Life Lab

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

A regional support model  can be a program, policy or staff person(s) that supports multiple school gardens in a defined region (eg. district, city, or county).

Regional support models can empower garden champions at school sites, build partnerships that support garden programs, and lay the foundation for long-term sustainability. Regional support models can be made up of one or more of the following types of organizations:

  • Community Volunteer Based Models (Master Gardeners, Volunteers, Scouts, Community Gardens)
  • Non-profit Support Organizations
  • University / Service Learning Programs
  • Government Programs (Department of Education, Food and Ag, Municipalities, etc.
  • School Districts
  • Policy that Supports School Gardens
  • Nutrition and Waste Management Funded Programs

Visit the National School Garden Network, a forum of School Garden Support Professionals.

Read more on our blog: Sustaining School Gardens – Funding Garden Coordinators

The following presentation is part of a longer webinar on regional support models for school gardens.

Common Challenges in Creating and Sustaining School Gardens

  • Schools have limited funding.
  • Mounting a garden project is a huge task and requires community engagement.
  • Summer break creates maintenance challenges. Summer break can also create programming/planning challenges.
  • Teachers have their own set of complex variables: no time, many responsibilities, lack of interest, and little knowledge about teaching in the out of doors.
  • There are challenges of planning and implementation of solid curriculum that directly links to academic content.
  • Networking and communications within the school community requires sophisticated outreach and community building skill. Creating a culture of “environmental solidarity” with all aspects of the school day requires planning (lunchroom composting, classroom recycling, roofwater catchment, non toxic cleaners, organic garden, etc)
  • Gardens take a lot of maintenance and a special skill set to keep thriving.

 

Benefits of a Regional Network

There is power in unity!

  • Networks can get larger pools of funding (ie: parcel tax, bond funding, district wide funding). Individual schools can get parent & local support, but often not much more. 
  • Larger networks have greater political clout when they speak with one voice they can more easily attain:

     

    • Publicity
    • Recognition
    • District wide program development (institutionalized curriculum or program planning, etc)
  • A network develops relationships, collaborations and colleagues – which in turn strengthen the network
  • A network shares the burden, and “recharges the well “by developing relationships
  • Landscape resources can be bundled and costs can be reduced (or free) when managed by a network (compost, mulch, soil, etc)
  • A network is resilient (more than one person)
  • A network acts like a funnel- gathering and sending information where it is most needed.
  • A network can share best practices by understanding the journey of many.  This can help to make programs more efficient/successful – less “re creating the wheel”

Elements of Regional Networks

What a successful network looks like & how does it operate

  • There is no "one model" of a successful support network/program
  • Networks serve their members and members are responsive/active to/in the network
  • Networks usually have a mission and defined purpose which is know among its members
  • Often these networks are acknowledged by the district which they serve (posted on district web site, proclamation/board resolutions or larger involvement such as funding, staffing, professional development)
  • Ideally these networks become a program of the district or a project of a non-profit.
  • Institutionalizing school gardens and creating a school garden culture often requires the network to support the following tasks/elements:

     

    • Creating the garden
    • Maintaining the garden
    • Sustaining the garden  (financially)
    • Providing professional development and curriculum to support teachers using the garden
    • An understanding of teacher/school culture and needs
    • Networking meetings, workdays, workshops, and e-communication (NING, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, email lists)
 

Regional Support Organizations Across the Nation

Urban Sprouts
City Sprouts
Davis Farm to School
DC School Gardens
Boston Schoolyard Intiative
Green Thumb
Real School Gardens
Chicago Botanical Garden
Berkeley Unified School District
Seatle Youth Garden Works
CSGN Regional Chapters
Sonoma School Garden Network
HEAL – Half Moon Bay
Collective Roots
OBUGS
SFGSA
Rhode Island Children and Nature Network
Gardens Project Mendocino
Santa Barbara City College
Mountain View
Puget Sound
Growing Gardens Oregon
The Living Classroom Project
Master Gardeners: San Diego, El Dorado, Orange County, LA – Common Ground
Garden School Foundation
South Carolina Group
Food For Thought
UCCE Alameda County
Project EAT
Santa Clara Unified School District
Petaluma City School District
Growing Great
Macomb County School Garden Initiative
 
 
Other School Garden Support Organizations (not defined to one region). This list is far from complete:
CA Women for Agriculture
Evergreen
Learning Through Landscapes (U.K.)
Naturskolani Lund (Sweden)
Chlidren's Landscapes (Norway)
NGA Kids Gardening
Life Lab
OAEC
Jr. Master Gardeners
Cornell's GBL
  
 

 

 

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13 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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18 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