Urban Green Lab takes sustainability education to the road

Urban Green Lab executive director Jennifer TlumakUrban Green Lab's Jennifer Tlumak, photo Corinne Dore Williams
Toward the end of summer in 2013, Urban Green Lab — the East Nashville-bred, sustainability-focused learning hub conceived back in 2009 — announced a pretty significant change of plans.
The initial intent was to open a large physical learning lab on the corner of McGavock and Maxey around Riverside Village, with classrooms and meeting space and room for spreading knowledge of all things green-minded. Many Inglewoodians awaited the groundbreaking with much excitement. But then:
“Much has changed in the immediate neighborhood and in Nashville more broadly since we launched the organization four years ago," a summer 2013 newsletter from the Lab read. "A combination of demographic and logistical challenges make the Inglewood site untenable for this particular use…" 
Since, the Urban Green Lab team has been steadily sharing earth-friendly knowledge around town — everything from helping neighbors understand sustainable energy during a three-part educational series to tipping Nashvillians to why community supported agriculture might work for their lives and families. With events and workshops happening all around town, Urban Green Lab’s next step makes some sense: They’re currently working on developing a Mobile Learning Lab that’ll allow them to have a permanent home with room to roam.
“This vehicle, outfitted with interactive exhibits and green technologies, will travel to schools, businesses, and community events across Nashville,” says Urban Green Lab executive director Jennifer Tlumak. “Our mobile lab enables us to reach diverse and underserved populations and to enhance schools’ science and technology curricula.”
Given the organization’s mission — “to facilitate a range of educational and social programs that inspire participants from all socioeconomic backgrounds to make sustainability a bigger part of their lives — in their homes, neighborhoods, and businesses” — the on-the-move education outpost made a lot of sense.

“Looking at the needs of the community and how to best fulfill our mission to inspire people to make sustainable living a priority, the versatility and innovativeness of a mobile education unit captured the attention of our board of directors, staff, and community stakeholders,” Tlumak says. “The mobile lab helps us bring value to the Nashville community as soon as possible.” 
Toward that end, the Green Lab team and supporters held a fundraising garden party on June 28, unveiling drawings of the new Mobile Learning Lab and future educational curriculum plans to the hundred-plus supporters in attendance. Though the party was in Belle Meade, the Lab’s East Nashville roots were up front too, with food provided by chef Paul Wright of Eastland Cafe and regular East Nashvillian contributor Melissa Corbin of Corbin in the Dell, among others.
The fundraiser was a big step toward a big Mobile Learning Lab unveiling, expected in early 2015. This summer and fall, they’ll be designing and building alongside Owen Design, a local firm with experience in creating spaces for children's interactive education.
And early steps for the Learning Lab, Tlumak says, will root right back here where Urban Green Lab began.
“We'll focus initial mobile lab programming on long-time partners, such as Stratford STEM High School,” she says, “with a goal of expanding our reach year by year.”
For more on Urban Green Lab’s sustainability efforts — including regular workshops and events as they work toward the Mobile Learning Lab  visit urbangreenlab.org or call 615-785-0872.

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