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…ย 

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3 weeks ago

Life Lab

Become a Life Lab Certified Gardener! ๐ŸŒฑ๐ŸŒปBased on the success of our first four cohorts of Life Lab-Certified Garden Educators, we are excited to announce that registration is now open for individuals to register and be part of our fifth cohort starting January 23rd, 2023! Weโ€™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 successful 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 4 weeks long and include 4 synchronous meetings, at-home work, and a unique coaching model. The total commitment for the full series is 16 weeks. Check out our website for more information! Registration for the full certification series is now open. Please share with others who are looking for ideas and inspiration in the garden! There are 24 spots available and we sold out in our last 4 certification series. We hope you can join us!Life Lab offers a limited number of course fee reductions based on need and anticipated impact. To apply for financial assistance, follow the link below. Scholarship applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis between now and December 1st, 2022 or until all funds have been awarded.

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2 months ago

Life Lab

Thanks Shmuel! and all those that joined the Starlight workday.

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7 months ago

Life Lab

www.lifelab.org/jobs Full-time Bilingual Garden Educators at PVUSD School Gardens and Summer Program Staff at Garden Classroom on UCSC Farm

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7 months ago

Life Lab

Full-time Career and Summer Staff Positions in @pajarovalleyusd school gardens and the Life Lab Garden Classroom. On the @ucscagroecology farm @ucsc @pvusdschoolfood lifeLab.org/jobs

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7 months ago

Life Lab

We are so glad to be a part of this yearโ€™s Growing School Gardens Summit! 415 attendees from 45 states across the US, representing 6,000+ school gardens serving more than 2.5 million students. Here we go!!

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9 months ago

Life Lab

Rainbow Chips ๐Ÿ“—๐ŸŒฑ๐Ÿ“™๐ŸŠ๐Ÿ“•๐Ÿ…In this lesson students introduce themselves, create group agreements, listen to a story about a rainbow, and then go on a search for different colors in order to begin to form a personal connection with the #gardenclassroom .Also, we just wanted to show this really awesome squash gradience ๐Ÿ˜„#gardenbasededucation #NGSS #scienceinthegarden #schoolgarden #NGSGintheGarden

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9 months ago

Life Lab

Food Factories ๐Ÿ…๐Ÿฅ—๐Ÿ˜‹In this lesson, students find leaves with holes in them and then construct explanations for what might havecaused those holes. They listen to a story book and add further possible explanations for the holes. Thenthey explore the garden to prepare to engage in argument from evidence about which explanation for these holes seems the most plausible. Finally, they relate this concept to plants that humans eat.#NGSGintheGarden #NGSS #gardenbasededucation

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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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