The EarthLab is a 4-acre outdoor climate action park that advances a new model of experiential environmental education for the youth of the Chollas Creek Watershed, and the larger San Diego community.  Leveraging the resources of leading regional education partners such as University of California, San Diego, the Fleet Science Center and the Birch Aquarium, and through the delivery of unique hands-on STEAM education, technical training and mentoring programs, doors are flung open to higher education, career pathways and quality jobs. The EarthLab places environmental education at the center of economic, energy, and health equity.

The EarthLab Education Method

The EarthLab has developed an Educational Method, as a portfolio of lessons and activities designed by education and environmental experts to improve the scientific, ecological and cultural literacy of students.  Learning like scientists, they reason using evidence; learning like ecologists, they experience the knowledge of nature and cultivate a desire to conserve valuable resources; and learning like artists, they are inspired to translate cultural indigenous traditions into practical tools for today’s environmental challenges.  By linking technology and science (reason), ecology and conservation (empathy) and culture and arts (expression), The EarthLab’s method aspires to integrate siloed forms of learning, and promote circulation between the classroom, environmental design labs and outdoors exhibits.


Hundreds of families are working with Groundwork to bring water conservation upgrades to their homes.


Groundwork was founded and is directed by leaders who live in the community and have dedicated themselves to bringing resources and recognition to the Chollas Creek Watershed.


Youth and their families volunteer annually and have successfully helped Groundwork restore over 30 acres of creek and upland habitat.


This year participating families received 50 rain barrels (420 gallons; captured 132,000 gallons of rainwater; diverted 372,000 gallons of greywater gallons to landscape; planted 116 trees for CO2 sequestration; conserved 430,040 gallons of water with low flush toilets/low flow showerheads.

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The Earthlab: Climate Action Park Masterplan

Conceived as a public space that educates, the EarthLab is dedicated to experiential environmental learning supported by a variety of outdoor exhibits, that transform a San Diego Unified School District-owned 4 acre site into a unique open-air environmental classroom. As EarthLab develops in the next years, it will increase its capacity to serve as a resource for the 6 public schools within walking distance of the site, promoting experiments in K-12 informal learning through experiential environmental literacy, and participatory climate action through community engagement, and how these intersect with advances in new energy technologies.

These four acres of open space contain the four habitats that characterize our region: riparian, coastal sage scrub, chaparral, and oak woodland. This makes Earthlab the first Climate Action Park of its kind, an ideal living laboratory for emerging young environmental professionals, inspiring the diverse residents of the Encanto neighborhoods that surround it to be stewards of their own environment and the future planning of their communities.


Over 3000 area students participate in on-going Earthlab programs


Groundwork is developing extended learning programs for students in 3-12th grades through after-school, weekend, and summer programs.


Groundwork has generated over $4 million in grant and philanthropic funding in support of EarthLab enrichment activities for Districts D and E students.


UC San Diego brings unparalleled resources to area schools through educational best practices, youth mentorships, and ongoing support of teachers and students.

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UCSD-EarthLab Community Station

EarthLab is an official partner of the UCSD Community Stations, a network of field stations in underserved neighborhoods across the San Diego-Tijuana region, where teaching and research are conducted collaboratively between UCSD researchers and communities.  

Educating a new generation of leaders capable of thinking socially, ethically and collaboratively across disciplines to tackle today’s most pressing urban challenges requires that universities expand experiential learning opportunities, and develop new field-based curricula that places students into actual community settings.  This is the mission of the UCSD Community Stations.  

In the UCSD Community Stations, university and community partners mutually contribute resources and knowledge, and actively participate in research, learning and problem solving.  Research shows that this horizontal model of community-university engagement cultivates youth leadership, community capacity, and ultimately produces better, more sustainable outcomes for both the university and community partners.


Groundwork is representing watershed families in the City of San Diego Park Master Plan process to advocate for the construction of needed parks and trails.


Groundwork staff and board members serve on the statewide Parks Now Coalition, working to bring millions of dollars in state funding to priority projects in the Chollas Creek Watershed.

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