Life Lab

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

As part of Life Lab’s 40th Anniversary we organized and promoted “Santa Cruz County Open School Gardens Day” This was a one day event where 14 local school gardens opened their gates for community building and garden tours. Our post event assessment noted that about 300 people attended and of those attendees 75+ were visits from folks outside of the host school community.

Follow the steps below to run your own school garden tour or open gardens event.

Steps & Resources for Running a School Garden Open House or Tour

Step 1)  4-5 Months Before Your Event Date – Identify Interested Gardens

  • We used the following email text and this Initial Interest Form to sign up interested gardens. Click here to make and save an editable copy of our Initial Interest Form in your google drive account.
  • Initial Email Sent to Recruit Interested School Gardens:Greetings Friend,
    Join school gardens from across Santa Cruz County for Open School Gardens Day on Saturday, October 12, 2019
    Use this very short form to let us know of your school’s interest to participate in Open School Garden Day. Please fill this out by June 7th.For Life Lab’s 40th anniversary we will be organizing and promoting various celebrations and a school garden open house called “Open School Garden Day”.As part of the Open School Garden Day we will promote participating school gardens and are looking to provide you resources (grocery store gift cards and a new garden sign) to help you run your event. This will be an opportunity to share your garden program to the wider community and reconnect with those (Life Lab “Pioneers”) that will be gathering as part of Life Lab’s Anniversary Gala.Learn more about the Santa Cruz Area School Garden Network

Step 2)  2-3 Months Before Your Event Date – Confirm Garden Event Details

  • We used the following email text and this Event Details Form to confirm participating gardens. Click here to make and save an editable copy of our Garden Event Details Form in your google drive account. The Event Details From was included on our Events Details and Resource Page
  • Email Sent to Confirm Open Garden Event:

    Greetings Friend,
    Santa Cruz County Open School Gardens Day is months away!
    Find all the details and link to Event Planning form hereConfirm your participation by filling out the Event Planning form by August 17th.

    As part of Life Lab’s (the national non-profit with local roots) 40th anniversary we will be organizing and promoting county-wide celebrations and a school garden open house call “Open School Gardens Day” on Saturday, October 12th.

    The purpose of Open School Gardens Day is to share and build the vibrant school garden culture that your garden brings to your school. Your school community and school garden enthusiasts will be invited to join in on your event or just visit your garden. We expect visitors from out of the region to come and tour the participating gardens.

    The list of schools below have expressed interest in participating and need to complete the Event Planning form by August 17th. If your school is not listed and you would like to participate, fill out the Event Planning form by August 17th.

    Participating schools will receive a $40 Grocery Store Gift Card to assist in your event planning, a new metal garden sign, a Life Lab publication of your choice and some seeds.

    Find all the details and link to Event Planning form hereConfirm your participation by filling out the Event Planning form by August 17th.

    Schools who have expressed interest in participating

    Amesti Elementary
    Boulder Creek Elementary 
    Branciforte Middle School
    Brook Knoll Elementary…. (truncated list)

Step 3)  Provide Support Resources for Participating Gardens

  • We used the following email text and this Events Details and Resource Page to remind and support our participating school gardens.
  • The Events Details and Resource Page lists ideas, tips and videos for running effective and engaging garden events and/or workdays
  • Final pre-event email sent to school garden hosts:

    Hi School Garden Champs!
    We are a week away from Open School Garden Day. Here’s some updates:
    1. Your $40 Whole Foods Gift Card was put in the mail on Friday addressed to you at your school address. Keep an eye out for it. Use these bucks to support your garden event or your garden classes.
    2. See who RSVPed via the RSVP form on the website. Do not consider this to be a complete list.
    3. Please make note of how many visitors come to your garden workday (use a visitor sign in sheet??) and of those visitors how many are not folks that you invited from your school community. We want to get an idea of how many people outside of your school community showed up. I will follow up after the event with this Post Event Feedback form for you to share how it went and number of attendees. CLICK HERE TO SAVE AND EDITABLE COPY OF THE POST EVENT FEEDBACK FORM IN YOUR GOOGLE DRIVE)
    4. has a map that shows visitors where to park plus a highlighted section that marks your garden (and also tells your garden dimensions in Sq Ft and acres). Clicking on the flower icon shows your event details. More details are also linked to in one document.  (WE CREATED THE MORE DETAILS CHART FROM GARDEN EVENT PLANNING FORM)
    5. View tips and ideas for running your event or workday  which also has links to these directional sign templates:

    Poster Templates – add your event details/arrows and post around your school campus to help visitors to your school find your garden. These are in Google Sheets template. To make an editable copy you can do the following: 1) Open them in Google Drive and “add them to your drive” or 2) Click “File” menu and then “Download” as Microsoft PowerPoint.

    1. 11 x 17 Template
    2. 8.5 x 11 Template
    3. 8.5 x 11 Template in Spanish
    6. Your new garden sign should be arriving to me on Friday. I will do my best effort to deliver your garden sign to your garden site on Friday along with your free Life Lab publication that you noted when you signed up. I will set the sign at your garden site with some zip ties to secure it. I will leave your book in the office or garden (if it seems like a good space to leave a book).
    Feel free to take photos during the event and share to me via email or post on social  with #openschoolgardens
    Thanks again for sharing your garden on a Saturday!

Step 4)  Create Event Promotions

  • We did the following to promote Open School Gardens Day
    • Sent promotional emails to thousands on our regional email list and posted on relevant regional list serves/groups
    • Provided poster/directional signage templates for garden sites
    • Created this website and detailed map
      • we used Google’s My Maps to upload custom map data and outline garden site location on school sites
    • Submitted this Public Service Announcement to local radio stations
    • Submitted Event Announcements to local online calendar and print media
      • Event Announcement – Connect with the vibrant school garden culture of Santa Cruz County! In celebration of Life Lab’s 40th Anniversary the greater community is invited to visit area school gardens for tours and special events. 15 school gardens across the county will be part of this “Open School Gardens” event. View activity schedule and map of gardens at
    • Provided Event Announcement templates for garden site host (see sample announcement on the Events Details and Resource Page)
    • Social Media Posts tweet  instagram  facebook #openschoolgardens
    • Created a photo album of gardens before and during the event

Step 5)  Collect Post Event Feedback


Tips for running guided school garden tour events – coming soon








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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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1 week 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 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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