The Explore Ecology School Gardens Program connects children to nature and teaches them how to grow their own organic food using the garden as an outdoor classroom.



Growing Healthy Minds, Bodies, and Little Green Thumbs



Our Garden Educators teach children how to grow food in 29 elementary schools throughout Santa Barbara County. Using the garden as an outdoor classroom, students learn about Planting, Cultivating, Harvesting, Composting, and Nutrition. Students in our School Gardens Program grow organic vegetables, healthy bodies, and lasting friendships.

Research shows that children who grow their own food tend to eat more fruits and vegetables, have a greater understanding of ecology, and receive higher test scores in science.

For over 25 years, Explore Ecology has been a vital force for garden education, providing schools and youth groups with on-site gardening and composting lessons, teacher trainings, garden consultations, and Garden Curriculum.

Contact Lindsay for more information.

  • Adams
  • Adelante
  • Brandon
  • Clarence Ruth
  • Cleveland
  • Community Academy
  • El Camino
  • Ellwood
  • Foothill
  • Franklin
  • Goleta Family School
  • Harding
  • Hollister
  • Isla Vista
  • Kellogg
  • La Canada
  • La Colina
  • Cumbre
  • La Honda
  • La Patera
  • McKinley
  • Monroe
  • Mountain View
  • Notre Dame
  • Oak Valley
  • Roosevelt
  • Santa Ynez Elementary
  • St. Rafael’s
  • Washington


Get Involved

Do you love gardening? Explore Ecology’s School Gardens Program is looking for volunteers who have green thumbs, enjoy being outdoors, and like educating about growing organic food.

We offer volunteer work parties throughout the year at our participating school gardens in Santa Barbara County. We also need volunteers to adopt a school garden in the summer to make sure that our gardens continue to grow when school is out.

Explore Ecology’s School Gardens Program connects children to nature and teaches them how to grow their own organic food. Using the garden as an outdoor classroom, the School Gardens Program serves over 10,000 students per year at 30 local public elementary schools in seven school districts throughout Santa Barbara County.



Stories From the Garden

Welcome to Stories from the Garden, our new series of posts highlighting stories from Explore Ecology Garden Educators who work with children in 35 school gardens throughout Santa Barbara County. Every school day, our educators connect children to nature and teach them how to grow organic food using the garden as an outdoor classroom.

This post comes from Bennett Rock.

One day there was a shrill of excitement near the school garden orchard. A third grade student had discovered a monarch butterfly chrysalis hanging underneath the Fuyu Persimmon sign. The news spread faster than a baseball could be thrown. Soon a swarm of students were on the scene, howling with “oohh’s” and “aahh’s” of curiosity. It seemed to take every ounce of effort for them to not touch the delicate chrysalis. The students had just covered the stages of metamorphosis in science class and I was thrilled about the timing. At the same time, I questioned the fate of the pupa being so exposed and having so many anxious youngsters fighting back their curiosity and temptation. All the kids all knew about it and I was surprised each week to see it still hanging there.

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Red Wiggler Worm Fact Sheet


  • Common Name: Red Wiggler worms (also: Tiger worms, Manure worms)
  • Scientific Name: Eisenia Foetida


  • Worm Selection: Red Wigglers are the best worms for a small composting system because they are surface dwellers and do well in confined spaces.
  • Lifespan: They can live up to 5 years, and eat half their body weight in 1 day!
  • Eyes: They don’t have eyes, instead these worms have sensors on the top of their head that help them detect light. They like to live in cool, dark, damp places.
  • Breathing: They use their skin to breath, rather than lungs like most animals. Worms need to stay moist to stay alive, that is why they are covered in mucus.
  • Hearts: They have 5 hearts shaped like rings, which hug the space just behind their heads.
  • Teeth: They don’t have teeth, instead they have a gizzard (like chickens!). A gizzard is a muscular sack behind the mouth where the worm can store small pieces of rocks and grit (such as egg shells) to help break up their food when they eat.


  • Maturation: It takes approximately 40-60 days for juvenile worms to develop into a mature worm.
  • Mating: Red Wigglers are hermaphrodites, which means they can have both male and female reproductive organs, however they still need another worm to reproduce. Warmer temperatures encourage mating.
  • Band: Adult worms have a small band around them called a clitellum. This moves along the length of the worm’s body toward the head, collecting fertilized eggs as it moves up. Eventually this will fall off and become the egg.
  • Egg: Red Wiggler worms start out as an egg (also called cocoon), which can contain 4-6 baby worms! This will typically be the size of a grape seed. Incubation is approximately 23 days, and during this time the egg will change from yellow to deep red. The egg will hatch after 3-4 weeks.
  • Frequency: Worms reproduce every 7-10 days if conditions are right, and can double their population in 2-3 months.





  • Ideal Environment:

    • 50-75 ⁰F
    • Oxygen, drainage and darkness
    • Moist paper
    • Sand/grit

  • What They Can/Can’t Eat


  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Eggshells
  • Teabags & coffee grounds
  • Green waste (grass, leaves)
  • Shredded newspaper & cardboard

  • Acidic fruits (orange, lemon, lime)
  • Onions & garlic
  • Spicy foods (chili)
  • Dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt)
  • Meat & fish
  • Oily or processed foods

 Feeding Schedule

  • Feed every 2-3 weeks
  • If environment seems too wet, reduce feeding and add shredded newspaper

Build Your Own Vermicompost

Below are instructions on how to make your very own vermicompost. If you have any additional questions, feel free to reach out to us at Explore Ecology, we’re happy to help!


  • 3-5 gallon opaque plastic bin
  • Power drill
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Bowl of water
  • Handful of grit/sand
  • Food scraps
  • ½ lb of worms


  1. Take your power drill and drill holes in the rim of the plastic bin, about 2 inches apart. Make sure the holes are big enough to allow airflow!
  2. Rip newspaper lengthwise into small strips and soak in water for 5-10 minutes. Then add to bin and fill about ¾ full. Newspaper should be the wetness of a rung out sponge. This will be the bedding and water source for your worms!
  3. Add sand and food scraps to the wet newspaper and mix it a little with your hands. Once this is done, add your worms. Congratulations, you now have a working vermicompost bin!


  • If your worms seem like they are trying to escape or if your bin has a strong odor, make sure you are doing the following:
  • Keeping the bin in a cool, dry place
  • Not over-feeding the worms (adding food scraps 1-2 times per month is sufficient for a 3-5 gallon bin)

Check out the other information on our website to learn more about what you can/can’t feed your worms, and other tips and tricks to keeping your worms happy and healthy!


Watch our video about our School Gardens Program.

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