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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Headed to New Leaf Community Markets for some shopping?

You can cast your Envirotoken Vote for your favorite non-profit (Hint: Life Lab 😄 ) every time you shop until December 16th.

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Vote for Life Lab to be a New Leaf Community Markets Envirotoken recipient every time you shop! Paper ballots will be in every New Leaf store until Dec. 16h! See MoreSee Less

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We’ve kicked off our Year End Giving Campaign by raising $4600 on #givingtuesday. Thank you!

For 2019 Life Lab wants to bring more children into school gardens than ever before. More hands in dirt, more love of healthy foods and more kids saying, "I’m a scientist!"

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"Wow, these seeds are so tiny. It’s hard to imagine that they are going to grow into something so big!"

Your donation to Life Lab awakens curiosity in children, join us for #GivingTuesday and plant seeds of hope for the future!

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#GivingTuesday is still going strong. Doesn’t it feel great to know everyone working together can make a real difference? Be a part of the movement! www.lifelab.org/donate
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We share our work nationally through workshops and curriculum for teachers and our School Garden Support Organization Leadership Program. Participating educators tell us this impacts over 500,000 students annually!

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We look to our work with children and understand that now, more than ever, we must raise our children to be loving stewards of the Earth. For the next generation to protect, defend, and preserve the Earth, they must understand and love it. A gift to Life Lab connects 500,000 children each year across the nation to the natural world, and allows them to discover their potential to care for it. YOU can influence change today by supporting Life Lab’s work.

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“Kids participated in garden lessons right before recess. Once recess began, however, they didn’t want to leave the garden! They thought it was better than recess!” ~1st Grade Teacher & Garden Champion at a Santa Cruz County school

This #GivingTuesday, join us in sharing joy and curiosity with thousands of children.

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Last school year, Life Lab’s Santa Cruz County programs served:
-5,193 students
-over 900 lessons
-143 teachers’ classes
-37 schools

This #GivingTuesday, help ensure we can offer these hands-on, life-changing programs to children regardless of what they can pay.

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“I love making the rainbow smoothie. It had something new for me–that was the spinach. I made it at home. I love it and my mom made something new!”

~ Amesti Elementary School 4th Grader as part of our Kids Cook program

Your gift today helps us offer 70% of our garden-based programs FREE to children whose families/schools could not otherwise afford them.

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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