed to keep in touch, but I was looking forward to her return to Santa Cruz at some point and the chance to get her involved.

When Judit popped into our office in May, now living in Santa Cruz again, to volunteer for our Spring Benefit Brunch during a few open weeks in her otherwise full life, I immediately jumped from my chair to greet her and suggest we talk bigger things, too. About 15 minutes into our first two-hour meeting later that week, I said, “I just have to tell you that I have been dreaming of co-directing Life Lab with you.” Three weeks later, with enthusiastic support from our board and staff and an exceptional pledge from generous longtime Life Lab friends, we confirmed the creation of a new Co-Executive Director position and offered it to Judit. Her tremendous experience as a successful executive director and her deep personal connection with Life Lab had convinced me that I wanted her on our team when we first met in person in 2017, and all of our discussions in May and June strengthened that feeling. 

There are many aspects to this partnership for me, but the key ones are: 

   ~ I believe deeply in collaborative leadership and know that the benefits of having two hearts and minds sharing this role for Life Lab far outweigh the additional time we need to confer and communicate. Our decisions will be better, our intentions clearer, our thinking more strategic, and the impacts for Life Lab and the many children’s lives we touch more enduring. 

   ~ This is a model of sustainability for the organization and for us personally as leaders. Life Lab gains more flexible, stable leadership compared to the solo model of relying on just one person in this key role. As people, Judit and I both know what it’s like to work long hours in that model, and sharing the role offers greater health and balance, which ultimately benefits Life Lab, too. 

   ~ Judit brings a passion for our mission and a wealth of experience growing a nonprofit focused on educational equity. I’ve been so excited about the direction and vision of Life Lab in recent years and where we know we want to go, but I haven’t had the capacity amid other organizational needs to help us get there as fast as we’d like and the community needs. The timing is perfect for us to add capacity and accelerate our work, and Judit is the ideal partner for me and us in this.     

   ~ Judit brings invaluably different life experiences to this role than I do. I have long been aware of my own privileges of being a man, white, and having grown up in great comfort. It is an honor to lead Life Lab in this position every day and use the benefits of my privilege to help it succeed. I’m also aware that sharing power is vital to our present and future work and world. We are a stronger organization – meaningfully and joyfully – with the addition of Judit’s leadership perspective as a woman, a Latina, a mother, and a child of farmworkers, like many of the children we serve. Our partnership in this role is strengthened both by our differences and by the skills, traits and experiences we share.

   ~ Judit is inspired by our commitment since 2014 to being an on-the-ground partner again for local schools, starting in the Pajaro Valley and with the vision to grow to all 40 public elementary schools across Santa Cruz County. She is excited to help us accelerate that growth to ensure that as many local children as possible have access to the benefits of our work as soon as possible. 

   ~ It’s fun! Judit and I are so well aligned in this work and co-directorship that each (very full!) day is a new pleasure. 

In my appeal to potential donors to support this vital strategic move, I noted:

I have to hire Judit now for Life Lab’s present and future, in which we partner with all Santa Cruz County public elementary schools to have vibrant garden classrooms with academic, wellness and environmental literacy programming and benefits for 18,000 grade school children each year. We are growing to seven year-round partner schools in PVUSD this fall, and we will expand from there to the rest of the county’s grade schools, working with the highest need ones first.  

Life Lab has grown from $500k annually in 2012 to $1M this year during my tenure to date, building organizational capacity and strength. Judit and I are mapping Life Lab’s path to being a $2.5M organization to meet that countywide vision while serving as a national leader, as well, through fantastic new long-term partnerships on that side of our work. 

I dare you to meet Judit in person and not be inspired to help me make this happen!

On behalf of Life Lab and myself, I am so grateful that this is coming to fruition!

 

From Judit:

I believe in transformative leadership, where we all share our strengths and power to provide others privilege and access. Over the last four decades, many people and programs have granted me these opportunities to engage in higher education and work in exceptional learning environments. I am now deeply inspired to serve Life Lab to strengthen its local roots and grow its national networks such that all children in Santa Cruz County and beyond have access to high quality Garden Classrooms. 

I have witnessed the magic that intentional garden-based education provides children. My daughter and son, now teenagers, participated in Life Lab summer camps from ages 6 and 4 years old. Here at Life Lab, their minds were nurtured and their hearts were celebrated. This is what all children deserve, and I am honored to be invited to co-direct with Don to envision the next 40 years ahead.

Don has over 20 years of intimate experience with environmental education on the UCSC Farm and beyond. His passion for nature and gardens has traveled from Pennsylvania to Peru to Los Angeles and all over the magnificent West Coast. He cares for bees, an exceptional cohousing community, as well as melodic conversations. He is a renaissance man who cultivates honest and caring relationships with staff, board and Life Lab’s partners. He also brings an admirable confidence and gentle approach with every person with whom he meets. It is a joy to work with Don! Thank you for including me in your co-directorship dream! 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 days ago

Life Lab

🌱 Become a Life Lab Certified Educator!🌱

We only have 3 spots left in our new School Garden Educator Certification Program! Sign-up today for the entire series of courses or for individual courses by visiting website, link below. Our first course, Building Connections in the Garden, starts with asynchronous work on January 21st and our first synchronous session will be on January 28th from 3:30 – 5:00 PST. You may continue to sign up through January 27th or until all spots are filled. If needed, we highly encourage you to join the waitlist to get priority registration for our next cohort in the fall of 2021 or should there become spots available.

Upon completion of the 4 courses, participants will receive a certificate and the distinction of being a Life Lab-Certified Garden Educator. Each course will last approximately 8 weeks long and include 4 synchronous meetings, at-home work, and a unique coaching model tailored to each individual’s needs.

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2 weeks ago

Life Lab

Looking to 2021 with a magnified view of our impact on nature and our connections with each other. A healthy garden is a diverse and sustainable ecosystem full of wonder and beauty in all seasons. #LifeLab #2021 #gardeneducation #science #BetterTogether See MoreSee Less

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4 weeks ago

Life Lab

At the beginning of the year, Life Lab launched our Healthy Futures campaign in response to the financial impact of COVID on our programs. We are grateful for our continued partnerships and our resilient staff who had to reimagine our work and how to best serve our local and national communities. The innovative outcome of this process includes new resources such as Next Generation Science in the Garden Curriculum, Life Lab Educator Garden Certification Program, Life Lab Webinar Series, Back Pocket Learning, and more!

2021 is full of potential and positivity, however……

🌱 WE STILL NEED YOUR HELP! 🌱

Our 2020 annual operating budget is $1,300,000 and we’re almost there!!! We are only $12,223 away meeting that goal! Click here ow.ly/FP0950CSIlg to help us reach our before the end of the year. Remember, every little bit goes a long way! 💚

For more information about our Healthy Futures campaign please visit here ow.ly/jwKh50CSIlf. See MoreSee Less

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1 month ago

Life Lab

The Life Lab Garden Educators just finished building and installing brand new veggie boxes at one of our partner schools, in Watsonville!!! Can’t wait to see these flourish! 🌱🥕🐝🌻#gardensofgratitude See MoreSee Less

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1 month ago

Life Lab

The Life Lab Garden Educators just finished building and installing brand new veggie boxes at one of our partner schools, in Watsonville!!! Can’t wait to see these flourish! 🌱🥕🐝🌻#gardensofgratitude See MoreSee Less

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1 month ago

Life Lab

🌱 Become a Life Lab Certified Educator! 🌱

Life Lab is excited to announce our new School Garden Educator Certification Program!

We’ve put together a series of 4 on-line courses that will guide and support educators in becoming a Life Lab-Certified School Garden Educator. Upon completion of the 4 courses, participants will receive a certificate and the distinction of being a Life Lab-Certified Garden Educator.

Each course will last approximately 8 weeks long and include 4 synchronous meetings, at-home work, and a unique coaching model. It is also possible to sign-up for individual courses separately to learn specific content or brush up on one topic that meets the needs of your program.

Registration for the full certification series opens today, December 7th. Click the link below

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1 month ago

Life Lab

Join us today at 1pm with nutritionist, @jocelyndubin MS, RD for a healthy conversation about nutrition especially during the holidays and the benefits of eating a rainbow. Register at LifeLab.org/events Link is also in our bio #foodismedicine #teachthekids #eatarainbow #LifeLab #schoolgardens See MoreSee Less

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2 months ago

Life Lab

Life Lab is thrilled to announce the launch of 3 new Next Generation Science in the Garden curriculum units for grades K-2🐝 These units are aligned to #NGSS and written by Life Lab staff supported by experienced classroom teachers and piloted with over 8,000 students across 12 schools. For more info go to LifeLab.org/ngsscurriculum See MoreSee Less

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2 months ago

Life Lab

Bee a pollinator for Life Lab and donate today! #givingtuesday 🐝 LifeLab.org/donate #supportschoolgardens #gardeneducation #natureisthebestteacher See MoreSee Less

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2 months ago

Life Lab

Food is medicine! Join us December 6th at 1pm for our next webinar focused on healthy eating choices during the holidays. Learn about nutrition and the benefits of eating a rainbow with @jocelyndubin free registration link in our bio #foodismedicine #organic #delicious #nutricious #gardeneducation #webinar #LifeLab See MoreSee Less

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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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