Life Lab

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

Amber Turpin

Amber TurpinI am happy to be one of the lucky ones to grow up in a garden. My family always had a big plot, abundant with tall stalks of corn and tangles of tomato vines. We also had a fruit orchard and it might be argued that the amount apricots I consumed as a kid would have made me sick of them, but I’m not. The natural environment that surrounded me at my childhood home became the source and inspiration for every activity I engaged in, from solo picnics in the willow grove to inventing songs with the wildflowers.

In the 1970’s, a few years before I was born, my parents were among the founding few to start The Family School in the Santa Ynez Valley. This was an early incarnation of environmental education, and we learned by watching nature and applying those lessons to our school work. “Class” very often involved long hikes collecting various leaves and rocks, eating miner’s lettuce and sifting through sand, with much less time indoors than out. This awareness and appreciation for nature, and the access we easily had to it every single day at school, created a central core within me and my classmates (many of whom I am still in touch with and know they hold similar value to our early education). That core calls wild woods, meandering creeks and abundant gardens normal, and can’t imagine a world without them.

Some of my earliest memories revolve around these places of nature, and because of that, my life and work has been influence by those impressions in countless ways. A glittering ocean view from a hill above Santa Cruz is what brought me to UCSC. After graduating from the Community Studies Department in 2000, a farm along the majestic Eel River took me north to Emandal. It was there, working as a cook for kid’s and family camps, that a deeper connection to food as an expression of my already strong sense of the environment took hold. Even while living in San Francisco, racing along the dirty sidewalks and honking horns every day, that bigger theme of food propelled me in the Slow Food Nation office.

Since then, I’ve returned to a little property in the Santa Cruz Mountains to embody all I’ve learned along the way at a place called home. The corn and tomatoes are being planted right now, and instead of apricot trees, we have apples. Last harvest season brought us an amazing bounty, including our baby daughter Hazel. By this harvest, she may have a couple teeth to sink into those tomatoes and her very favorite thing is to watch the trees.

Being part of the Life Lab family feels like an extension of my own childhood, and I am so happy everyday to be able to come to work and know that I am translating that back into the world through all that we do here. I can perhaps be proof that the children who are fortunate enough to experience time at Life Lab, learning about the world through the garden, will likewise grow up to continue promoting that early influence…a crucial thing as we face more and more environmental devastation. Hazel is the newest addition to the Life Lab staff, joining me three days a week to spice up office life. When she gets fed up with emails and meetings, we simply go outside… 

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In 2016, you helped us bring 30 leaders from across the nation together for a first-ever Leadership Institute for School Garden Support Organizations.

The results are in on the work they have achieved together. In 2017, these 30 leaders collectively trained 463 teachers who teach over 10,000 students every year. And after their trainings, 98% of those 463 teachers reported an increase in their motivation and confidence to engage students in hands-on, experiential learning in a garden setting.

Do you know what that means?! That means more and more kids getting meaningful experiences like the students above! That’s why, in January of 2018 we’ll be hosting another Leadership Institute, this time for 50 leaders who will be coming in from all across the US, including leaders from Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Because every child everywhere deserves the chance to discover a love of learning, healthy food, and nature. We can’t wait to see what these leaders accomplish in the year to come!

#isupportlifelab, #neverdoubt, #allchildrendeservethis,
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Late afternoon light at the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems is the best time of day. Add aerial video and fall colors and you get a real nice video. ... See MoreSee Less

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Today is the 174th birthday of Gertrude Jekyll, a British horticulturist, garden designer, artist, and writer. She created over 400 gardens in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States.

"A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust." -Gertrude Jekyll
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A heartfelt thank you to our generous community for all of your support on #GivingTuesday yesterday! We celebrate all of YOU this #ThankYouWednesday--with your partnership, we are growing healthy, inspired children!
#isupportlifelab, #grateful
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Over the past four years, the amount of mobile screen time has tripled in kids under eight. Our programs get kids outdoors in gardens and farms where they are physically active and learn to love nature!

"We will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught." - Baba Dioum

Will you join us today for #GivingTuesday in providing opportunities for children to love nature?, #isupportlifelab, #nature, #beapartofit
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The next generation of problem solvers will come from tomorrow's scientists. We partner with five schools in Watsonville to spark the curiosity of over 3,000 students in our school garden and field trip programs. Another 2,500 students engage in hands-on, garden-based learning at our Garden Classroom in Santa Cruz, too.

"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing." - Albert Einstein

You can influence real change today by supporting Life Lab for #GivingTuesday., #isupportlifelab, #beapartofit, #cultivatingthescientistsoftomorrow, #donate,
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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