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.




Lenox Drive Vector Habitat Remediation Project

By | Project Updates

Groundwork San Diego-Chollas Creek has been awarded a competitive grant by the County of San Diego Department of Environmental Health (DEH) under the Vector Habitat Remediation Program (VHRP) to construct the Lenox Drive Vector Habitat Remediation Project. Under the VHRP program, grant funding is

“…offered to landowners and managers, including public sector entities, to physically alter chronic mosquito breeding sites in ways that will reduce mosquito breeding habitats and improve the effectiveness of mosquito breeding control measures.  The Program provides a strong focus on designing, modifying and maintaining wetlands and stormwater facilities to function in a way that will reduce or eliminate mosquito breeding habitat while balancing water quality, biological, aesthetic and hydrological values.” [1]

The VHRP Grant will fund Phase II construction of the Lenox Drive project to remedy mosquito breeding pools in Chollas Creek. Stagnant water has formed as a result of deteriorated grade control structures immediately north of the Lenox Drive Bridge (see photo).


Due to the proximity of human activities (residential and recreational/hiking), mosquitos are a problem in this area; the County of San Diego Department Environmental Health (DEH) has identified this site as a high priority treatment area (Site 1702). The site is immediately adjacent to a residential community and is a known mosquito breeding habitat. In addition to the residences, hikers would also be affected by mosquito breeding habitat in this section of Chollas Creek.  This important project is a component of Groundwork San Diego’s overall watershed and water quality improvement program, and is part of enriching the experience of the Chollas Creek.


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 Brings Summer Enrichment to Hundreds of Lincoln Cluster Student

By | Upcoming Events

The first program, the New Summer Readers-Future Leaders (SRFL) is a four-week, full-day, community-based summer learning program offered to 100 rising second and third graders attending two Title I elementary schools in southeast San Diego.  The program engages students in learning experiences designed to reduce summer reading loss, fuel motivation to read, enhance physical and social-emotional growth, and increase exposure to inquiry-based science activities that support new state standards.  The program design is rooted in research-based practices identified by the National Summer Learning Association and other researchers. These practices include at least a 160-hour program that serves children of all reading abilities, the use of strong teachers, small class sizes, opportunities to learn outside the traditional classroom, parent engagement activities, and recreational activities.  


Groundwork’s role in this multifaceted summer program will be to host students from Chollas Mead  and Johnson Elementary twice weekly (per school) for full mornings of outdoor exploration and STEM learning. Students will engage in experiential hands-on science learning opportunities at Groundwork’s four-acre outdoor classroom, the EarthLab.  Student-teachers create opportunities to connect hands-on learning to literacy standards and nonfiction classroom reading activities.  The program will run from June 26-July 21.

The second program, the Summer Learning Academy, will serve as both an exciting enrichment program for students and an intensive professional development program for 12 participating teachers from Knox, Gompers and Millennial Tech. Teachers will team-teach summer school students in the morning. In the afternoon, those teachers will collaborate in a lesson study format, debriefing the instruction from the morning and preparing for the next day. Teachers will develop prototypes of “curriculum portfolios” based on activities field-tested at the EarthLab. Portfolios will include lesson guides, instructional materials required to execute lessons, teachers’ assessments of the curriculum, qualitative evaluation tools—including science notebook entries—and evidence of students’ learning.


For the 50 students in the Academy, morning sessions will be active learning in the classroom and at the EarthLab. Afternoons will be devoted to enrichment activities that engage local educational providers (Living Coast Discovery; Birch Aquarium; Torrey Pines Reserve; Natural History Museuml; Whale Watch San Diego) in the extension of morning instruction.  Parents will be invited  to attend all Academy instructional activities. In addition, they will be invited to participate in four specially designed activities led by Teacher Leaders. They will discuss the problems associated with climate change in general and drought in particular and water conservation solutions that can help alleviate the devastating effects of droughts. Topics will include:

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

For more information about student registration or to volunteer, please call JoAnna Proctor, Groundwork Education Director, at 619 543 0430.


Groundwork Crew – July

By | Staff Blog

Alex Garcia

The month of May has come and gone. For the most part, everything at EarthLab was as usual. As is the case on a day to day basis. More tasks to add to the list and more tasks to check off the list. Although, the list keeps growing no matter how many times one checks off tasks.

This month, however, was a little more challenging. We were faced with a  water crisis for 1-2 weeks. We had no water at EarthLab which means no way to water the newly planted seeds at the farm and no way to water the plants at the propagation center or the conservation garden. Because of this, quite a few plants didn’t make it and a lot of seeds didn’t sprout at the farm.

After having to order a water truck and getting the water back up and running, all plants are doing a lot better! We have newly planted seeds and a lot of the plants that looked dead have new green leafs! Even though we observe plants as being fragile they are pretty resilient!

Jacob Brownwood

June at the Earthlab has been an exciting month for the nursery and farm! Our rows have been planted, peaches are hanging from trees, and baby plants are emerging from the soil in our propagation center. With the help of two wonderful interns from City College and High Tech High School, along with several Saturday volunteers, our ever-growing number of hands are making things happen!

JoAnna Proctor

June has been a very exciting month for EarthLab Education. All of our participating elementary schools successfully completed their Spring NGSS Science Units across grades 3, 4 & 5.  Young scientists from Horton, Johnson, Baker, Balboa, and Chollas-Meade explored and experimented, while interacting with our beautiful nature space. Several MTM middle school students were awarded special EarthLab Awards for their dedication and commitment to EarthLab projects and programs. Programs included our EarthLab Club, community service projects, and our new “Energizing Our Future” program, where students served as ambassadors to teach the community how to save energy and water at home. Our EarthLab awardees included Meilany, Ashley, Raul, Deja, Adriana, Andrea, Brandan, Nala, Kaya, Eduardo, and Bryan. Congratulations to our EarthLab Keepers!

Looking forward to both of our EarthLab Summer Academies starting soon!

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

Third Annual STEAM Night Attracts Hundreds

By | Community Support

Our third annual STEAM night, hosted by Millennial Tech Middle School and Groundwork EarthLab, was a huge success. Over 300 students, teachers and family members enjoyed a wide-array of interactive, exploratory activities in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math. The MTM choir sang beautifully and the Lincoln High School Drum Line put on an incredible performance of dance rhythms. Students engineered bottle rockets and solar powered cars, planted vegetables to create gardens at home, explored specimens under the microscope, interacted with live marine animals from Scripps Birch Aquarium, and much more. This event was directed by Ms. Hillard, MTM science teacher, and Ms. Proctor, Director of Groundwork EarthLab Education. They would like to thank all of the amazing partners and MTM teachers who donated their time, energy and efforts to create a truly spectacular evening.