Life Lab

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

Allison O’Sullivan

Life Lab's Garden Educator Allison O'Sullivan – Adventures in Experiential Education

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If you send your child to our Garden Classroom for a Field Trip or Camp, there’s a good chance, I’ll get to share my thoughts about nature with them. Don’t worry… I was once a kid, I’ve interacted with thousands of them, and I’ll do my best to connect with your child and teach some valuable concepts. Here is a little insight about my childhood and adventures as an educator:

As a child I spent most of my time outside exploring. I loved turning over logs along the riverbank and finding all the creatures squirming underneath. I’d spend hours making mud pies and chasing lizards. When night fell, I practiced the art of firefly catching… and releasing… and catching. I’d “oooh” and “ahhh” at shooting stars and wait with anticipation to watch the moon disappear during lunar eclipses. “Where does it go?”, I’d think. I can still remember when I realized that the stars only look little, despite their actual huge size, because they’re so far away. That fact still amazes me to this day.

The summer that I was 8 years old, I got to travel to California with my mom’s best friend and stay for a couple of weeks visiting and making new discoveries. I was so excited! We drove through the Painted Desert, and I marveled at the colorful rock landscape and the warm winds. We arrived in the Monterrey Bay and I saw a forest in the ocean! Then we walked in the Redwood Forest, and I wondered how the trees grew so tall… "so tall from such a tiny seed!". I picked seeds from the duff the entire hike, stowing them away in my pockets, determined to grow giant redwoods in Texas when I returned. I eventually made it back home to San Antonio and continued growing up outside, planting pansies in the front yard and climbing oak trees, but no redwoods, in the backyard.

At the age of 25 I found myself teaching Agriculture in an elementary school to 2nd graders in a rural village in the sub-Saharan savannah of northern Ghana, West Africa. The indoor classroom was stifling… the cement brick building built by an aid organization did not suit the hot climate. Students walked for miles to get to the classroom, and sweated more once they arrived than during their journey. I attempted to draw pictures on the chalkboard of agricultural techniques used in the field. My students couldn’t understand my drawings or my English. But I knew they understood the textbook techniques that I was trying to explain because I had seen the kids using them in their own subsistence fields. I flashed back to my childhood explorations… my moments of awe in nature, and I decided to make the farms surrounding my students’ houses my classroom. Their elders became the guest speakers, and they demonstrated with hands-on activities the knowledge that I could not explain with my chalk and board. We practiced intercropping and established perimeter hedgerows around their community garden. We got our hands dirty in the soil, and I taught the kids repeat after me songs like “Sun, Soil, Water, and Air are everything we eat and everything we wear.” Those kids taught me how to be their teacher.

Today I am the Garden Educator at Life Lab, the garden is my classroom, and the kids I teach are often my teachers. In my third decade around the sun, I’m still growing out of my childhood myself, and I hope to grow immediately back into it the moment it gets too far away. I plan to do so by continuing to learn from nature, from kids' experiences, and especially from fireflies.

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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.

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.
www.lifelab.org/donate
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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!
#beapartofit, #dirttime, #getoutside, #handsonlearning,
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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