Life Lab creating abundant lives one child at a time
Over the years, programs at Life Lab have emerged into one of the premier educational resources for gardening in the United States. With support from Santa Cruz Community Credit Union, Life Lab has been able to continue to teach children the joy of gardening, even in the midst of a pandemic.
It started in 1979 with inspired teachers, some open land provided for an outside classroom, and a vision. Since Life Lab opened its first school garden at Green Acres Elementary School in Santa Cruz, it has continuously engaged young people in gardens and taught others to do the same.
Life Lab is an independent, private non-profit that works to “cultivate a child’s love of learning, healthy food, and nature through garden-based learning,” stated Don Burgett, Co-Executive Director of Life Lab.
Over the years, programs at Life Lab have grown and emerged into one of the premier educational resources for gardening in the United States. But, don’t be fooled. They don’t just teach children the joy of gardening, they provide an entire plethora of opportunities related to the natural environment.
We offer garden classroom workshops for educators across the country. Educators can attend a workshop and learn garden-based lessons, network with other educators and take that knowledge and excitement back to their school or garden project.
— Don Burgett, Co-Executive Director of Life Lab.
Life Lab’s school gardens project is a site-based program at seven school sites in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District. The Life Lab staff works in tandem with teachers and students, delivering lessons and hands-on instruction in garden spaces or living labs.
“We take pride in inviting them into the process of discovery. We explain that no one knows all the answers,” stated Aisling Mitchell, Life Lab’s Partner School Program Manager. “We teach from a positive place to stimulate learning and discovery. We want children to express their curiosity. Kids are trying chard and beets and weird stuff they wouldn’t normally try in our cooking classes. We feel our program is a catalyst for healthy eating.”
Additionally, Life Labs also sponsors field trips to a private farm in Watsonville or a UCSC organic farm visit. It also holds summer day camps to stimulate learning when kids are out of school. “Students see gardens as a place to connect with nature, learn environmental education, healthy eating, and literacy,” explained Burgett. And thanks to these programs, thousands of children’s lives have been enriched.
There’s no doubt Life Lab continues to make an impact on the world, one child at a time. “Twelve years ago, I sent my kids to Life Labs summer camp. I was so impressed with their ability to provide an environment that fostered curiosity and joyfulness in learning that I came to work for Life Lab,” stated Judit Camacho, Life Lab’s Co-Executive Director. “Life Lab integrates all of the senses- it brings the whole child into the learning experience.”
Life Lab’s connection to SCCCU helped enable a successful journey
Life Lab has been a member of Santa Cruz Community Credit Union (SCCCU) since 2009. “We value our relationship with SCCCU and have found it to be an influential, inclusive and supportive relationship,” stated Burgett. “We established a business line of credit with the credit union, which was vital to help with the ups and downs of growth throughout the years.”
Most recently, SCCCU helped Life Lab obtain a PPP loan during the COVID-19 crisis. “We’ve used this loan to support staff and respond to the stresses brought on by the pandemic. Specifically, we’ve been able to increase the size of our outdoor educator teams at the Pajaro Valley Unified School District sites.”
Like its connection to the natural environment, Life Lab feels that banking with SCCCU brings them closer to their community. “Every employee at Life Lab is a member of SCCCU, and they are proud to support a Credit Union that provides the same level of dedicated support back to its community as they do,” exclaimed Burgett.
To learn more about the programs available at Life Lab, click here.
For more information about the products and services available at SCCCU, click here.