Life Lab

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

Audries BlakeI am excited to be a part of Life Lab, its mission and values, especially, knowing the organization’s life-changing work reaches so many. And, I love the fact that I will be able to introduce others to the many inspiring ways they can partner with us so we can change many more lives.

Thinking back on my own experiences with the land, I see my family with me at pivotal times: Camping with my family in Yosemite when very small; creating epic stories while playing in the redwoods of Big Basin, Nisene Marks, or making weekly trips to Point Lobos to be the two-legged squirrels munching snacks, or the thrill of tide pools or hermit crabs. Being in nature calls me, and I find Life Lab encouraging that within me as well.

When I moved from Berkeley to Santa Cruz with my family, we initially lived in a home that had a large plot of land framed with numerous fruit trees on it – apple, orange, fig and persimmon – as well as berry bushes. I was fascinated with the orange and apple trees, but found the fig and persimmon trees messy, the fruit unappealing, and not something I wanted to familiarize myself with at all! As a little girl, eating what I knew was alright. The foreign stuff made me uncomfortable, and I didn’t want to even give it a try.

The vegetable and flower that were there is where I learned about gardening, a fascination that increased over the years. I loved the smell of the freshly turned earth and the texture of the dirt between my fingers. I appreciated the instant gratification that often came with prepping, planting, watering, weeding, and of course, harvesting the goods.

More than anything, growing food and flowers offered me an opportunity to share the rewards with others, until the harvest of squash was overwhelming and people would see me coming and run! I learned to find natural ways to discourage the varmints snatching my food, not interested in using chemicals. Gardening slowed me down, gave me a sense of a job well done, offered serenity.

I recall how food changed for me when my family moved to Santa Cruz: fruits and vegetables rarely came from a can any longer. Going to the garden to pick the corn (or the green beans, swiss chard…) and plop it into the boiling water became a game that soon dulled, and was taken for granted.

My idyllic life in Santa Cruz had limitations however. I wasn’t truly aware of that fact until I moved to Chicago. I had many assumptions on why people did what they did, not fully comprehending that choice is not always an option when it comes to accessing healthy food, among many other things. Up until that time, access to food never crossed my mind, as I assumed that it was common to go to the grocery store, rifle through the fresh foods and choose the ‘right one’.

My time in the Midwest opened my eyes, and heart, to the tremendous needs of so many in our society. Seeing the bleak reality of too many communities filled with convenience stores and fast-food restaurants, and few, if any grocery stores within walking distance motivated me to address healthy food access by volunteering while there and motivates me now to provide nourishing food in Santa Cruz.

The delightful irony of coming to Life Lab can be found in my exploring palate. Persimmons are now an obsession, as is kale. And there’s great delight in my being back in the garden. I find myself lost in the beauty of spider webs instead of getting to the office, or taking the time to get out, slow down and simply be grateful for the beauty that surrounds me. I hope I will get a chance to meet you here in the garden. Come on by, slow down, and I believe you, too, will grow to appreciate the simplicity and beauty that welcomes you.

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6 days ago

Life Lab

🌱Moment of the Month🌱

Life Lab Summer Camps are always a beautiful and nurturing way to share the interconnections of nature with children. Although our campers could not join us in the Life Lab Garden Classroom this summer, we wanted to make it possible for them to have fun at home! So our camp team assembled Summer Activity Care Packages full of materials, recipes, and advice for 225 children who had already registered for camp. They then carefully and lovingly hand delivered them to each family, occasionally getting to say Hi! from a safe distance, too.

"Thank you so much!! I have tears in my eyes. Thank you for pooling your ideas together for non-screen fun and learning opportunities. We can’t wait to dive in!
With much gratitude,"
Ellie

We are grateful to each and every camp family for their kindness, generosity, and patience as we all navigated the new realities of this year. As a community, the camp families even donated more than $12,000 of their camp fees towards ensuring that Life Lab will continue cultivating children’s love of learning, healthy food, and nature through garden-based education during this challenging time.

While we cannot deliver care packages to everyone in our broader Life Lab community, we hope that our growing BackPocketLearning.org website will help families seeking simple, fun, nature based activities and healthy family recipes to enjoy together at home this summer!🌈🐝🌻🌞

#lifelabmomentofthemonth #mylifelab #lifelab #summercamp #summerfun #gardenbasededucation #gardenlife #garden See MoreSee Less

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2 weeks ago

Life Lab

Our “Share Your Garden Saturday” video series continues with a sweet share from Emma Christie in the Life Lab garden at Starlight Elementary School in Watsonville🌸#shareyourgaredLL #school gardens PVUSD Food & Nutrition Services #LifeLab AmeriCorps See MoreSee Less

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2 weeks ago

Life Lab

In love with our @reneesgardenseeds flowers❤️thank you Renee for years of support & providing seeds for Life Lab gardens. We appreciate you! #reneesgardenseeds #lifelab #outdooreducation #gardensofgratitude #schoolgardens See MoreSee Less

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3 weeks ago

Life Lab

“Education is a practice of Freedom” #emancipation #juneteenth #americanhistory #blackhistory #teachablemoments See MoreSee Less

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3 weeks ago

Life Lab

Happy National Eat Your Veggies Day!😋🥕

To celebrate today we wanted to share some of our impacts this past school year. In our seven PVUSD Partner Elementary Schools, 98% of kindergarten, 1st and 2nd teachers reported that the Fall 2019 NGSS in the Garden programs improved their 1,900 students’ attitudes towards fresh fruits and vegetables, their emotional well-being, and their connection with nature.

Our Kids Cook presentation brought exciting hands-on cooking and healthy eating to more than 1,500 3rd, 4th and 5th graders at these schools, too, in January, February and March. In tastings surveys 72% of the children reported liking or loving the fresh, healthful foods they ate, with 63% said they were trying a new fresh produce item for the first time.

278 second-graders from our partner schools enjoyed hands-on learning in field trips to our Blooming Classroom this school year. 59% reported tasting new healthy food items for the first time in lesson-based tastings, and 70% said they loved or liked what they tasted.

We would also like to remind you to eat a rainbow 🌈🥗

A diverse and colorful diet nourishes a strong and healthy body. All fruits and vegetables contain different combinations of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. In addition, they contain phytonutrients, which give fruits and vegetables their vibrant colors and also play a wide range of roles in keeping our bodies healthy.

Thank you to our partners and sponsors for making this work possible. @sagegardenproject @pvhealth @pajarovalleyusd
@unfi @foodcorps

#eatyourveggies #EatYourVegetablesDay #mylifelab #vegetables See MoreSee Less

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3 weeks ago

Life Lab

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3 weeks ago

Life Lab

Life Lab Stands With Black Lives.

The injustice of systemic racism must end. Our work at Life Lab to foster empathy, love and inclusion with the children who are the next generation will continue, and it is no longer enough. This painful moment is an opportunity and a catalyst for us to take the next steps to more purposefully weave antiracist learning into all that we do.

This is a time of active learning for us, as we listen and dig deeper into Life Lab’s part in historical and present-day oppression. We see opportunities to provide foundational antiracist lessons and experiences more intentionally throughout our curriculum and programs, joining with others who are on this path.

There are seeds of hope in this moment that we can nurture in garden classrooms. Our work with children, educators and schools can motivate actions, large and small, individual and collective, to help create real change for a more just society.

Black lives matter, and Life Lab commits to countering racism through education and love.

We know this process will include learning, unlearning and relearning. We welcome this collaborative work, and we will report back to you on our progress.

~ The Life Lab Team See MoreSee Less

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1 month ago

Life Lab

🥕Meet Cara, our Garden Programs Manager!🥕

Cara began her current position at Life Lab in 2014, but has worked with Life Lab in a variety of roles since 2007. While going to school at the University of California Santa Cruz, she found her calling to be an outdoor educator while interning at Life Lab in the field trip teaching program. Graduating from UCSC with a B.A in Environmental Studies and a minor in Anthropology, Cara brings 12 years of education experience to her position, specializing in environmental education and professional development for beginning educators. Growing up in Chicago, she jumped on opportunities to volunteer and work at learning institutions, such as the Evanston Ecology Center and the Field Museum of Chicago. Cara moved to Santa Cruz in 2003 and loves living in a community that appreciates healthy living, eating well, and the natural world. When she is not hard at work, she is hard at play, hiking, dancing, cooking, traveling and doing yoga.🥘🌎😁 See MoreSee Less

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2 months ago

Life Lab

Our “Share Your Garden Saturday” video series continues with a sweet share from Abby Hauth at the Life Lab garden at MacQuiddy Elementary🌸 #shareyourgardenLL #schoolgardens #lifelab @foodcorps @pvusdschoolfood See MoreSee Less

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2 months ago

Life Lab

Eat a Rainbow this Memorial weekend! Fruits & veggies provide nutrients essential for good health 🌈🥗💪🏽 #chard #carrots #schoolgardens #lifelab #eatarainbow #nutrition #gardeneducation #teachtheyouth See MoreSee Less

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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
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