Why School Gardens Matter

“Miss Jessica!!” “Miss Jessica!” I turn my head to see two first graders walking down the hallway, looking very proud, and they are shouting my name with enthusiasm. I walk towards them, gesturing for them to be quiet, but before I have taken three steps they are shouting again, this time they are holding their lunch boxes high up in the air, like strange trophies.

“We have FRUIT in our lunches!!!!!” Their voices are breaking with excitement, and I feel my face crack into a giant smile, I have stopped in my tracks and they are already racing around the corner. If I could only choose one word to describe how I felt in that moment, rewarded about sums it up.

In the few months since I’ve had the pleasure to begin my work with Explore Ecology, I have come to realize the vital importance of the work I am doing.

garden 2It’s hard to explain the feeling that washes over me when I discover that the child I have just made a salad for is tasting a green onion, or a beet, or a cucumber, for the first time in their entire life. The way their eyes light up when it dawns upon them that the crisp carrot they hold in their small hands was grown from energy from the sun. Learning that nutrition isn’t just a word on a label but something tangible that has a direct impact on their lives, learning about vitamins and nutrients and not just that fruits and vegetables are good for them, but why they are good for them is a first for most of them.

garden 5For many of the children, this isn’t just their first time seeing food born straight from the source, its the first time they are seeing that vegetable to begin with, in any shape or form.

The squeals of horror when students are holding an earthworm, or smelling the compost, are music to my ears. They are learning that sometimes the ugly, the stinky, the scary things in this world are what makes our lives possible, our food possible. These children develop an understanding of not only the way an ecosystem functions, but what we can do to be stewards of the environment and the food chain. They can carry the knowledge of the harmful ramifications of chemical pesticides and insecticides both home and on into the future, and are ambassadors for healthy eating to not only their peers but ideally their own children someday.

garden 3The obesity rates in this country have skyrocketed. Heart disease and diabetes is rampant. I am living in a generation that has succumbed to easy living, fast food is the staple for the average American, and we, as a populace, are moving farther and farther away from a working knowledge or appreciation for the source of the foods that frequent our dinner plates.

The solution, I truly believe, lies in the education of our future generations. They are the seeds of change. When I see children let out for their lunch break make a beeline straight for the garden, run up to me with hearts pumping and breathlessly ask what they can do in the garden that day, I am filled with hope. For that child, for their peers, and for our collective futures.



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Art Inspired By Spring- FLORA Opens at AFS Gallery

Celebrate Spring at FLORA, a living art exhibition opening at the Art From Scrap Gallery this Friday, April 10th, from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm. FLORA is a multimedia exhibit inspired by early spring, new growth, natural cycles, and changing seasons.

Bird House by Adam Kopras

Bird House by Adam Kopras

There will be a variety of living walls, art made with fresh plant materials, installations, painting, and assemblage. Flora features work by Adam Kopras, Ruben Pedregon, Judy Nilsen, Pali X Mano, Lori Avery Cummings, Mary Price, Terra Edwards, Jason Summers, and Tara Patrick.

Faun of the Night Flora- created by Pali X Mano (pictured) and Mary Price

Faun of the Night Flora- created by Pali X Mano (pictured) and Mary Price


By Lori Avery Cummings

Some of the art in FLORA includes Solstice and Assemblage Artist Pali X Mano’s Faun of the Night Flora. Faun is an abstract whimsical and magical creature constructed of bark, living moss, vegetation and wielding a Pan Pipe.Plant Artist and Floral Designer Ruben Pedregon is constructing a living wall made from reused coffee burlap bags, fresh flowers, and succulents.The exhibition also features assemblage work by Judy Nilsen, painting and prints by Lori Avery Cummings, and an installation by Mary Price created with natural materials including twigs, moss and bark.

By Jason Summers

By Jason Summers

Jason Summers will be showing his Flora Frames- unique vessels for various types of flowers, herbs, and house plants. Tara Patrick will be showing fanciful flowers made from rescued paper.

By Tara Patrick

By Tara Patrick

Adam Kopras of Santa Barbara Succulent will display beautiful Succulent Walls and Landscape Designer Terra Edwards will be creating colorful botanical masks.

Botanical Mask by Terra Edwards

Botanical Mask by Terra Edwards

Save the date! FLORA opens on Friday, April 10, from 6:00-8:00 pm and will hang in the AFS Gallery through May 14, 2015.



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Get Your California Native Trees at Explore Ecology

journal-228052_1920Explore Ecology is holding its first ever California Native Tree Sale outside of the Art From Scrap Creative ReUse Store. Trees for sale include White Alder, Giant Sequoia, CA Bay, Valley Oak, Black Walnut, and Button Willow. Native trees provide habitat for native animals, attract native pollinators, and are more adapted to growing in our Mediterranean climate.

The trees cost wholesale price- $50.00 each, plus tax. The best part? The proceeds benefit the Explore Ecology School Gardens Program.

treeGet your trees at the Art From Scrap Creative ReUse Store during Open Hours: Tuesday – Friday 11am – 5pm & Saturday 10am – 4pm.

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Spring Gardening Workshops at Explore Ecology

bee-100928_1280Are you getting your spring garden ready? Do you want to grow peppers and tomatoes and aren’t sure what varieties are best for our area? Come to the Spring Gardening workshops at Explore Ecology in downtown Santa Barbara.

fruit-192754_1920We’ve enlisted the help of expert gardener, composter, and grower Oscar Carmona, owner and operator of Healing Grounds Nursery, to teach you everything you need to know to get your garden growing. Oscar will share his secrets about how to have a thriving and healthy garden without the use of toxic pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides.

oscarThe Tomato and Pepper Workshop on Saturday, March 14th, from 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm will cover everything you need to know to grow the best tomatoes or peppers in your container or garden. Oscar will go over the 40 best tomato varieties. Many tried and true pepper varieties will be available for sale at the workshop. To get your tickets click here.

sweet-peppers-499075_1920Learn what to plant for an abundant harvest and basic organic and bio-dynamic gardening techniques in the Spring Gardening Strategies on Saturday, March 28th, 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm. To get your tickets click here.

carrot-646108_1920Worm Composting Kits will be for sale at both workshops. The cost of each workshop is $10.00 and tickets are available online or at the door. 10% of the proceeds of workshops and plant and compost bin sales benefit the Explore Ecology School Gardens Program.

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Learn the Art of Mosaic Tile at Art From Scrap

gailLearn the art of mosaic tile with artist and environmentalist Gail Hercher Art From Scrap’s Mosaic Tile Trivet Workshop. Create a nine-inch tile trivet in this three hour workshop on Saturday, March 7th, from 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm.


After a productive career as a printmaker and papermaker, Gail Hercher is now committed to creating mosaic art with a focus on using recycled, salvaged, and found objects. She no longer uses toxic inks, paint, or chemicals and believes this is better for the planet’s health as well as her own! Gail maintains a studio and teaches workshops in Ojai, CA.gail tilesJoin us in the Art From Scrap Workshop for creative classes taught by local artists. These workshops geared toward adults combine reuse ideals and artistic fun. All materials provided by Art From Scrap, but participants are welcome to bring additional items to work with.

gail tile

The wide variety of classes has something for everyone. No previous art experience necessary. All workshops include a glass of wine. Cost of the Tile Trivet Workshop is $35.00. Tickets are available online by clicking here or at the door.


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Worm Composting Workshop at Explore Ecology

Any time that we place compostable food scraps in the trash we are throwing away valuable natural resources. In Santa Barbara County, an estimated 700 tons of trash a day goes to our landfill and of that, about 40% is considered compostable. What happens to food scraps in the landfill? After being buried under layers of trash and dirt, food scraps begin to slowly decompose and emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) and methane- a potent climate change causing gas.

Food Scraps On Their Way to a Worm Bin

Food Scraps On Their Way to a Worm Bin

What to do? Compost!  Using red wiggler worms to compost your food scraps will turn your trash into treasure, save you money on gardening inputs, and will help you become part of the solution to climate change.  Worm composting is easy, doesn’t require a lot of space, tools, or materials and is a lot of fun. Finished compost is an excellent soil amendment. When you feed the soil with compost, you are improving soil tilth and providing plants with beneficial nutrients and microbes.

Learn how to compost using worms  in a Composting Workshop at Explore Ecology on Saturday, February 21, from 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm. Oscar Carmona, owner of Healing Grounds Nursery will teach you how to create and take care of your own worm bin, harvest compost, and make and use compost tea.

Oscar Carmona, Healing Grounds Nursery

Oscar Carmona, Healing Grounds Nursery

The workshop is open to the public and costs $10.00 at the door. Buy your ticket now by clicking here. Complete worm composting kits and worms will be for sale at this event.

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