Life Lab

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

School Garden Support Organization Leadership Institute

2023 Institute application will be announced by June of 2023

Join the School Garden Support Organization Network E-list to receive future institute announcements  

Who Attends SGSO Leadership Institutes?

Every year, the School Garden Support Organization Leadership Institute provides 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. In this way, we all become able to better support school gardens in our regions, and also advance the national school garden movement.

School Garden Leaders
2020 Leadership Institute

The 2022 SGSO Leadership Institute prioritized school district-based programs. These are programs that have district school garden program staff, have a strong partnership with one or more school districts, or are working toward partnership with a school district. Each team invited to attend sent 2 key leaders to the Institute. Teams were comprised of two people from the same organization, or two individuals from different organizations who work closely together to support multiple school gardens in their region.



School gardens have tremendous lifelong benefits for children. Research has shown that when children participate in a school garden program, they show marked improvement in healthy eating; social emotional skills; environmental attitudes; scientific achievement; and attitudes toward learning (

But school garden programs need support in order to unlock their full potential. Without well-trained educators, strong curriculum, and supportive networks, garden programs often become underutilized or even forgotten. With support, however, they thrive, become institutionalized into school cultures, and inspire children for decades.

Regional School Garden Support Organizations have emerged as a key determinant in the success and sustainability of school garden programs across the country. This Institute is designed to provide SGSO leaders with the inspiration and information they need to effectively support school garden programs in their regions, and to share best practices with other SGSOs nationally.


Questions? Contact Whitney Cohen [email protected]


2022 Participating Organizations - SGSO Leadership Institute

OrganizationStateAttendeeAttendee Job Title
Academy for Global CitizenshipILKris De la TorreDirector of Sustainability & Wellness
Chicago Public SchoolsILIlana Marder-EppsteinCPS Garden Specialist
Boulder Valley School DistrictCOSusan CousinsOperational Services Communications Manager
Boulder Valley School District – School Food ProjectCOMiriam HollebSchool Food Project Food System eeCorps Member
City BlossomsDCRafael WoldeabExecutive Director
City BlossomsDCDarian ArtisSchool Garden Partners Coordinator
Columbus City SchoolOHKatie YoungFarm to School/Nutrition Coordinator
Columbus City SchoolsOHVictoria JohnsonPreK teacher
Friends of the National ArboretumDCAllie ArnoldSchool Garden Program Manager
Friends of the National ArboretumDCAshley RattanawanSchool Garden Program Manager
GardeneersILSelma SimsCEO + Head Grower
GardeneersILRebecca MacDonaldDirector of Curriculum + Learning
Growing Healthy Kids – Mount Diablo USDCALaney Cline KingProgram Director
Growing Healthy Kids – Mount Diablo USDCAAlice BurnsGarden Educator/Trainer
Grow PittsburghPARedding JacksonLearning Garden Educator
Grow PittsburghPAAdia EffiongDirector of School Garden Programs
GrowingGreatCAAdriana BikouvarisEarly Childhood Program Manager
GrowingGreatCAMeghan NealonSTEM Program Director
Houston ISD Nutrition ServicesTXPhyllicia MooreAgriculture Specialist
Houston ISDTXMatthew GrahamFarm & Garden Educator
Life LabCAAisling Mitchell Pajaro Valley Unified School District Partner Schools Program Lead
Life LabCAAlyssa Ellis Pajaro Valley Unified School District Partner Schools Program Lead
Life LabCASasha Retford Gonzalez Pajaro Valley Unified School District Partner Schools Garden Lead
Life LabCAGeoff PallaLive Oak School District/ Santa Cruz City Schools Partner Schools Manager
Life LabCAWhitney CohenEducation Director
Life LabCAJohn FisherDirector of Programs & Partnerships
Life LabCAJudit CamachoCo-Executive Director
Life LabCARegi JonesNational Curriculum and Training Specialist
Office of the State Superintendent of EducationDCSam UllerySchool Gardens Specialist
OpenlandsILJessica FongDirector of Education
OpenlandsILDanielle RussellSchool Gardens Coordinator
Pittsburg Unified School DistrictCAMary Helen NicoliniGarden Specialist
Pittsburg Unified School DistrictCAElizabeth OberenderChild Nutrition Supervisor
Prescott Unified School District No. 1AZSara ReveileFarm to School Coordinator
Skyview SchoolAZAshley FineSchool Garden Coordinator/ Educator
Saint Paul Public SchoolsMNKirsten SaylorSchool Garden Specialist Consultant/Grow Our Own Program Coordinator
Saint Paul Public SchoolsMNChelsea MoodyEnvironmental Specialist 2
Santa Clara County Office of EducationCAJennifer MutchScience Coordinator
Santa Clara County Office of EducationCAMarie BacherDirector of Environmental Education-Walden West
Schenectady City School DistrictNYRebekka HenriksenFarm to School Project Manager
Schenectady City School DistrictNYNicole MarrinerSTEM/Media Specialist
SGSO NetworkTXTristana PirklDirector
Upland Unified School DistrictCACassidy BoardmanFarm to School Program Manager
Upland Unified School DistrictCAKsenia GlennDirector of Nutrition Services
Waukee Community SchoolsIAKaitlyn ScheuermannDietitian
Waukee Community SchoolsIAAli LockerDirector of Elementary Teaching and Learning
Ysabel Barnett Elementary/TVHSCAAndy HintzGarden Lead
Temecula Valley USDCAMeghan ManionGarden Lead

Historical Information - For Reference Only - 2023 Institute May Differ

Key Dates for 2022 Institute

  • Application Opens by June 10, 2022
  • Deadline to Apply August 1, 2022
  • Invitees Notified by September 8th, 2022
  • Invitees Commitment Letters Submitted by Sept 29, 2022

Cost – Sliding Scale Fee Schedule – Meals, Lodging, & Airport Transportation Included

  • $0 – Fee for individuals from organizations with annual budgets of $0-$250K
  • $150 – Fee for individuals from organizations with annual budgets of $251K-$500K
  • $300 – Fee for individuals from organizations with annual budgets of $500K-$750K
  • $450 – Fee for individuals from organizations with annual budgets of $751K-$1M
  • $600 – Fee for individuals from organizations with annual budgets over $1M
  • Travel stipends available (note assistance requested per team member in application)


The Leadership Institute takes place at Mission Springs Conference Center just outside of Santa Cruz, CA. 40 minute drive from San Jose Airport and 1 hour 15 minute drive from San Francisco Airport. 

Past SGSO Leadership Institutes

See photos from the 2022 Institute

The 2021 Virtual Leadership Institute Compiled These Promising Practices Documents

2020 SGSO Institute to be added

View what took place at our 2019 School Garden Support Organization Institute.

View what took place at our 2018 School Garden Support Organization Institute.

View what took place at our 2016 School Garden Support Organization Institute.

Join the School Garden Support Organization Network E-list to be updated on upcoming events & webinars or join the SGSO Network Google Group to be part of a national dialogue of school garden support organizations.

Hosted by Life Lab and Whole Kids Foundation., in partnership with the SGSO Network.

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