Life Lab

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

View this article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel By Devika Garg-Bansal

pigiewkshSANTA CRUZ >> Kids and vegetables are not exactly best friends. Parents know this all too well, as do restaurants that put out mac and cheese on kids’ menus.

But the trend is now turning with more schools using food gardens to instill good nutritional habits in children.

Life Lab’s “Plant It, Grow It, Eat It!” Workshop held Friday at the UC Santa Cruz Farm taught garden-enhanced nutrition education for elementary and middle schools. Participants included 25 garden educators and parent volunteers from schools and nonprofits across the country, including one educator from Brazil.

“It is wonderful being here and connecting with all of the teachers,” said Flavia Schwartzman, dietician and consultant for the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization in Brazil. “Having the opportunity to be in this outdoor lab is beautiful.”

One of the activities included a hunt around the garden to spot fruits and vegetables in colors of the rainbow to identify healthy elements found in plants, or phytonutrients.

“Different colors have different phytonutrients in them, which support different health elements in human nutrition,” said John Fisher, director of Programs and Partnerships at Life Lab, who has been teaching these techniques for 30 years.

“For example, red helps the heart and blood, and orange helps your eyes. By eating a diversity of color, we’re supporting more human health.” Another activity included setting up a healthy food plate with fruits, vegetables, healthy fat, grains and proteins. The workshop trained participants to teach these concepts effectively in a garden classroom through gardening, harvesting and meal preparation.

Life Lab has trained about 4,000 people across California in garden-based teaching methods using funding from the state. It also conducted a statewide Train the Trainers workshop with more than 1,700 participants.

The Collective School Garden Network lists more than 800 edible school gardens across California that received a garden grant from the Western Growers Foundation. With help from Life Lab, most schools in the Santa Cruz County have active gardens, Fisher said.

“Putting in a garden is the easy part,” said Fisher. “Getting teachers to use it is sometimes more of the challenge, and that’s where Life Lab comes in.”

Fisher said that first lady Michelle Obama’s recent Let’s Move campaign has galvanized greater interest in the initiative. According to Centers of Disease Control and Prevention data, one in three kids in the U.S. is at risk of being obese, and rates have more than doubled since 1980s.

“Unfortunately, we are following the American way of life [in Brazil],” said Schwartzman. “We have over 60 percent people who are overweight or obese, so this is a global thing.”

Food and nutrition education in elementary and middle schools seems to be working. Fisher mentioned that early research shows that kids that grow, and tend and harvest their own vegetables are more willing to try them.

“We were growing broccoli a couple of seasons ago, and I had to tell this boy that he took too much broccoli,” said Jessica Ferrell, a workshop participant and garden coordinator at Nixon Elementary School in Stanford. “Later in the day I was like, ‘I just got after a kid because he ate too much broccoli!’ It was just so bizarre! It’s that effective.”

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2 days ago

Life Lab

It was such a pleasure reconnecting with all the garden educators from the Santa Cruz area yesterday. You all are doing an incredible job! We hoped that you all had a great time sharing your experience in working at your school’s garden. We look forward to seeing you very soon!

If were not able to make it to yesterdays Garden Educator Gathering, please sign up for our mailing list so you can keep up to date with all of our events. We have some really exciting 40th celebrations coming soon.

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4 days ago

Life Lab

Thank you to all the educators that came out and participated in our Intro to NGSS workshop. It was great meeting all of you. An extra special thank you to Edible Schoolyard Japan (エディブル・スクールヤード・ジャパン) for coming all the way from Japan to be a part of our workshop!

If you’re interested in joining our upcoming workshops click here bit.ly/2TkFnye See MoreSee Less

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1 week ago

Life Lab

Life Lab is hiring an Educator Training Specialist!!!

We are looking for an individual who is personable, approachable, and flexible nature; that has outstanding teaching and organizational skills.

Life Lab’s Educator Training Specialist will manage our on- and off-site educator workshops and lead some of our workshops. Tasks will include:

• Offsite Workshop Coordination
• Onsite Workshop Coordination
• Lead Educator Workshops
• Curriculum Development

Key Qualities of the Educator Training Specialist are:

• a deep commitment to the mission of Life Lab, which is to cultivate children’s love of learning, healthy food, and nature through garden-based education
• cross-cultural competency, with a deep commitment to equity and inclusion in education
• outstanding teaching skills
• 3 or more years of experience teaching children in a school garden or other outdoor education setting
• experience leading trainings for educators or other adult learners

If this sounds like a job made just for you please click here for more details.

bit.ly/2u8LJ9U

Please Share if you know someone who would love the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on children’s lives. See MoreSee Less

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1 week ago

Life Lab

Looking for ideas to keep your school gardens tended and active during the summer? Are you thinking of new ways to bring garden-based learning to a community garden or farm site? Join us for a webinar on the ins and outs of running kids day camp programs on educational gardens.

Erin Jackson, Education Director at Gallatin Valley Farm to School, and Amy Carlson, Garden Education Director at Life Lab, will share their years of experience and resources for creating day camp programs.

From promotions to post assessments and everything in between, this hour long webinar will provide you with inspiration and ideas to create or enhance summer programming on your educational garden or farm.

To register click here! bit.ly/2HhsJP5 See MoreSee Less

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1 month ago

Life Lab

Thanks Christine at KidsGardening.org for sharing a good winter time lesson from The Growing Classroom.Christine shares a hands-on garden planning lesson using mapping, math, and scale drawing skills from one of our best-known resources, The Growing Classroom!… See MoreSee Less

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1 month ago

Life Lab

www.lifelab.org/gcworkshop
Join Us For a 2019 Life Lab Garden Classroom Workshop

~ Meet and learn from other garden-based educators

~ Be inspired by our model educational Garden Classroom Site

~ Enjoy a delicious, fresh meal

~ Take home lessons and resources to use in the garden or classroom See MoreSee Less

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2 months ago

Life Lab

Last week we were thrilled to have garden educators from around the country collaborate at our School Garden Support Organization Leadership Institute.

Will you apply next year? Pictures (and smiles) tell it better than our words can.

Thank you all for participating!Kristen and Kat spent last week at the School Garden Support Organization Leadership Institute hosted by Life Lab in Santa Cruz, California. The institute provided the opportunity for us to learn best practices in networking, sustainability, evaluation, school standards, and more from school garden organizations from all over the country. We also got to visit some truly dreamy and fully-integrated school gardens. We can’t wait to share our BIG goals and vision for OKC Harvest with you! See MoreSee Less

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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