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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Tomorrow is the day! The Human Race is one of the many ways you can support Life Lab in growing healthy, inspired children. Make a donation today (or register for the race!) at www.humanracesc.org/npo/life-lab or visit the registration booth starting at 8AM tomorrow at 2300 Delaware Ave. in Santa Cruz. You don't want to miss the fun! #humanracesc, #isupportlifelab ... See MoreSee Less

2017 Human Race Walkathon and Fun Run

May 13, 2017, 8:00am - May 13, 2017, 2:00pm

Human Race Santa Cruz

Come walk, run, skip, or roll with us at the 37th Annual Human Race Walkathon and Fun Run. Enjoy delicious food, music along the 5 mile course, a people's parade, costumes and family friendly activities at the Fairy Tale Themed Village after the race. All who donate $35 or more will also receive a Human Race T-shirt. The Human Race is our community's largest giving campaign. This year, 130 Human Race teams are reaching out for your support. All you have to do to register is donate to your favorite cause then join the fun on race day. Our 2017 theme is FairyTales and all are welcome to join us in costume! REGISTER ONLINE at www.humanracesc.org or on race day starting at 8AM. The race begins at 9AM at 2300 Delaware Ave in Santa Cruz. If you can't make it you can still grant a wish by making an online donation. Volunteers Needed: Want to volunteer at the Race? We are still looking for a few more folks to make this day a success. please contact Odessa at americorps@scvolunteercenter.org

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Calling our community! We are looking to borrow a projector with a minimum of 4,000 lumens. Let us know if you have any leads, thank you! ... 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.