Life Lab

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

We’re Changing the Nature of Education

View Life Lab's Education Director Whitney Cohen's inspiring description of how Life Lab is changing the nature of education to the audience of our 2014 Benefit Brunch.

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For those who prefer words, here are some highlights of Whitney's talk:

"There's a real difference between knowing about something and knowing something. A child could know everything there is to know about carrots; but when she wriggles her first carrot out of the soil here in our garden, and she washes it and she goes to our kitchen and learns how to chop it up safely, and adds it to the collective class soup, and then enjoys that soup with her classmates at lunch, she knows that vegetables are delicious, she knows that the food we eat comes from the earth, and she knows that she's part of a web of life."

"Here at Life Lab, we are working at the intersection of two essential questions: What does this world need? And what do children deserve? And here is what we believe: We believe that the world needs informed, inspired, creative, and collaborative leaders, ready with the skills and the motivation they need to work for justice, and sustainability, and healthy communities. And we believe that this garden, and those like it all around the world, are an ideal space for growing just such leaders."

"What do kids deserve? We believe that kids deserve to know what it’s like to love to learn; to be intrigued and inspired; to have their ideas seen and heard; to be fully engaged by rigorous, exciting learning and leadership opportunities that feel relevant to them; to eat healthy food and be part of a healthy community."

"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? These garden classrooms, this one, and those like it around the world, are spaces, outdoor classrooms, where students can learn science and apply math and language arts, again 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!"

"The potential for Life Lab right now to lead this charge has never been greater. I realized this recently when I got a note from Lola Bloom, a new friend of mine who attended a workshop with me about 2 years ago that Life Lab led in New York. 'Guess what?!' her note said. 'I've been invited to plant the White House Garden along with my Young Gentlemen's Cooking Club.' Well I was so excited to hear this, so I followed the press coverage that day of the Sixth Annual White House Garden Planting and when I saw the first photo of the event, I could not believe my eyes. I recognized every educator in the White House garden that day, because every adult there who had brought children, everyone other than the First Lady, had been to one of our workshops in the past couple of years."

"So what does this mean for young people today? This means that children from the largest housing project in Brooklyn, to Washington, D.C., to gardens across San Francisco, to even Las Vegas, Nevada, are digging their hands in soil, building a connection to the natural world, discovering a love of healthy eating that will serve them in being strong and healthy for years to come, and remembering what it's like to love to learn. "


Read more about Life Lab's work in our Program Highlights found on our Annual Reports page.

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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
... See MoreSee Less

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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.
#beapartofit, #changinglives, #optoutside, #gardenbasededucation, #happynewyear
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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