Explore Ecology Awards Honor Local Eco Heroes

 In Earth Day, Environmental Stewardship Awards

We’re thrilled to announce the winners of the 2024 Explore Ecology Awards. Our annual awards recognize outstanding teachers, students, and clubs who demonstrate excellence in environmental stewardship within Santa Barbara County schools.

Nominated by community members, the award winners exemplify the spirit of environmental awareness and action and inspire positive change within their schools and communities.

The public is invited to honor and celebrate these local eco-champions at the Explore Ecology Awards ceremony at the Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival on Sunday, April 28th at 1:00 pm, on stage in the Kid’s Corner.

Meet the 2024 Explore Ecology Award Winners:

Student Award Winners:

  • Gio Alfaro, recipient of a Student Award, shares his passion for his school garden: Gio says, “I have planted two trees at my school, and it makes me happy to know that I am making a difference in beautifying our school and helping the environment. I encourage everyone to plant a tree.”

(Gio Alfaro, Photo by Cristina Alfaro)
  • Ethan Maday, recognized for his advocacy for regenerative agriculture, emphasizes its potential for global impact: “I’ve focused efforts into spreading awareness about regenerative agriculture as a solution because it has the potential, means, and scale to make a massive, equitable, and rapid impact that results in global cooling and carbon sequestration.”

(Ethan Maday, Photo by Harmony Towne)
  • Margo Leven’s dedication to composting has led to significant waste reduction at her school. She explains, “I was working on this compost project because of the Girl Scout bronze award. To earn the award, I had to work 20 hours helping a project that I had noticed. Mine was composting at my school. The teachers have said that the trash amount has gone down a lot!”

(Margo Leven, Courtesy Photo)
  • Moxie McLeod volunteers in her school garden and at the Art From Scrap Creative Reuse Store. She also does regular beach cleanups with her family and makes an effort to pick up trash wherever she sees it!

Teacher Award Winners:

  • Jennifer Rasmussen is honored for her innovative teaching methods at Refugio High School and the transformative impact of her hands-on learning electives. She says, “What began with just two boxes has blossomed into a thriving outdoor education program boasting ten planter boxes and four compost areas.”

(Jennifer Rasmussen, Courtesy Photo)
  • Lori Leach’s commitment to environmental education at Los Berros has inspired students to become stewards of the natural world. Megan Evans, Los Berros VAPA Academy Principal says, “Mrs. Leach inspires other at Los Berros to care for the natural environment. She oversees our school community garden and educates our students about the importance of conservation and sustainable practices.”

(Lori Leach, Photo by Jacob Hale)
  • Teri Briggs has been the upper elementary teacher at Goleta Family School for more than 30 years. She has spearheaded a restoration project at a site 1/2 mile from school and is consistent in her promotion of ecological literacy, student centered experiential learning, and deep regard for human stewardship of the environment.

(Teri Briggs, Courtesy Photo)

Club Awards:

  • Kellogg Ocean Guardians As a NOAA-funded Ocean Guardians school, Kellogg Elementary has been teaching sustainability practices and environmental education over the last six years. Over 50 student volunteers are on the Ocean Guardians’ student committee at Kellogg and have helped Kellogg become the first school in GUSD to replace single-use plastic sporks with reusable metal sporks in the cafeteria. This will divert an estimated 54,000 plastic sporks from the landfill every year at Kellogg alone!

(Ocean Guardians, Courtesy Photo)


  • Clean and Green Club At Vieja Valley Elementary, the Clean and Green Club, founded by student Alaina Galbraith, has promoted sustainability on campus and beyond. They are currently coordinating a school wide beach clean, a sustainability focused school wide assembly, and have petitioned the Hope District to transition to reusable utensils in the cafeteria to avoid single use plastic in the landfill.

(Vieja Valley, Photo by Medeighnia Westwick)

We are proud to recognize these incredible teachers and students whose dedication, inspiration, and care for nature is creating a greener and more resilient Santa Barbara. We thank them all for their hard work at schools, in gardens, and beyond!

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