Life Lab

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

Books reflect our lives and the times that we are living, as the details that form the content weave cultural elements of any given place and time into the words. For this reason, seeing a children’s book about school gardens is a heartening symbol of our current society. It signifies the exciting fact that parents and kids are recognizing the school garden as a common entity.

The new book, “Our School Garden!” by Rick Swann, works to spread that shared experience through his unique layout that mixes verse, lessons and history. We enter the story through the character of Michael, who is starting his first day at a new school in a new city. From his perspective, we get introduced to their thriving school garden, his new friends, and the learning that goes on throughout the year. Each page presents a topical verse, from “The Enormous Carrot” to “Pill Bugs” to “Harvest Day!” which is linked to a short informative lesson on the next page. My favorite is “Three Sisters” where Michael describes planting corn, squash and beans with Julie and Simon. On the next page, we learn about “companion planting” and the reasons that the Native Americans chose these three crops to grow together. Another great section is “Homonym: One Word, Many Meanings” in which we hear about all the ways the word “bank” is used within the context of Michael’s garden, ie: food bank, snow bank, seed bank, etc. Through the concept of a homonym, the important idea of donating to food banks is introduced.

The beautiful illustrative work of Christy Hale lends a perfect visual component to this book, capturing the vibrant colors and dreamy scenes that make up a year in a garden. She brings the reader into each page by offering lots of textures, backgrounds and small details to focus on while also maintaining emphasis on Michael as a character and the garden through his eyes.

Swann is an elementary school librarian in Seattle, and something that started inspiring him to delve into the subject of gardening was his research that uncovered the long history that gardens in schools has had. We get some of this knowledge in Michael’s “Found Poem” verse, along with a lesson about victory gardens during World War I and II and even today at the White House. The Author’s Note at the very end gives us even more insight about the history of Swann’s specific school, and really emphasizes why our country felt compelled to create these special spaces for learning and why it is important to keep that trend alive and well.

For parents and teachers, the author has also included a list of resources and recommendations for other good books about the subject. His website, www.rickswann.com, dives even more into the topic, offering more historical references and images of historic community garden posters, as well as a curriculum guide that has activities to pair with all the poems in the book. He also offers a few fun examples of his own stopmotion animation, up to date blog posts, and a variety of presentations that he is happy to bring to your school.

– Amber Turpin, Life Lab Staff and Civil Eats Writer

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2 days ago

Life Lab

Camp staff has arrived! We can’t wait to greet all the campers next week. We have spots still available for 4-6 year olds, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Lifelab.org has all the details.
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6 days ago

Life Lab

We have a few spots still open for our 4-6 years old camp T/TH camp. Tell your friends.Calling all 4-6 year olds! We have openings in our T/Th Garden Sprouts Day Camp www.lifelab.org/camp This is a great first day camp experience! See MoreSee Less

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1 week ago

Life Lab

A reminder to vote for Life Lab when you shop at New Leaf (there are paper ballots in the stores) to continue to be an EnviroToken recipient! We have been so grateful for this support from New Leaf Community Markets! Voting closes June 30th, and you can vote EVERY time you go to the store!Help select your store’s Envirotoken partners! For every reusable grocery bag you use at New Leaf, we give you a 10¢ Envirotoken to donate to one of six local nonprofits. Visit your neighborhood store between now and June 30 to cast your vote for which non-profits will receive this year’s donations. Thanks for helping us give back to our local communities! See MoreSee Less

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1 week ago

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Happy Monday!

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2 weeks ago

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Thanks to our volunteer carpenter Michael for the beautiful new planters.

Have you visited the life lab garden lately? Come check out what’s new. The garden is open to the public sunrise to sunset daily!

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3 weeks ago

Life Lab

We are so grateful to be a current EnviroToken recipient at New Leaf’s Westside location–AND we are on the ballot AGAIN for the next round! Be sure to go into any store location and cast your paper ballot for Life Lab! This support makes a big impact on our ability to grow healthy, inspired children across Santa Cruz County & beyond. Thank you, New Leaf Community Markets!Happy Earth Month! Our Envirotoken program turns 25 this year, and we owe a HUGE thank you to all of our amazing customers for your support over the years. Founded in 1993, together we’ve kept 7 million bags out of landfills and raised over $700,000 for local non-profits! See MoreSee Less

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1 month ago

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Calling all 4-6 year olds! We have openings in our T/Th Garden Sprouts Day Camp www.lifelab.org/camp This is a great first day camp experience! See MoreSee Less

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2 months ago

Life Lab

Less than 3 weeks until our Benefit Brunch! Hope you can join us!

Here’s a taste of the kind of inspiration you’ll get at our Brunch. Whitney Cohen, our Education Director, gave this speech at our 2014 Benefit Brunch–totally worth 8 minutes of your time to watch this! Whitney is gearing up to give a brand new speech at our upcoming event–you won’t want to miss it!
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Registration at: www.lifelab.org/brunchLife Lab Education Director eloquently shares why our work matters to 150 guest at our 2014 Benefit Brunch. www.lifelab.org See MoreSee Less

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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