Life Lab

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

California FoodCorps State Training at the Garden Classroom

This past week, 11 California FoodCorps service members gathered in Santa Cruz at the Life Lab Garden Classroom to engage in a three day training to learn how to connect kids to real food and see first-hand some of the best school garden and Farm to School models in action.

Now in its third year, FoodCorps, a national organization that addresses childhood obesity and food insecurity, has 125 service members serving in 15 states. As a member of the AmeriCorps Service Network, FoodCorps trains a team of emerging leaders and sends them to underserved areas for a year of service, where they teach kids about what healthy food is and where it comes from, build and tend school gardens, and bring high-quality local food into public school cafeterias.

FoodCorps California, is being managed by co-hosts Life Lab and the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, also known as CAFF. 

Members spent day one of the training reflecting on their first month of service and getting to know each other. They also learned about different garden activities, the components of Farm to School programs and how to build support in the communities that they serve.

On the second day of the training the FoodCorps service members joined Life Lab’s Plant It, Grow It, Eat It workshop that focused on the principles of Garden-Enhanced Nutrition Education (GENE). Service Members joined with 19 other school garden professionals and learned specific lessons to encourage good eating habits and healthy lifestyles by combining nutrition education with hands-on garden activities and opportunities to taste different foods.

Day three of the training was topped off by attending the Santa Cruz Area School Food and Garden tour which visited some of the longest on-going garden programs in the state and included a meal prepared by Pacific School Food Lab students.

View the full press release on the CA FoodCorps statewide training.

See more of California FoodCorps at our Facebook Page.

Threshing wheat as part of the Plant It, Grow It, Eat It Workshop.

The last three days emphasized how widespread the struggle is to make health and nutrition education a priority for kids, but it also showed that change is possible.  It is amazing what can happen when communities, including children, come together for the better of all. – Mary Tyranski – Service Member San Diego Unified


Winnowing wheat.

Westlake Life Lab Garden Coordinator Jane Forbes welcomes FoodCorps Service Members and the rest of the School Food and Garden Tour goers.

As a FoodCorps service member tasked with starting a garden program at my site, it was a true privilege to visit LifeLab's garden and spend some time touring their garden, running through different activities, and talking to my fellow service members about what's working for them at their sites. I left the training so energized, motivated, and filled with many great ideas for helping to make my site's garden program the best it can be! – Christyna Serrano, Service Member at Oakland Unified School District

Westlake Garden 4th Grade Lesson observation.

Pacific School Food Lab instructor Violy works with a Food Lab student to prepare school lunch.

The Food Lab Chefs at Pacific School were so impressive. I got a kick out of watching the manager trot around with his clipboard making conversions for recipes. The students were so focused and collaborative, it was inspiring to see. – Keegan Niland, Service Member with the Gardens Project in Ukiah

Food Lab students making lunch.

When kids plant their food, water it, watch it grow and then serve it, it truly connects them to their meal. The proof is in this kitchen – look how proud these little chefs are! – Mary Tyranski – Service Member San Diego Unified


Delicious Food Lab meal of chicken noodle soup, cheesy broccoli soup, fresh baked rolls, and salad.

Visiting with DeLaveaga School Life Lab coordinator Kim Gal who explains a stem dissection lesson.

Getting schooled in farm to school with Live Oak School District Food Service Director Rachel Otis.

Sampling rainbow rice at Live Oak School District.

I loved the idea of Rachel's Rainbow Rice. I picked it apart like a scientist in hopes of discovering all the wonderful things that made it. I thought I tasted sunflower seeds, but it was wild rice! – Keegan Niland, Service Member with the Gardens Project in Ukiah

Touring Live Oak's new central kitchen.

Throughout the 3-day orientation led by Life Lab and CAFF and the workshops, I was continuously impressed by the work of my fellow service members. As we discussed challenges and success stories we were also able to visit local elementary schools within Santa Cruz. One of the sites visited was Pacific Elementary in Davenport, and I could not reiterate enough how impressive it was to see elementary school children gardening as well as preparing food for the school. I kept asking if I could go to school there just so that I could be a part of it. It was definitely a model I would love to see at every site I am serving with! – Ally Lemmer, Service Member with CAFF and Life Lab in Santa Cruz County




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Teaching a Growing Classroom Workshop at @OakSpringGardenFoundation in collaboration with I feel like I’ve fallen into a small French village. This is the former estate of Paul and Rachel “Bunny” Mellon in Virginia. Mrs. Mellon was an avid horticulturalist who designed the White House Rose Garden! I am staying in the room where Jackie Kennedy stayed when she visited here!! Sharing a weekend in this space with teachers who love kids and gardens is a truly unforgettable experience. ... See MoreSee Less

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Just when I thought we’d seen it all ... this is an agrophotovoltaic school garden underneath massive solar panels at @Manzo.Ecology in Tucson. The elementary school students here gather and analyze data on how the shade from the panels helps the plants grow and how the plants help cool the panels and increase their efficiency. What?!?! It’s amazing and gives me hope. Oh, and also they have a desert tortoise in their courtyard. ... See MoreSee Less

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Have you heard?! Life Lab is one of New Leaf Community Markets' recipients of their EnviroToken program at 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!
#thankyou, #grateful, #ReduceReuseRecycle, #isupportlifelab
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What happens when Whole Kids Foundation partners with you to bring 50+ leaders from School Garden Support Organizations from across the country together to get to talk shop, inspire each other, problem-solve around shared challenges, and eat amazing food prepared and served by happy 5th graders? MAGIC. That's what happens. #sgso2018 ... See MoreSee Less

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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!
#thankyou, #grateful, #ReduceReuseRecycle, #isupportlifelab
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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.


#beapartofit, #startingstrong, #changinglives, #isupportlifelab
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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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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