Life Lab

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

Pacific Elementary School GardenAudience

Anyone interested or involved in school food and/or school gardens


$150/$180 includes Food Lab Lunch

See upcoming dates at our tour and workshop registration page


The Santa Cruz area is home to some of the most impressive and long standing school garden programs in the nation.

Possible Tour Stops:

Westlake Elementary School
Pacific Elementary School FoodLab
Pacific Elementary School Gardens
Bonny Doon Elementary School Garden, Orchard, Hen House, and Science/Nutrition Lab
Gault School Garden and Nutrition Education Program

The tour will be lead by John Fisher of Life Lab. John is a Life Lab Trainer, and a school garden parent volunteer. He has been leading school garden tours of the Monterey Bay Area since 2007, and brings much enthusiasm and a desire to share his experiences with others involved in garden-based education.

Key Tour Components

Learn …

* School garden design principles

* Best practices from the garden coordinators at 4 stellar, longstanding school garden programs

* How the students at one elementary school participate in cooking healthy school lunches every day and how one district has revamped their meal program.

Discuss …

* How people in Santa Cruz and across the nation are using gardening and cooking to bring academic learning to life; increase environmental literacy; inspire healthy eating; and support social/emotional growth in their students

* Challenges and triumphs in the effort to change school food


Participant Comments

If you are interested in creating, improving, or learning new ideas about school gardens, this is the tour for you.

As a long-time school garden educator, it’s so useful to “cross-pollinate” every once in a while. This tour was a great way to get an in-depth (but quick) glimpse into the workings of 4 different, but inspiring school garden programs.

New school gardeners or seasoned pros will benefit from this tour. Prepare yourself for an exciting opportunity to see well defined, organized school gardens and cafeteria food service improvements. Don’t forget a camera, pen and paper. You will want to take notes and pictures so you don’t forget all the great ideas to apply to your own program.

The tour was a great experience and would be beneficial to anyone and everyone. It gave a wide perspective on not only garden-based education in schools, but also how such education translates to healthy food access in cafeterias.

This tour was a great way to experience the diversity of challenges communities face when seeking nutritional change for kids. It is also informative and inspiring to learn how communities overcome great obstacles to move forward and truly connect kids with healthy food .

Any garden educator, teacher, or anyone simply interested in school gardens and nutrition enhancement, should come to these workshops. They have endless resources. The ability to network with individuals with different experience levels is also a big PLUS.

Past year’s tour stops:

Westlake Elementary School Garden is a well-kept site with an active greenhouse, composting systems, friendly hens, fruit trees and veggies. Jane Forbes, their long time garden coordinator, was instrumental in securing district funding for all four Santa Cruz elementary school garden coordinators.

View a video of Jane teaching a compost lesson in her garden.

Pacific Elementary School is run by classroom teachers, parents and community volunteers. Six of their garden beds are dedicated to the production of greens that are incorporated in to their Food Lab school meal program. In addition to viewing the K-6 garden, we will also take a peek at the preschool garden onsite.

During our visit, we will have the opportunity to observe Food Lab students preparing a nutritious and delicious school lunch, which we will share.
View videos and press related to Pacific School Food Lab and Life Lab at their garden website.

DeLaveaga Elementary School is one of four gardens with a district funded garden coordinator. This long standing, large garden is ran by Kim Gal a past Life Lab intern and garden-nutrition educator.

Live Oak School District School Food Service has re-envisioned their school meal program by constructing a new central kitchen that works to incorporate more scratch cooking. We will meet with Rachel Otis, director of Child Nutrition for the district. Read more about LOSD Food Service.


View all scheduled upcoming Garden Classroom workshops/tours

All workshops and tours require advanced registration and deposit.

To set up a workshop for your school site, please call Life Lab at (831) 459-3833 or email us at

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Life Lab 40th
Life Lab’s 40th Gala – Sunday, October 13th  Celebrate 40 years of bringing learning to life in gardens. Learn more  
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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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