Empowering Kids to be Environmental Stewards with Explore Ecology

In a recent blog post we spoke about the 5 Gyres Institute and their efforts to eliminate plastics in our oceans and waterways. After writing about 5 Gyres we wanted to spotlight a program that  lets kids get involved in the effort to keep our water clean. There is a wonderful group in Santa Barbara that has a program dedicated to getting kids involved in the effort to reduce marine debris. Explore Ecology is an organization driven by their mission to “enhance the understanding of the connections between people and their environment, and to encourage creative thinking through hands-on science education and art discovery”. The program was launched by a group of Santa Barbara parents in 1990. Their initial efforts were focused on improving art programs for kids by integrating lessons from the environmental community. Their ‘Art from Scrap’ program continues to be one of their most popular programs, where children and parents choose from clean items that have been diverted from landfills to create unique pieces of sustainable art.

As Explore Ecology has grown, they have developed programs targeted at specific environmental issues. In particular, their ‘Student Ocean Stewards’ program is focused on eliminating pollution in our oceans and waterways. It’s worth taking a look at how their program engages students and teachers for an environmental cause. Whenever we teach our children to be better global citizens, we learn something also. That’s what Modern Kids Design is all about, teaching our kids to be better global citizens by leading through example.

In order to empower students to safeguard our planet’s natural resources, they need to feel that they’re a vital piece of the puzzle. Ecology education is best taught through the vehicle of memorable and moving experiences. Explore Ecology’s environmental educators team up with teachers and schools, visiting to provide lessons, and lead campus clean-ups. As part of the ‘Student Ocean Stewards’ program, classes take field trips to local ecosystems to see the impact that pollution is having on marine life.

Santa Barbara is an ideal location for hands-on learning about ecology. Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and Los Padres National Forest, it is a place of ecological diversity, providing the perfect backdrop for learning how to care for the environment. In addition to field trips to local habitats, Explore Ecology runs a Watershed Resource Center on Arroyo Burro Beach that hosts community and educational programs to build awareness about our wetlands, creeks, and ocean.

Student Ocean Stewards began as ‘Flows to the Ocean’ a reminder of where our pollution ends up when we don’t dispose of it properly. Their new name signifies what the program is designed to do, empower children to make a change in their world — to become stewards of our oceans and our environment. The results of Explore Ecology’s hands-on, creative, empowering approach are clear. At one school that participated in the program, Franklin Elementary, students led an effort that resulted in saving 186,000 disposable cups from being thrown away each year by the introduction of reusable cups in the cafeteria. As telling as these numbers are, the children do best speaking for themselves in this video taken at one of Explore Ecology’s program schools.

“I learned that saving animals and picking up trash is very important to the sea life”

“You learn how trash can effect the ocean and how it can effect the animals living in the ocean, and how sad it is to see how much trash can effect the ocean. And, it’s fun to see how much we can help those animals.”

At Modern Kids Design we’re happy to support Explore Ecology with our Shop for a Cause Giving Program, and we feel more confident about the future with these modern kids empowered to become stewards of our environment. If you’d like learn more about the programs that Explore Ecology offers, please do reach out to them. Thanks for reading and, as always, feel free to comment or email us and let us know what you think. We love hearing from you!

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