NASSCO Work Party

By | Farm, Upcoming Events


On Coastal Clean-Up Day, NASSCO CRC volunteers prepared the EarthLab for the 3000 Lincoln Cluster students who will be studying there this year.  As they have for multiple times a year over the past decade, these amazing, talented NASSCO employees rolled up their sleeves and transformed this outdoor learning space. Working side by side with our students, they cleaned and hauled and watered and did whatever was necessary to beautify the space.  A NASSCO event would not be complete without a tasty BBQ lunch, and a raffle for all in attendance. Thank you NASSCO for your selfless service and all you do for the children and families we serve.

Below are the lovely photos NASSCO has shared with us. Enjoy!

Alex at the EarthLab: Fauna Loves Flora, Flora Loves Fauna

By | Farm


We’re happy to bring you another update at the EarthLab from Alex, one of our farm managers (among other things). We’ve made the title “Fauna Loves Flora, Flora Loves Fauna.”, because when Alex shares images from the EarthLab, we’re blown away by the biodiversity that exists down there right off of Euclid. A new critter always appears, and a new crop is always flourishing, and both the plant life and the animal/bug life support each other in a beautifully mutual way. Thanks for sharing with everyone Alex!


It seems like it has been a while since I’ve checked in with everyone. Time to keep you all posted of what has been happening at Earth Lab!!!

One of the most exciting moments at EarthLab, this past month, was when I came across this praying mantis! First time seeing one up close and personal! It could not have been anymore than 3″ big. Pretty small fella’. Did you know that they only live for about a year?!

Also, found this critter as I harvested some tomatoes. Such a beautiful display of color and pattern on its back, don’t you agree?

The fun doesn’t end there with all the wild life we have at EarthLab. In my last blog there were a couple of pictures I took of the gigantic sunflowers we had. I’ve seen squirrels climb up the sunflower stocks to munch on the seeds and seen birds land on the flower to take their share. But boy was I amazed when I saw parakeets!!!! Not 1, not 2 but 4 parakeets! I guess I was really amazed because I’ve always thought of parakeets as a house companion rather than a bird you see out and about especially here in San Diego.

At the moment, our harvest continues with some delicious squash, okra, cucumbers, and tomatoes! The farm just keeps giving and giving.

There is so much that needs to get done at EarthLab! For example, moving and re-positioning a rain barrel with my 90 Toyota Pickup. 865gal water truck anyone?

Well, I hope you all enjoyed my blog this month! Now time to get back to work. Alex out!

Two EarthLab Summer Academy Videos & Photos

By | Farm


With the conclusion of the UCSD Blum Summer Field Internship, the UC-Wide students came to deliver a presentation on the strengths of the Outdoor Summer Learning Academy, and their research on our EcoVillage project.

This presentation included this video that they produced with loads of beautiful moments from the Summer Academy, and with insightful interviews with the students, interns, and teachers:

After this presentation we sat down with Alon Ankonina, a UCSD student in the Blum program, to discuss the successes  of the Summer Learning Academy and the process of working with the multi-disciplinary team that produced the it:

Our Educational Director JoAnna Proctor had this to say about the Summer Learning Academy:

The EarthLab Summer Science Academy was a huge success, with over 50 students benefiting from the effective and powerful curriculum surrounding Water Quality & Water Conservation. Students strengthened their scientific literacy skills in vocabulary development, scientific illustration, and the Claim-Evidence-Reasoning process. Science notebook entries from Day 1 to Day 10 demonstrated significant improvement, supporting the efficacy of the program.

Each morning, student scientists explored, investigated, hypothesized, designed, and engineered various projects and experiments. Each afternoon, these same scientists traveled to partnering agencies to supplement their learning. The collaboration of students, teachers, university interns, parents, and educational partners truly enhanced the educational and social experience for everyone involved.  We hope to offer this program again next summer.

We want to extend our gratitude to UCSD and the Blum program, along with the wonderful humans who put their sweat and hearts into this work. The interns were incredible in action, and we commend them for their amazing efforts.

Alex’s EarthLab Harvest

By | Farm


Time sure flies!

These last couple of weeks we harvested 130lbs of squash! It was very exciting for a couple of reasons.

  1. Because it was my first time harvesting any produce and…..
  2. Because there is nothing like being able to see the process and progress of a farm in person and being able to eat fresh produce straight from the farm! Hard work pays off!!!


But, the excitement doesn’t stop there. Harvested a second round of squash for almost a total of 300lbs all together including the first round! And, there is already more to harvest!

Apart from squash, we have ginormous sunflowers . Not only do we get to enjoy such an amazing flower but we also get to observe pollinators (bees) fertilizing the flowers.

What else you ask? Well let me tell you. Found a skull by the creek! Not sure from what animal it came from. Could belong to a gopher.

And, also found this interesting critter. Kind of looks like it has a horse shaped head in miniature form.


For the most part, it’s a lot of fun (and work) at EarthLab but, there are times when we are faced with challenges. A few months back we had no water at EarthLab which obviously means no water for the produce we are trying to grow or for the plants at the propagation center. Once again we face the same challenge. Luckily, we invested in a gas powered water pump that we can hook up to the rain barrels we have on site and to an over head sprinkler. It’s always important to have a plan B!

Daily life at EarthLab is quite an experience. You never know what awaits you!


UC Blum Interns at the EarthLab

By | Farm


Camille Campion, the coordinator for the Blum Summer Interns, tunes us in to the experience of the Blum Summer Field Internship.

This is the third year that a team of UCSD and UC-wide students have worked at the EarthLab during the Blum Summer Field Internship. The interns work in supervised interdisciplinary teams to conduct community-based research and participate in local ongoing collaborative projects.

The UCSD Blum Summer Field Interns have been working with the team of teachers, EarthLab staff, and 6th graders during the Science Academy. They are a group of 2nd to 4th year college students whose majors vary from environmental engineering to psychology. They have embraced this opportunity to teach and learn alongside the dedicated people involved in this program. As one intern expressed, “It’s been a joy to watch the kids grow at Summer Academy! Not only have they been learning about water quality and conservation, they are also developing personal opinions and stances about human’s relationship with the environment.”

For another, “Returning to my hometown San Diego for the summer to work in the EarthLab has been the greatest hands-on learning experience for me. The relationships I have built with local students, the Groundworks staff, teachers from local elementary schools and SDSU has reminded me why Southeast San Diego is such a special place.” Participating at EarthLab has been an invaluable experience on many levels for all involved!

Left to right: Alon, Kara, Aya, Rabiah, Kim, Aaron, Warren, Wilson

Wildlife at the Student Habitat Conservation Project

By | Farm


Under a grant provided by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, 150 Lincoln Cluster fifth-grade students learned about the value of native plants and healthy habitats in support of area wildlife species. The students participated in the transformation of a vacant, weedy parcel adjacent to the Groundwork EarthLab Education and Climate Action Center. They cleared the land and planted native plants, and created a beautiful native plant and pollinator demonstration garden.  The area will be used for community workshops to demonstrate drought tolerant landscaping principles and the use of native plants to attract pollinators.



The garden is adjacent to the Chollas Creek tributary that runs through the EarthLab. Through the grant, the students installed wildlife cameras at the creek, and were able to observe the coyote family, and other wildlife, supported by the creek and the new garden. These images below show some of the more visible wildlife that is among the life at the Earthlab. Coyotes, possums, cats, rabbits and spiders all came by our motion-sensor camera.




Second Round of Our Summer Academies Begins

By | Farm


This week kicked off the Groundwork Summer Learning Academy, a two-week intensive summer camp to prepare Lincoln Cluster 6th graders for academic success in middle school math and science. Rooted in the demonstrated success of informal STEM education, the program will serve sixty students at the EarthLab, Groundwork San Diego’s outdoor Climate Action Education Center. Students will be addressing San Diego’s regional water quality and water conservation challenges, designing systems and protocols to bring environmental benefits to their schools and neighborhoods.

The Program

The program will be led by Lincoln Cluster teachers, all of whom have trained throughout the Spring in the latest cutting edge STEM teaching practices. Teachers will lead students through a series of hand-on learning activities, supported by science journals. They will then escort students on a daily afternoon field trip. Field trip destinations are:

  • Whale watching
  • San Diego Zoo
  • San Diego Air and Space Museum
  • San Diego Natural History Museum
  • Scripps Birch Aquarium
  • Fleet Science Center
  • Cuyamaca and Torrey Pines Nature Centers
  • Living Coast Discovery Center

The program will culminate in a student-led workshop to share with families and community leaders the responses students developed to the water issues. These will include:

  • Pollution caused by contamination of water by pesticides, fertilizers, gas/oil, and food waste
  • Overwatering lawns and shrubs
  • Excessive car washing in driveways
  • Soil erosion caused by uncontrolled water runoff.

Bringing it Home

Discussions will emphasize that continuing current water use trends will impact the region’s available potable water supplies and the individual families’ water costs. Parents and Discussion Leaders will discuss practices that the community can implement to contribute to water conservation in homes and schools:

·         Reducing the use of water and reusing water

·         Installing rain barrels

·         Installing systems that reuse greywater from washing machines to irrigate on-site landscaping

·         Landscaping with water-wise plants and native vegetation.


EarthLab Supports Community Native Plant Landscapes

By | Farm

Propagation of new plants at the Earthlab nursery is in full steam! We are preparing for phase one of the Chollas EcoVillage project, providing our community members with beautiful, fragrant, drought-tolerant native plants and food-producing fruit trees. Just one part of creating a more sustainable Chollas View. Come see us! Jacob Brownwood, Propagation Center and Farm Manager

The Fishy Business of Aquaponics

By | Farm

Aquaponics is a centuries-old growing technique that combines the plant growing power of hydroponics (cultivating crops without soil) with aquaculture (raising aquatic animals like fish and shellfish) to create an efficient, looped ecosystem.  Simply explained, we have a tank with fish hooked up to a tank with plants.  The fish produce waste, which can be used as nutrients for the plants, while a healthy microbial and bacterial population convert minerals to usable forms for fish and plants.  Of course, the day-to-day operations of aquaponics are more complicated than that; we measure pH, dechlorinate and degas the water, feed the fish, and work out ratios that explain how many fish are supported by how many plants.  However, this small system set up at EarthLab is already serving as a valuable teaching tool for children and educators all across San Diego.  Children can learn about ecosystem interactions, math, statistics, chemistry and other STEM topics in a hands-on and engaging way.

We send a big thank you to Dr. Luke Duesbury of San Diego State University who generously donated and assembled this system.

– Farmer Adam Graves

The aquaponics system at the EarthLab couples fish and plants for a resource-efficient growing method

The aquaponics system at the EarthLab couples fish and plants for a resource-efficient growing method

Sunny Sunday Sunflowers

By | Farm

Hope you all enjoyed your weekend! It was a hot one, but the plants at the EarthLab Farm are shining in their full glory. These giant sunflowers could brighten anyone’s day! Here’s wishing you a good week ahead.