Life Lab

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

My 3,436 Mile Journey to Life Lab – Reflections from Intern Callia Wolfe

It is not often that we have graduate level interns, who have classroom experience, and are proficient with a video camera and editing. We lucked out! Callia Wolfe shares a bit about her path to finding us and her experience at the Garden Classroom. Callia writes….

I have heard it called many things: destiny, kismet, serendipity. All terms referring to the moment when your path opens, you can feel a "yes" in your body and your intuition rings clear like a bell. Finding the education department at Antioch University New England in Keene, NH was one of those “yes” moments. I knew the school's progressive flavor and commitment to a sustainable world would support a student like me with my vision, passion and ambition to bring positive change to the world. In August, 2010, I began the path toward earning my Master’s in Education with teaching licensure, concentrating on science and environmental education. My original vision was simply to use the garden to teach kids and have my hands in the earth. My understanding of the multitude of levels that are supported when learning from real-life, outdoors and hands-on experience has grown significantly from my fantastic internship experiences. I have seen and been a part of the transformative effect the garden has on kids, the school, the community, and the earth.

My first internship was in a fourth grade classroom in a ‘failing’ Title I school in Brattleboro, VT. I was lucky enough to intern with a dynamic, committed, eight- year teacher, Laura White. About three years into her teaching career, she spearheaded the installation and use of the school garden for planting, harvesting, nutrition education, cooking and more. She also created a year long, place-based natural resource unit that aligned with state standards while connecting students to 10 local farms through field trips. The students celebrated the culmination of the unit by cooking a dinner made from local farm foods for 200 people in their community. Laura also brought in school-wide farm-to-school taste tests so that students could taste and decide on what they wanted served in their school lunches. The fact that 97% of K-6th graders tried the local roasted turnip was one of the many triumphs.

Watching all this happen, it became clear to me that it takes a community. None of these visions would have been possible without the generous support of parents, administrators, cafeteria staff, farmers, and local businesses. Though Vermont is known for supporting it’s local farmers, I have no doubt that this support for local food systems through education could be replicated anywhere in the country. Green Street School is proof that even amongst the rising pressure for passing scores and endless testing, it can be done. The following link connects to a video of the introduction for the 2011 the local dinner.

For my second internship and final semester at a distance, I wanted to get to the heart of the school garden movement in the non-profit world. In my research I discovered that, while many people believe the school garden movement really took off in 1996 with the Edible Schoolyard, Life Lab has been busy creating curriculum, installing gardens, training teachers nationwide, and more since 1979! I was so excited to have found the authority in this field and to see that they are still active and leading the crest of the school garden wave in curriculum, nutrition education, science, youth empowerment and more! With over 30 years of experience, they know what works and what doesn’t better than anyone. I felt that clear "yes" once again after connecting to Life Lab, and decided to make the 3,436 mile drive to Santa Cruz. Another factor in my decision was Life Lab’s outstanding reputation. The feedback I get from everyone who has worked with Life Lab is always the same. I see the same huge smiles and eager exclamations, “I LOVE LIFE LAB!” After three months here, I understand the enthusiasm completely. It is truly a gift to work with people who are generous, humble, and passionate about what they do. My time here as an intern has been a rich, joyful, and delicious experience.

I will leave in late December with skills and experience teaching in the outdoor classroom that can easily translate to any school or farm. I know how to create and manage a garden and students in an outdoor space. I can create lessons across all subject areas in the garden and activities that are hands-on, engaging, safe, effective and memorable. If I forget or need a refresher, I have Life Lab’s super easy to use curriculum resources like The Growing Classroom to remind me. Whether I end up as a classroom teacher or in the non-profit world, I feel incredibly well prepared and capable of supporting the school garden movement in this country. Thank you Life Lab! I raise my glass of fresh-pressed organic apple juice to you all!

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Have you heard?! Life Lab is one of New Leaf Community Markets' recipients of their EnviroToken program for their Westside Santa Cruz store! So get your shopping on, bring your reusable bags, and donate 10¢ to Life Lab with every bag you use! Thank you, New Leaf!
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We are so grateful to be starting 2018 with such strong support! Because of so many generous gifts from our supporters like you, we surpassed our 2017 fundraising goal of $124,000, with all campaign donations totaling $125,835.

These funds will help make Life Lab field trip and summer camp programs possible for children from families and schools that could otherwise not afford them. We believe that ALL children deserve the chance to love learning, healthy food, and nature. Thanks to your support, this year we will serve even more children in Santa Cruz County and across the nation.

THANK YOU!

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Happy almost 2018, Life Lab fans! We are only $809 dollars away from reaching our $124,000 year-end fundraising goal! Before you ring in the new year, will you help us ensure a promising 2018? 100% of the funds necessary to do this important work come from grants and from individuals like you. Will you join us in ensuring that we can continue to deepen and expand our reach, so that even more children can experience the joy of loving learning, healthy food, and nature? Your tax-deductible gift made by midnight tonight will go directly to supporting our programs.
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End the year making a life-chaning difference!
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With women and people of color still underrepresented in scientific fields, "I'm a scientist!" is a powerful statement coming from a 2nd grade girl in Watsonville. It came during a field trip to our Blooming Classroom field trip program. Young students look at flowers on living plants in the garden, see pollinators interacting with them, and pick a flower to dissect and explore its parts. Then they draw the flower and label all the parts they learned about in a lesson with our garden educators. This hands-on, garden-based science in action, and the feeling it gives students is exciting!

These ah-ha moments happen all the time at Life Lab, inspiring children's love of learning, healthy food, and nature. 100% of the funds needed to create these life-changing experiences come from grants and from individuals like you. Will you join us in ensuring that thousands of children each year can experience the joy of hands-on garden-based learning? Your tax-deductible gift will go directly to supporting our programs.

#beapartofit, #thisiswhatascientistlookslike, #creatingchange, #hopeforthefuture
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We all know that hands-on experiences are critical to learning. No one would dream of teaching technology without computers: in fact, in many schools today they are mandating 30 minutes of screen time per student, per day. Why on earth with this understanding are we trying to teach earth and life science without giving them exposure to earth and life? School gardens are spaces--outdoor classrooms--where students can learn science and apply math and language arts, in a context that feels relevant to them. And what might happen if we elevated the status of hands-on, experiential, outdoor learning? What might happen if schools started mandating 30 minutes of dirt time per student per day? This would be time where they could apply what they're learning in the classroom outdoors to the world around them and develop a connection to it. Well that’s what we’re here to find out!
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"This field trip was a fun experience that taught me how to eat healthy food in a fun way." -6th grader on a Feeling Fine with Fresh Foods Field Trip
Help grow the next generation of healthy eaters!
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Life Lab has been the most innovative and relevant organization in this field. From providing the best curriculum to their cutting edge professional development, we have relied on Life Lab as our go to organization for support, ideas, and collaboration.
Rachel PringleSenior Director of ProgramsEducation Outside
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