Outdoor Education

Local Nature Studies

Santa Barbara area beaches, mountains, and creeks are some of the most interesting places to visit for tourists and locals alike. The area is also blessed with numerous organizations and institutions that make it their business to study and interpret these natural wonders to the citizenry. From the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden’s focus on native California plants, to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History’s displays of local birds, insects, and other natural phenomena, there are many opportunities to learn more about our surroundings. Both these institutions, as well as other local horticultural and environmental organizations, continually present classes and workshops to enrich and educate us. Here are some upcoming offerings to check out.

The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden has long been known for its selection of excellent classes and organized outings. This spring, its calendar is just as full as ever. Naturalist Fred Emerson will be leading a series of visits to local habitats in search of native animals and the plants they rely on. The class meets on Thursday mornings and starts on April 6. There are several wildflower forays scheduled in the coming weeks. Led by Barry Tanowitz, these Friday drives will visit likely sites to view the flowers of the season. Highway 33 will be the destination on April 7, with Figueroa Mountain on April 21. Other classes designed to help you garden more effectively or creatively are always on tap. Owen Dell will show you how to have a more beautiful garden with much less effort and expense in his Sustainable Landscaping class Saturday, April 8. On Saturday, April 29, three classes will be taught back-to-back. First, Carol Bornstein will detail what it takes to invite birds, butterflies, insects, and more into your garden with Designing a Wildlife-Friendly Garden. Then, Bruce Reed will give you the information you need to garden successfully under our native oaks without jeopardizing their health. Need help figuring out what type of irrigation equipment to install? Check out Practical Home Irrigation with Jeff Cope in late afternoon. For information on all these and more, call 682-4726 or visit Starting in April and continuing through early June, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is presenting an eight-week series of classes called The Natural History of the Santa Barbara Region. Beginning April 11, each Tuesday evening (with the exception of May 29), museum curators and staff from the Dibblee Geology Center will present topics introducing attendees to local animal species from land-based insects, animals, and birds to marine mammals, fish, and mollusks. Two other sessions will address the geology of the South Coast and the anthropology of early residents in the area: the Chumash Indians. For more information, call 682-4711 x170 or visit

The Santa Barbara Permaculture Network is also very active in education. This organization is dedicated to fostering a community that integrates systems of food production, housing, appropriate technology, and community development through sensible design. Later this month it will be hosting Brad Lancaster, the author of Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands, (Vol. 1) Guiding Principles to Welcome Rain into Your Life. Lancaster will present a slide show and sign his book at the Santa Barbara Library Faulkner Gallery, Thursday, April 20 at 7:30 p.m. The following Saturday, Lancaster will be joined by Art Ludwig, local ecological systems designer, for a workshop at Santa Barbara City College. This hands-on class will show attendees how to assess the potential of your landscape and neighborhood for rain and greywater harvesting. Simple earthworks to harvest rainwater will be constructed by participants at the SBCC site. The workshop runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is free. Bring your own lunch or purchase one on site.

To really delve into the principles of permaculture, a course of weekend design sessions will be offered by the same group in May, June, and July. The series of six sessions will include Reading the Patterns of the Landscape, Designing and Building the Home Ecosystem and Eco-Villages, Community Economics and Celebration, and more. The dates are May 6-7, 13-14; June 3-4, 10-11; and July 1-2, 8-9. For more information on either of these events call 962-2571 or visit

With all these different venues committed to producing quality programs, it may be hard to choose which ones to attend. Not a bad problem to have.

Virginia Hayes, curator of Ganna Walska Lotusland, will answer your gardening questions. Address them to Gardens, The Independent, 122 W. Figueroa St., S.B., CA 93101. Send email to

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