Life Lab

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

Amy Carlson

Garden Educator & Camp Programs Coordinator

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Amy contributed to Sowing Seeds of Wonder and The Growing Classroom
 

Amy CarlsonI feel incredibly lucky to be here, since 2004, and so inspired by what we do. It’s amazing to be a part of an organization that is continually growing and changing—as if Life Lab is a garden itself! In my time here at Life Lab, we have added three new field trip programs, a new summer camp, a number of new publications… and that’s only what I have had the pleasure of being involved with. Our new Blooming Classroom has also sprouted up in the past few years, as well as many new educator workshops and a wealth of online resources for educational gardens.

I came to Life Lab from a long road of outdoor experiences, beginning with my childhood camping trips. My family camped for two weeks or more each summer, and monthly the rest of the year. I spent many hours exploring hillsides and creeks with my friends on those trips, building things out of sticks, climbing trees, swimming in rivers, eating huckleberries, and watching dragonflies. My family did not have a garden, but I spent much time in a neighbor’s wild backyard, bringing home tadpoles and creating my own “tadpole garden” which frogs returned to for years, laying their eggs in my dish-tub pond. My first experience eating food straight from the plant was a visit to my uncle’s farm in Montana, where we wandered the long rows and crunched green beans. That childhood memory of eating fresh food straight from the source stuck with me and is an experience I have the privilege of providing for children every day at Life Lab.

In college I worked toward my dream of becoming a park naturalist, volunteering at state and national parks teaching interpretive programs. I even paid my dues working as a living history guide at a California mission, to get the required experience to be hired as a naturalist by CA State Parks! For five summers I worked as a park naturalist, while studying environmental education (a major I created) and then music at Humboldt State University. While at Humboldt I got my first taste of garden-based learning as a volunteer in the children’s garden at the Campus Center for Appropriate Technology. I’ll never forget helping 2-year-olds plant fava beans and watching them blow a kiss to each bean to help it grow!

I truly discovered my love for garden- and farm-based education after graduating, at Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, Vermont. I worked there for two seasons as a Farm Educator in the Children’s Farmyard, and was swept away by the important and beautiful task of getting kids connected to their food supply. Along with the visiting children, mainly preschool-aged, I milked cows, brushed horses, made butter, fed sheep, combed wool, picked and ate strawberries and green beans, watched baby goats come into the world, and rounded up chickens at the end of the day. While in Vermont, I earned my Master Gardener certification in hopes of continuing along the path of garden-based learning.

Back in California in 2003, I completed an internship (and worked at my first summer camp) at Hidden Villa in Los Altos Hills, and then serendipitously found Life Lab and a position here as a Garden Educator. Soon after finishing at Hidden Villa, my parents were helping me and my partner move to Santa Cruz and we decided spontaneously to attend the Harvest Festival at the UCSC Farm. My dad was browsing the info tables at the Harvest Fest and saw a job announcement on the Life Lab table. He said something to the effect of “Oh, let me get my daughter!!!” to Gail, our director, and brought me over to talk with her and John Fisher. Five days later, I was Life Lab’s newest Garden Educator, leading field trips in the Garden Classroom and counting my lucky stars!

Since then I have taken on coordination as well as teaching of our summer camps, field trip programs, and internship program, as well as doing special projects such as helping develop the Sowing the Seeds of Wonder preschool & Kindergarten garden curriculum and workshops, or putting together a school garden manual for the American Heart Association. My current favorite accomplishment at Life Lab is the creation of our newest camp, Garden Sprouts for 4-6 year olds. This camp has been a huge success and absolute delight, and I can’t wait to teach it again this year.

Outside of my time here at Life Lab, I tend my own garden and my own little gardener, my daughter Greta, born in 2007. Cooking fresh food and making music also occupy my days. “Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow…”

 

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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.