Cultivating Environmental Stewardship Through Hands-On Learning

By Giving List Staff   |   November 17, 2023
During a Watershed Resource Center field trip, students participate in a beach cleanup.

Explore Ecology inspires students and adults alike to become better environmental stewards through three programs that reach over 40,000 community members annually. 

Whether it’s taking children to the ocean for a field trip and beach cleanup, teaching students about photosynthesis in a school garden, or educating about waste reduction in an art workshop, Explore Ecology’s environmental education programs: Art From Scrap, the Watershed Resource Center, and School Gardens Program provide hands-on learning experiences that empower Santa Barbara County residents to protect and preserve the environment.

You may be familiar with Explore Ecology’s Art From Scrap Creative Reuse Store, but Explore Ecology is much more than the reduce, reuse, recycle champion of Santa Barbara. 

Children learn how their actions on land affect local watersheds in an environmental education lesson.

The Explore Ecology School Gardens Program, found in 30 schools across the county, provides beautiful outdoor classrooms where children can explore nature, learn how to garden organically, and see in real life what they read about in science class.

At the Watershed Resource Center at Arroyo Burro Beach, students and visitors learn how to keep our creeks and ocean clean and join monthly beach cleanups that remove thousands of pounds of litter each year. Explore Ecology also organizes over 1,300 volunteers at over 31 sites for Coastal Cleanup Day. 

The Art From Scrap Creative Reuse Store diverts tons of discarded and reusable materials from the landfill annually and offers them to the community at affordable prices. The new EE Makerspace above the store is a creative hub for sustainability education where everyone is invited to explore the potential of reuse materials, imagine, invent, create and collaborate. 

“The difference between learning from a book and learning hands-on is a sense of wonder. In our School Gardens Program, elementary and junior high school students experience environmental stewardship firsthand by taking care of the plants that they grow, tending the soil, and participating in a closed loop composting system,” says Lindsay Johnson, Executive Director. 

“Educating about the environment can involve a lot of bad news and it’s easy to feel helpless. Explore Ecology teaches that environmental stewardship can be joyful, creative, and life-affirming. This means giving people hope, ideas, and solutions – actions they can take in their everyday lives that have an impact in creating a healthier world for all.”


Explore Ecology

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(805) 884-0459 ext. 4
Executive Director: Lindsay Johnson


The mission of Explore Ecology is to promote a greater understanding of the connections between people and their environment and to encourage creative thinking through hands-on environmental education and artistic expression. We empower our community to protect and preserve the environment through environmental education and creative exploration.

Begin to Build a Relationship

We know you care about where your money goes and how it is used. Connect with this organization’s leadership in order to begin to build this important relationship. Your email will be sent directly to this organization’s director of development and/or Executive Director.

What sets Explore Ecology apart is its dedication to hands-on participation. Students see presentations and read about the environment. With our programs, they’re actually going to the beach to learn about watersheds, or creating art with reuse materials, or checking on a plant that they grew. That’s what gets them super excited and engaged.
Lindsay Johnson, Executive Director, Explore Ecology

Help Plant the Seeds of Change

$50 – Cultivate Young Minds: Provide a year of school garden education for one child.

$250 – Fuel Field Trips: Sponsor a school bus for 60 students to take an Explore Ecology field trip and explore the wonders of nature firsthand.

$500 – Nurture Creativity: Fund five local artists to teach Makerspace art workshops.

$1,000 – Clean Our Coast: Sponsor a beach cleanup event, making our beaches safer and cleaner. 

$2,500 – Equip Our Educators: Help purchase education materials for the Watershed Resource Center where students and the public learn about keeping our water clean!

Key Supporters

American Riviera Bank
Audacious Foundation
Brighten Solar
Coastal Fund at UCSB
Deckers Brands
Garden Club of Santa Barbara
Johnson Ohana Foundation
McGowan Guntermann
Mission Wealth
Montecito Bank & Trust
Natalie Orfalea Foundation
Rotary Club of Santa Barbara
Sunrise Charitable Foundation
Santa Barbara City College
Santa Barbara Foundation
Santa Ynez Band
of Chumash Indians
Michel Saint-Sulpice
Teachers’ Fund
Village Properties
The Miller Family Fund
Tisha Weber Ford
Towbes Foundation
Laura and Geof Wyatt
Yardi Systems