Life Lab

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

A regional support model  can be a program, policy or staff person(s) that supports multiple school gardens in a defined region (eg. district, city, or county).

Regional support models can empower garden champions at school sites, build partnerships that support garden programs, and lay the foundation for long-term sustainability. Regional support models can be made up of one or more of the following types of organizations:

  • Community Volunteer Based Models (Master Gardeners, Volunteers, Scouts, Community Gardens)
  • Non-profit Support Organizations
  • University / Service Learning Programs
  • Government Programs (Department of Education, Food and Ag, Municipalities, etc.
  • School Districts
  • Policy that Supports School Gardens
  • Nutrition and Waste Management Funded Programs

Visit the National School Garden Network, a forum of School Garden Support Professionals.

Read more on our blog: Sustaining School Gardens – Funding Garden Coordinators

The following presentation is part of a longer webinar on regional support models for school gardens.

Common Challenges in Creating and Sustaining School Gardens

  • Schools have limited funding.
  • Mounting a garden project is a huge task and requires community engagement.
  • Summer break creates maintenance challenges. Summer break can also create programming/planning challenges.
  • Teachers have their own set of complex variables: no time, many responsibilities, lack of interest, and little knowledge about teaching in the out of doors.
  • There are challenges of planning and implementation of solid curriculum that directly links to academic content.
  • Networking and communications within the school community requires sophisticated outreach and community building skill. Creating a culture of “environmental solidarity” with all aspects of the school day requires planning (lunchroom composting, classroom recycling, roofwater catchment, non toxic cleaners, organic garden, etc)
  • Gardens take a lot of maintenance and a special skill set to keep thriving.


Benefits of a Regional Network

There is power in unity!

  • Networks can get larger pools of funding (ie: parcel tax, bond funding, district wide funding). Individual schools can get parent & local support, but often not much more. 
  • Larger networks have greater political clout when they speak with one voice they can more easily attain:


    • Publicity
    • Recognition
    • District wide program development (institutionalized curriculum or program planning, etc)
  • A network develops relationships, collaborations and colleagues – which in turn strengthen the network
  • A network shares the burden, and “recharges the well “by developing relationships
  • Landscape resources can be bundled and costs can be reduced (or free) when managed by a network (compost, mulch, soil, etc)
  • A network is resilient (more than one person)
  • A network acts like a funnel- gathering and sending information where it is most needed.
  • A network can share best practices by understanding the journey of many.  This can help to make programs more efficient/successful – less “re creating the wheel”

Elements of Regional Networks

What a successful network looks like & how does it operate

  • There is no "one model" of a successful support network/program
  • Networks serve their members and members are responsive/active to/in the network
  • Networks usually have a mission and defined purpose which is know among its members
  • Often these networks are acknowledged by the district which they serve (posted on district web site, proclamation/board resolutions or larger involvement such as funding, staffing, professional development)
  • Ideally these networks become a program of the district or a project of a non-profit.
  • Institutionalizing school gardens and creating a school garden culture often requires the network to support the following tasks/elements:


    • Creating the garden
    • Maintaining the garden
    • Sustaining the garden  (financially)
    • Providing professional development and curriculum to support teachers using the garden
    • An understanding of teacher/school culture and needs
    • Networking meetings, workdays, workshops, and e-communication (NING, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, email lists)

Regional Support Organizations Across the Nation

Urban Sprouts
City Sprouts
Davis Farm to School
DC School Gardens
Boston Schoolyard Intiative
Green Thumb
Real School Gardens
Chicago Botanical Garden
Berkeley Unified School District
Seatle Youth Garden Works
CSGN Regional Chapters
Sonoma School Garden Network
HEAL – Half Moon Bay
Collective Roots
Rhode Island Children and Nature Network
Gardens Project Mendocino
Santa Barbara City College
Mountain View
Puget Sound
Growing Gardens Oregon
The Living Classroom Project
Master Gardeners: San Diego, El Dorado, Orange County, LA – Common Ground
Garden School Foundation
South Carolina Group
Food For Thought
UCCE Alameda County
Project EAT
Santa Clara Unified School District
Petaluma City School District
Growing Great
Macomb County School Garden Initiative
Other School Garden Support Organizations (not defined to one region). This list is far from complete:
CA Women for Agriculture
Learning Through Landscapes (U.K.)
Naturskolani Lund (Sweden)
Chlidren's Landscapes (Norway)
NGA Kids Gardening
Life Lab
Jr. Master Gardeners
Cornell's GBL



follow us on Facebook

2 days ago

Life Lab

Camp staff has arrived! We can’t wait to greet all the campers next week. We have spots still available for 4-6 year olds, Tuesdays and Thursdays. has all the details.
#lifelab #summercamp #gardeneducation
See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

6 days ago

Life Lab

We have a few spots still open for our 4-6 years old camp T/TH camp. Tell your friends.Calling all 4-6 year olds! We have openings in our T/Th Garden Sprouts Day Camp This is a great first day camp experience! See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

7 days ago

Life Lab

A reminder to vote for Life Lab when you shop at New Leaf (there are paper ballots in the stores) to continue to be an EnviroToken recipient! We have been so grateful for this support from New Leaf Community Markets! Voting closes June 30th, and you can vote EVERY time you go to the store!Help select your store’s Envirotoken partners! For every reusable grocery bag you use at New Leaf, we give you a 10¢ Envirotoken to donate to one of six local nonprofits. Visit your neighborhood store between now and June 30 to cast your vote for which non-profits will receive this year’s donations. Thanks for helping us give back to our local communities! See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

1 week ago

Life Lab

Happy Monday!

#lifelab #gardeneducation #chickens #chickensofinstagram See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

2 weeks ago

Life Lab

Thanks to our volunteer carpenter Michael for the beautiful new planters.

Have you visited the life lab garden lately? Come check out what’s new. The garden is open to the public sunrise to sunset daily!

#lifelab #gardeneducation #welovevolunteers See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

3 weeks ago

Life Lab

We are so grateful to be a current EnviroToken recipient at New Leaf’s Westside location–AND we are on the ballot AGAIN for the next round! Be sure to go into any store location and cast your paper ballot for Life Lab! This support makes a big impact on our ability to grow healthy, inspired children across Santa Cruz County & beyond. Thank you, New Leaf Community Markets!Happy Earth Month! Our Envirotoken program turns 25 this year, and we owe a HUGE thank you to all of our amazing customers for your support over the years. Founded in 1993, together we’ve kept 7 million bags out of landfills and raised over $700,000 for local non-profits! See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

1 month ago

Life Lab

Calling all 4-6 year olds! We have openings in our T/Th Garden Sprouts Day Camp This is a great first day camp experience! See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

2 months ago

Life Lab

Less than 3 weeks until our Benefit Brunch! Hope you can join us!

Here’s a taste of the kind of inspiration you’ll get at our Brunch. Whitney Cohen, our Education Director, gave this speech at our 2014 Benefit Brunch–totally worth 8 minutes of your time to watch this! Whitney is gearing up to give a brand new speech at our upcoming event–you won’t want to miss it!

Registration at: Lab Education Director eloquently shares why our work matters to 150 guest at our 2014 Benefit Brunch. See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

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