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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Thanks to the Whole Kids Foundation for the generous grant and to Big Creek Lumber for your donation to the Amesti Eagles' Garden. With the generous support of Life Lab and other community supporters, our students are receiving the gift of hands-on Next Generation Science Standards and learning about healthy eating in a beautiful outdoor classroom!

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Do you ever wonder what is living just below the surface of the San Lorenzo River? Join the Coastal Watershed Council and Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History for tomorrow's Exploring the San Lorenzo River tour and find out!

We will be meeting at 8:30 on the Santa Cruz Riverwalk next to Mike Fox park and will be seining for fish and collecting benthic macroinvertebrates aka bugs! We will learn about the organisms that live in the San Lorenzo River and their food webs. This tour is open to all ages. You can sign up online or by emailing CWC River Scientist Alev Bilginsoy at Learn more at
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At a @soilbornfarms school garden conference, in a workshop on trees reminded me of this incredible Radiolab Podcast podcast. Listen to this one. ... See MoreSee Less

Forests feel like a place of great stillness but dig deeper and there’s a hidden world beneath your feet as busy and complicated as a city. 

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LIFE LAB on MAUI! so AnB stopped sugar production on Maui this year, there is tons of land available to lease and they are now taking offers. If farmers or farm educators won't get to it, it will turn into development, there are not enough offers from farmers and we need more, so please pass this on to those that are interested. To speak to An B need to look them up and make an offer. They are taking offers now! ... See MoreSee Less

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Rachel PringleSenior Director of ProgramsEducation Outside

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.

Erica CurryTraining and Professional Development ManagerFoodCorps

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.

Sheila BrickenKindergarten TeacherSan Lorenzo Valley Elementary

Thank you for such a wonderful field trip experience! Your leaders did such a great job at keeping our kids engaged.

Tara NeierCamp ParentSummer camp mom

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.