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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6 days ago

Life Lab

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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1 week ago

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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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2 weeks ago

Life Lab

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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3 weeks ago

Life Lab

"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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3 weeks ago

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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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3 weeks ago

Life Lab

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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3 weeks ago

Life Lab

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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3 weeks ago

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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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3 weeks ago

Life Lab

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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3 weeks ago

Life Lab

“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.

www.lifelab.org/donate

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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