Life Lab

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

Life Lab's Garden Educator Allison O'Sullivan – Adventures in Experiential Education

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If you send your child to our Garden Classroom for a Field Trip or Camp, there’s a good chance, I’ll get to share my thoughts about nature with them. Don’t worry… I was once a kid, I’ve interacted with thousands of them, and I’ll do my best to connect with your child and teach some valuable concepts. Here is a little insight about my childhood and adventures as an educator:

As a child I spent most of my time outside exploring. I loved turning over logs along the riverbank and finding all the creatures squirming underneath. I’d spend hours making mud pies and chasing lizards. When night fell, I practiced the art of firefly catching… and releasing… and catching. I’d “oooh” and “ahhh” at shooting stars and wait with anticipation to watch the moon disappear during lunar eclipses. “Where does it go?”, I’d think. I can still remember when I realized that the stars only look little, despite their actual huge size, because they’re so far away. That fact still amazes me to this day.

The summer that I was 8 years old, I got to travel to California with my mom’s best friend and stay for a couple of weeks visiting and making new discoveries. I was so excited! We drove through the Painted Desert, and I marveled at the colorful rock landscape and the warm winds. We arrived in the Monterrey Bay and I saw a forest in the ocean! Then we walked in the Redwood Forest, and I wondered how the trees grew so tall… "so tall from such a tiny seed!". I picked seeds from the duff the entire hike, stowing them away in my pockets, determined to grow giant redwoods in Texas when I returned. I eventually made it back home to San Antonio and continued growing up outside, planting pansies in the front yard and climbing oak trees, but no redwoods, in the backyard.

At the age of 25 I found myself teaching Agriculture in an elementary school to 2nd graders in a rural village in the sub-Saharan savannah of northern Ghana, West Africa. The indoor classroom was stifling… the cement brick building built by an aid organization did not suit the hot climate. Students walked for miles to get to the classroom, and sweated more once they arrived than during their journey. I attempted to draw pictures on the chalkboard of agricultural techniques used in the field. My students couldn’t understand my drawings or my English. But I knew they understood the textbook techniques that I was trying to explain because I had seen the kids using them in their own subsistence fields. I flashed back to my childhood explorations… my moments of awe in nature, and I decided to make the farms surrounding my students’ houses my classroom. Their elders became the guest speakers, and they demonstrated with hands-on activities the knowledge that I could not explain with my chalk and board. We practiced intercropping and established perimeter hedgerows around their community garden. We got our hands dirty in the soil, and I taught the kids repeat after me songs like “Sun, Soil, Water, and Air are everything we eat and everything we wear.” Those kids taught me how to be their teacher.

Today I am the Garden Educator at Life Lab, the garden is my classroom, and the kids I teach are often my teachers. In my third decade around the sun, I’m still growing out of my childhood myself, and I hope to grow immediately back into it the moment it gets too far away. I plan to do so by continuing to learn from nature, from kids' experiences, and especially from fireflies.

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12 hours ago

Life Lab

Join us for Life Lab’s Annual Benefit Brunch! Complimentary delicious meal and an inspiring program. 😋

Event is complimentary, and we hope to inspire you to make a meaningful donation toward growing healthy children! 🌱

Sunday, May 19th // 11am-1:30pm // MacQuiddy Elementary, Watsonville

Register Here
www.lifelab.org/brunch See MoreSee Less

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17 hours ago

Life Lab

Be part of our Garden Classroom workshops. Join educators from all over the country and possibly from around the world. Continual Education Credit is available for most of our workshops.

Register today! bit.ly/2V9iToG See MoreSee Less

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6 days ago

Life Lab

It was an absolute pleasure working with such a stellar group of educators. Thank you all for the great work you are doing at MDUSD Science and Garden Education Program.

We look forward to working with you in the near future."This is the best day of work EVER!" -Direct quote from a teacher participant in yesterday’s "NGSS in the Garden" workshop at Sun Terrace Elementary by Life Lab. Whitney Cohen led classroom teachers from 6 different elementary schools in an amazing, in-depth training on how to implement the new Next Generation Science Standards in that tried-and-true method of "learning by doing". On the agenda were 3 sample lessons, lots more demoed garden activities, debriefs with deep dives into the 3 strands of the NGSS, and practical exercises on how to plan new lessons using the 5E’s and how to "NGSS-ify" existing science lessons. What a day!

Out heartfelt thanks to Battery Powered for making this workshop possible! See MoreSee Less

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2 weeks ago

Life Lab

PSSST!!! Keep this between us but we still have very limited spaces for our Garden Sprouts Camp for 4-6 year olds. Spaces are filling up fast.

More details and registration at www.lifelab.org/camp/ See MoreSee Less

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2 weeks ago

Life Lab

🌱Moment of the Month🌱

We hosted a gathering of Central Coast school garden educators and allies in March at Life Lab’s birthplace, Green Acres Elementary School in Live Oak. It was great to see old and new friends there and share updates from many local school garden programs.

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2 weeks ago

Life Lab

Our friends at the Children & Nature Network are hosting the 2019 Children & Nature Network International Conference in Oakland, California, May 16-18, 2019. We’ll be there — and we hope you’ll join us at this premier gathering of leaders, advocates and activists from the children and nature movement. You’ll be inspired by three days of powerful keynotes, expertly-curated workshops, field trips and events designed to support the work you do to connect children, families and communities to nature. Help spread the word and get the conversation going at #CNC2019. See MoreSee Less

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2 weeks ago

Life Lab

Life Lab is turning 40 this year! There is nothing that would make us happier than to reconnect with you.

🌱Have you attended a Life Lab summer camp or field trip?

🐞Are you a past intern?

🍏Have we made a meaningful difference in your life?

If so, please share your story by using #MyLifeLab or email us at manny@lifelab.org. We would love to share your stories with the world! See MoreSee Less

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3 weeks ago

Life Lab

Come explore the garden and farm with us! Our camp days will include harvesting, making garden snacks, exploring the farm, singing, storytelling, garden caretaking, garden crafts, and investigation of the natural world. This camp serves 24 campers with a 1:6 ratio of instructors to campers, allowing us to tailor camp activities to the ages and interests of our campers.

Hurry, limited spaces are filling fast! Most slots are taken. We only have Tues/Thurs available for 4-6 year olds. ALL other ages are filled. For more info and register click here bit.ly/2FC277X?platform=hootsuite&utm_campaign=HSCampaign . For questions contact Amy at (831)-459-4035 or email amy@lifellab.org 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