Shining a Spotlight on Environmental Leaders

Winners on Stage at Earth Day Festival (photo by Ellie Cotter)

Teachers, students, and school clubs were honored  with Explore Ecology Awards in a ceremony at the Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival on Sunday, April 28th.

As community members cheered them on, the winners were thrilled to be recognized for their work on school campuses across Santa Barbara County. Each winner went onstage to talk about their impactful work in environmental stewardship.

Teachers with their Awards. Teri Briggs, Lori Leach, and Jennifer Rasmussen: (photo by Jill Cloutier)

Refugio High School teacher Jennifer Rasmussen said, “What began with just two boxes has blossomed into a thriving outdoor education program boasting ten planter boxes and four compost areas. Plans for a pumpkin patch and rows of corn within an old sand volleyball court are underway, alongside the implementation of a rainwater collection system. The impact of these hands-on projects extends beyond the classroom, evident in the joy reflected on students’ faces and the enthusiasm from faculty, staff, and visiting adults.”

Some of the Award Winners. (Photo by Jill Cloutier)

Student Award winner Ethan Maday wowed the crowd with stories of his work developing curriculum on regenerative agriculture at Santa Barbara Middle School. Each winner inspired the crowd and many stressed that all of us, no matter our age, can do something to help the earth.

The complete list of winners include: Gio Alfaro, Ethan Maday, Margo Leven, Moxie McLeod, Jennifer Rasmussen, Lori Leach, Teri Briggs, the Kellogg Ocean Guardians, and the Clean and Green Club at Vieja Valley Elementary.

Gio Alfaro and Ethan Maday, Student Award Winners. (photo by Jill Cloutier)

The Explore Ecology Awards, now in their fifth year, honor eco heroes in Santa Barbara County whose dedication to environmental stewardship and care for nature is creating a greener and more resilient Santa Barbara.

Explore Ecology Executive Director Lindsay Johnson and Public Relations Director Jill Cloutier with award. (Photo by Ellie Cotter)

Lindsay Johnson, Explore Ecology Executive Director, says, “The awards ceremony was so inspiring and reminds us of the profound impact that we can all have on the health of our planet. From replacing single use plastic sporks in the Kellogg Elementary cafeteria to planting trees at La Colina Junior HIgh, everyone had a story to tell about why they took action and how they implemented change. Congratulations to this year’s winners!”

Lindsay Johnson, Explore Ecology Executive Director and Jill Cloutier, Explore Ecology PR Director with the Vieja Valley Clean and Green Club(Photo by Erin Galbraith)

About Explore Ecology: Explore Ecology empowers our community to protect and preserve the planet with innovative education and nature based learning. Explore Ecology programs include Environmental Education, Art From Scrap, Watershed Resource Center, and the School Gardens Program. For more information, visit

Explore Ecology

Written by Explore Ecology

Explore Ecology is an environmental education nonprofit located in Santa Barbara that educates over 38,000 children a year, inspiring them to engage with the natural world, think critically, and experience the value of environmental stewardship. Learn more at

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