Tours & Outreach

The Garden's school programs introduce children to the wonders of nature through interactive learning experiences. We hope to encourage a lifelong interest in plant science and ecology by fostering an appreciation and understanding of the natural world. 

Our popular school programs are aligned with current Science Content Standards for California Public Schools and include interactive tour and school outreach programs, teacher resource guides, and teacher training workshops. 

The Garden offers Tours, Ecology Field Trips, Science Night Outreach Presentations, Teacher Resource Guide Books, and Teacher Training Workshops. Our programs are designed to align with the Science Content Standards for California Public Schools and the new California Environmental Education Initiative (EEI).

For further information, the SBBG School Programs Guide provides information about current school programs, materials, scheduling, and fees.

Contact our Education Program Manager or phone (805) 682-4726 ext 111.

Download the SBBG School Programs Guide

Topics covered by our school program tours, labs, and outreach:

  • Plant Structure and Function 
  • Requirements for Plant Growth 
  • Diversity of Plants and Animals 
  • Life Cycles of Plants and Animals 
  • Adaptation and Evolution 
  • Plant Communities and Ecosystems 
  • Food Chains and Webs 
  • Rare and Endangered Plants and Habitats 
  • Uses of Plants by Native Peoples
  • Our Santa Barbara Mission Creek Watershed

Available Tours and Labs:

  • Nature Explorations - Grades K-12: Walk through many different plant communities. Find out how local geography, geology, and climate affect plant life. Explore the Garden's desert, redwood, oak woodland, and meadow sections and discover how native plants and animals are adapted to these different environments. Learn about plants used by the Chumash, the original inhabitants of Mission Canyon, and visit historic Mission Dam. (One hour)
  • Seasonal Focus Lab - Grades 2-5: This special program is available for a limited number of groups of 20 students or less. Join us in the Garden's Arroyo Room for a microscopic examination of some special plants of the season. We discuss pollination, seed dispersal, plant adaptation, and more. After 40 minute lab investigation, join docents on a one-hour Nature Explorations Walk (see above) to discover more seasonal highlights of the plant world.
  • Tree Walk - Grades 2-5: Students will learn about California's diverse native trees and how wild animals and humans depend on them. Some trees produce flowers while others have cones, some are deciduous and others evergreen. From huge spreading oaks to towering redwoods, students explore the characteristics and life cycles of California's native trees. (One hour)
  • Habitat Hike - Grades 3-4: Plants and animals have special features and adaptations that enable them to thrive in their particular environment. On this tour, students learn many fascinating ways in which living organisms are able to meet the challenges created by their local habitats. (One hour)
  • Golden Harvest Tour - Grades 3 and up: Students discover some of the rich cultural traditions of California. They will learn how native Californians lived off the land, and discover plant species that the California Indians favor for making food, clothing, building materials, and other important and useful items. (One hour)
  • Investigating Local Ecology - Grade 6 only: This tour, designed to complement sixth grade classroom studies of ecology, introduces students to three local ecosystems: Oak Woodland, Riparian Woodland, and Chaparral. The complexity of each system is discussed, and food web relationships and energy flow within ecosystems are explored. This tour serves as a fine introductory activity before a stay at the Outdoor School. (One hour)

If docent guided tours are not available, school groups are encouraged to visit and explore the Garden on their own, and may download our Discovery Garden Teacher’s Guide to prepare students for their visit.

Groups must make reservations at least two weeks in advance to be eligible for reduced admission fees.