Life Lab

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

Garden Education Director

See Amy Sing

Amy contributed to Sowing Seeds of Wonder and The Growing Classroom
 

Amy CarlsonI feel incredibly lucky to be here, since 2004, and so inspired by what we do. It’s amazing to be a part of an organization that is continually growing and changing—as if Life Lab is a garden itself! In my time here at Life Lab, we have added three new field trip programs, a new summer camp, a number of new publications… and that’s only what I have had the pleasure of being involved with. Our new Blooming Classroom has also sprouted up in the past few years, as well as many new educator workshops and a wealth of online resources for educational gardens.

I came to Life Lab from a long road of outdoor experiences, beginning with my childhood camping trips. My family camped for two weeks or more each summer, and monthly the rest of the year. I spent many hours exploring hillsides and creeks with my friends on those trips, building things out of sticks, climbing trees, swimming in rivers, eating huckleberries, and watching dragonflies. My family did not have a garden, but I spent much time in a neighbor’s wild backyard, bringing home tadpoles and creating my own “tadpole garden” which frogs returned to for years, laying their eggs in my dish-tub pond. My first experience eating food straight from the plant was a visit to my uncle’s farm in Montana, where we wandered the long rows and crunched green beans. That childhood memory of eating fresh food straight from the source stuck with me and is an experience I have the privilege of providing for children every day at Life Lab.

In college I worked toward my dream of becoming a park naturalist, volunteering at state and national parks teaching interpretive programs. I even paid my dues working as a living history guide at a California mission, to get the required experience to be hired as a naturalist by CA State Parks! For five summers I worked as a park naturalist, while studying environmental education (a major I created) and then music at Humboldt State University. While at Humboldt I got my first taste of garden-based learning as a volunteer in the children’s garden at the Campus Center for Appropriate Technology. I’ll never forget helping 2-year-olds plant fava beans and watching them blow a kiss to each bean to help it grow!

I truly discovered my love for garden- and farm-based education after graduating, at Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, Vermont. I worked there for two seasons as a Farm Educator in the Children’s Farmyard, and was swept away by the important and beautiful task of getting kids connected to their food supply. Along with the visiting children, mainly preschool-aged, I milked cows, brushed horses, made butter, fed sheep, combed wool, picked and ate strawberries and green beans, watched baby goats come into the world, and rounded up chickens at the end of the day. While in Vermont, I earned my Master Gardener certification in hopes of continuing along the path of garden-based learning.

Back in California in 2003, I completed an internship (and worked at my first summer camp) at Hidden Villa in Los Altos Hills, and then serendipitously found Life Lab and a position here as a Garden Educator. Soon after finishing at Hidden Villa, my parents were helping me and my partner move to Santa Cruz and we decided spontaneously to attend the Harvest Festival at the UCSC Farm. My dad was browsing the info tables at the Harvest Fest and saw a job announcement on the Life Lab table. He said something to the effect of “Oh, let me get my daughter!!!” to Gail, our director, and brought me over to talk with her and John Fisher. Five days later, I was Life Lab’s newest Garden Educator, leading field trips in the Garden Classroom and counting my lucky stars!

Since then I have taken on coordination as well as teaching of our summer camps, field trip programs, and internship program, as well as doing special projects such as helping develop the Sowing the Seeds of Wonder preschool & Kindergarten garden curriculum and workshops, or putting together a school garden manual for the American Heart Association. My current favorite accomplishment at Life Lab is the creation of our newest camp, Garden Sprouts for 4-6 year olds. This camp has been a huge success and absolute delight, and I can’t wait to teach it again this year.

Outside of my time here at Life Lab, I tend my own garden and my own little gardener, my daughter Greta, born in 2007. Cooking fresh food and making music also occupy my days. “Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow…”

 

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3 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