Life Lab

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

School Garden Support Organization Leadership Institute

Updates and Multimedia from the 2016 SGSO Institute

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2016 Institutue Photo Album

December 4-9, 2016
Santa Cruz, CA

Thanks to over 75 organizations that applied to join our Leadership Institute. It is so great to see so many incredible organizations doing so much to support school gardens. Unfortunately we couldn't accept everyone. See the organizations who were selected to attend our 2016 Leadership Institute. One goal of our institute is to synthesize best practices related to Garden Support Organization Key Actviities and share these with a national audience. Stay tuned to the National School Garden Support Organization Forum to see what we come up with. 

Garden Support Organization Key Actvities taken from selected Leadership Institute applicants.

  1. Professional Development for Garden-Based Educators
  2. Models of Sustainability for School Gardens
  3. Building and Maintaining Multiple School Gardens
  4. Facilitating Regional Networks for Garden-Based Educators
  5. Identifying and Measuring the Impact of Our Garden-Based Learning Programs


2016 Institute Organization Websites


2016 Leadership Institute Announcement
Application Deadline Passed

Hosted by Life Lab in partnership with Whole Kids Foundation 

Apply Online by July 15th, 2016

Organizations selected to attend the institute will be notified by the end of July, 2016.


Join 14 other School Garden Support Organizations from across the nation for a 5-day Leadership Institute in Santa Cruz, CA to learn from peer organizations and create an organizational action plan for accomplishing some or all of the following in your region:

  • Training and supporting educators to implement garden-based learning
  • Building and maintaining multiple school gardens
  • Funding school gardens or helping schools to create sustainable funding streams for gardens
  • Facilitating regional networking between school garden educators
  • Evaluating school garden programs

Travel and lodging expenses for each team will be covered. In exchange for participation in the SGSO Leadership Institute, participants will pledge to provide one or more trainings and networking opportunities for school garden educators in their regions between January and June 2017, report on their progress, and share successes and challenges with a national audience.


This Leadership Institute is designed to for teams of 2 from 10 School Garden Support Organizations (SGSOs). A SGSO may be a nonprofit organization, university, government agency, foundation, school district, or other entity focused specifically on supporting garden-based learning for multiple schools in their region. SGSOs work to elevate the quality and sustainability of school garden programs across their region, serving thousands of children each. Primary SGSO activities are listed above in the "What" section.

Each SGSO is invited to apply to send 2 key leaders to the Institute. We are particularly looking for SGSOs that:

  • Plan to host garden-based professional development for educators between January – June 2017
  • Are working on one or more of the SGSO activities listed above to support school gardens in their region, and have an interest in doing more
  • Have been established recently
  • Primarily support elementary school gardens


School gardens have tremendous lifelong benefits for children. Research has shown that when children participate in a school garden program, they show marked improvement in healthy eating; social emotional skills; environmental attitudes; scientific achievement; and attitudes toward learning (

But school garden programs need support in order to unlock their full potential. Without well-trained educators, strong curriculum, and supportive networks, garden programs often become underutilized or even forgotten. With support, however, they thrive, become institutionalized into school cultures, and inspire children for decades.

Regional School Garden Support Organizations (SGSOs) have emerged as a key determinant in the success of school garden programs across the country. This Institute is designed to provide SGSO leaders with the inspiration and information they need to effectively support school garden programs in their regions, and to share best practices with other SGSOs nationally.

Apply Online by July 15th, 2016

Connect wtih other School Garden Support Organizations on the National School Garden Support Organization Forum.


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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.