Life Lab

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

Amber TurpinI am happy to be one of the lucky ones to grow up in a garden. My family always had a big plot, abundant with tall stalks of corn and tangles of tomato vines. We also had a fruit orchard and it might be argued that the amount apricots I consumed as a kid would have made me sick of them, but I’m not. The natural environment that surrounded me at my childhood home became the source and inspiration for every activity I engaged in, from solo picnics in the willow grove to inventing songs with the wildflowers.

In the 1970’s, a few years before I was born, my parents were among the founding few to start The Family School in the Santa Ynez Valley. This was an early incarnation of environmental education, and we learned by watching nature and applying those lessons to our school work. “Class” very often involved long hikes collecting various leaves and rocks, eating miner’s lettuce and sifting through sand, with much less time indoors than out. This awareness and appreciation for nature, and the access we easily had to it every single day at school, created a central core within me and my classmates (many of whom I am still in touch with and know they hold similar value to our early education). That core calls wild woods, meandering creeks and abundant gardens normal, and can’t imagine a world without them.

Some of my earliest memories revolve around these places of nature, and because of that, my life and work has been influence by those impressions in countless ways. A glittering ocean view from a hill above Santa Cruz is what brought me to UCSC. After graduating from the Community Studies Department in 2000, a farm along the majestic Eel River took me north to Emandal. It was there, working as a cook for kid’s and family camps, that a deeper connection to food as an expression of my already strong sense of the environment took hold. Even while living in San Francisco, racing along the dirty sidewalks and honking horns every day, that bigger theme of food propelled me in the Slow Food Nation office.

Since then, I’ve returned to a little property in the Santa Cruz Mountains to embody all I’ve learned along the way at a place called home. The corn and tomatoes are being planted right now, and instead of apricot trees, we have apples. Last harvest season brought us an amazing bounty, including our baby daughter Hazel. By this harvest, she may have a couple teeth to sink into those tomatoes and her very favorite thing is to watch the trees.

Being part of the Life Lab family feels like an extension of my own childhood, and I am so happy everyday to be able to come to work and know that I am translating that back into the world through all that we do here. I can perhaps be proof that the children who are fortunate enough to experience time at Life Lab, learning about the world through the garden, will likewise grow up to continue promoting that early influence…a crucial thing as we face more and more environmental devastation. Hazel is the newest addition to the Life Lab staff, joining me three days a week to spice up office life. When she gets fed up with emails and meetings, we simply go outside… 

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5 days ago

Life Lab

🌸Growing Gardens of Hope!🌸 Join us as we celebrate the beautiful impacts of school garden education as part of our virtual Spring Benefit Brunch on May 1st at 11am. Guest speakers are Dr. Dilafruz Williams 💐and Francisco Paco Estrada 🤩 Brunch Menu Options include offerings from New Leaf Community Markets Charlie Hong Kong Companion Bakeshop Steamer Lane Supply Thomas Family Farm Flowers 🌱 Register at www.LifeLab.org/spring-benefit #spring #Fundraiser #schoolgardens #GardenBasedLearning #LifeLab

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1 week ago

Life Lab

Come one, come all! 🌻Bring your students for the first-ever, national, virtual school garden tour … hosted by students, for students! #growingschoolgardens #schoolgardens #learninggarden #kidsgardening #healthykids #KidsGardenMonth #LifeLab 🌱

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4 weeks ago

Life Lab

Gardens of gratitude to @petalumaseedbank for your generous seed donation! 🌱Teamwork makes the school garden dream work🌸#seedbank #schoolgardens #LifeLab #spring #sprouts #ThankYouThursday

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4 weeks ago

Life Lab

Happy Spring Everyone!!🌱🌸🌱 Join us for our Family Gardening Spring Webinar this Tuesday March 23rd at 3pm to learn about Spring planting and garden based activities like trellising, how to make Root View Cups, garden art, pest management, and reseeding annuals🌸Register at lifelab.org/events. @reneesgardenseeds @originalgopherbasket #LifeLab #springequinox #spring #schoolgardens #gardeneducation #narcissus #webinarseries

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1 month ago

Life Lab

Our Spring Family Gardening Webinar is coming up soon🌱March 23rd at 3pm🌱 Join Life Lab educators for another fun family webinar focused on Spring planting and garden based activities like trellising, how to make Root View Cups, pest management, and reseeding annuals🌸Register at lifelab.org/events

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2 months ago

Life Lab

Join us for tomorrow’s Family Gardening Winter Webinar at 3pm! Register at LifeLab.org/events 🌱Linktree in our bio as well🌱#naturejournal #compost #soil #wintergardening #family #gardening #lifelab #schoolgardens

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2 months ago

Life Lab

Join Life Lab educators for a fun, family Winter gardening webinar on February 16th at 3pm. We will focus on the various ways to plan, create, and support a healthy garden. Topics include choosing a garden space, creative container options, what to plant now, and preparing for Spring. 🌱#gardeneducation #LifeLab #schoolgardens #familygardening #wintergarden 🌻Registration link in our bio

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3 months 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.lifelab.org/educator-certification-program/

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3 months 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

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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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