Curriculum Resources

We've made some changes!

As we continue to create resources for teachers and support their science and environmental curriculum in the classroom, the Garden is pleased to share several updates.

Written by the Garden’s Education Department staff, The Discovery Garden: Exploring California’s Biodiversity has been updated, added to, and separated out for your convenience. From ecology to plant and animal adaptation, this curriculum supports activities for the classroom and here on Garden grounds.

To enjoy these activities on the Garden grounds, please schedule a Group Discount Visit. Contact the Education Department if you have any questions about our curriculum resources or tour programs.

Sensory Adventure (K-2nd grade) - Use all your senses to explore the wonderful natural world around you. 

Fun with Flowers: Take a Flower Apart & Make Your Own (K-3rd grade) - Examine the form and function of flowers. 

Flower Power: Pondering Pollination (4th grade) - Find some flowers and the pollinators they attract.

Tree Rings Tell a Story (3rd grade) - Explore time through trees. 

Leafing through the Garden (3rd-6th grade) - Examine different leaf adaptations.

Amazing Acorns: The Chumash staple food (3rd-4th grade) - Learn the steps it takes to make acorn flour.

Leaf Litter (3rd-6th grade) - Take a closer look at our soil.

Soil Builder Activity (2nd-4th grade) - make your own soil. Hint: start this activity at the beginning of the school year and watch the soil change over time.

Who Depends on Oak Trees? (3rd-4th grade) - As a keystone species a lot of plants and animals rely on California's oak trees.

Weave a California Oak Woodland Web (4th-6th grade) - Create your own food web and explore what happens when one piece is removed

Life in a Pond (4th-6th grade) - Use microscopes to look a little closer at what's swimming in your pond water.

Fun with Fauna: Hunting for Animal Signs (K-6th grade) - Take a hike and find some evidence of animals

It's All Greek to Me (5th grade) - Learn where scientific names come from and create your own.

Additional background information on the Garden

You can still download the original 123 page PDF guide below. Lesson and worksheet reproduction is limited to classroom use only.

Download The Discovery Garden: Exploring California's Biodiversity

Native Plant Coloring Book

This delightful collection of drawings is from a coloring book first published by the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden in 1968, and revised in 1992. California Plants to Color, by Jacqueline Broughton, included over 50 drawings of California's magnificent and varied flora, but has been unavailable for over two decades. We have selected a dozen drawings of California wildflowers from the book for your coloring pleasure. 

This PDF is for educational use only and may not be used for distribution for profit.

Ecology & Food Web

Created in 2010 as a CD for teachers, the Local Ecology Presentation provides a photographic introduction to Oak Woodland, Riparian Woodland, and Chaparral Habitats of the Santa Barbara region. It examines ecology, ecosystems, adaptation, food chains and food webs, and much more.

Watershed Walk

Watersheds are an excellent place-based approach to science education. They readily connect in-class curriculum, student's homes and communities and natural contexts - like the Garden - to inspire stewardship and environmental awareness. Explore the curriculum resources below and visit the Garden. Our canyon with mission creek running through it is the perfect place to explore these concepts.

Keep in mind, the Garden changes with the seasons; visitors will have different experiences with each visit. In the fall, squirrels preparing for winter, scurry through the grounds searching for fallen acorns. California buckeye fruits with interesting leathery seedpods abound. Winter is announced by the small, white, lantern-like blooms of several species of manzanita, contrasting starkly with the dark, rich green of their leaves. See the first blooms of the hummingbird sage sprout beneath the oak trees as spring erupts in flowers and a new hum to the garden floods your senses with bees, dragonflies, and butterflies. Take a break from the heat in summer and enjoy the sound of water bubbling from the pond and watch the turtles sun themselves on the hot rocks.

For more information on the changes that can be seen year round in the Garden check out our Native Garden Calendar.

Developing Watershed-Based Curriculum

Watershed Education Planning Guide, Cynthia Thomashow - This guide for teachers focuses on how to shift the educational paradigm towards ‘concept-based place-based’ curriculum design. Using the Great Lakes Watershed as an example, this guide explores the process of creating contextually relevant education rather than giving a list of potential watershed related activities.

Background Information on Watersheds

Santa Barbara's Living Watershed's and Oceans, City of Santa Barbara - An outline to Santa Barbara’s watersheds including Arroyo Burro, Mission Creek, Sycamore Creek, and Laguna Creek. This information packet provides background information to our local watershed with maps and breakdowns of water quality, bank erosion, flooding, terrestrial biology, fish habitat, and more for each location. An essential resource for understanding our local watersheds.

Creeks Restoration and Water Quality Improvement Division, 2012 Report - This comprehensive report shows multiple techniques used to research and examine water health in the county and lists creek restoration locations and efforts (including information on Mission Creek Steelhead Passage Projects on page 9). With a local resource list of Santa Barbara, this 2012 report gives background information on water quality improvement, restoration, clean up, and more.

Find these 2 and other documents and presentations from the city on water health here.

National Marine Sanctuaries of the West Coast, NOAA & National Marine Sanctuaries - An overview of the Marine Sanctuaries of the West Coast including the Channel Islands. This informational packet discusses wildlife, habitats, currents, and culture that makes up and surrounds our ocean. More information can be found on the NOAA marine sanctuaries website.

Santa Barbara County Creek Care Guide: What you can do to protect our creeks? - A beautifully illustrated guide to watersheds, how water moves and interacts with urban environment, and ways we can help improve our water quality.

Guide to Native and Invasive Streamside Plants: Restoring Riparian Habitats in Ventura County & along the Santa Clara River in Los Angeles County - A thorough guide to natives and invasive flora in riparian areas. This booklet examines water stewardship and care, additional resources, and restoration.

WatershedWise, Council for Watershed Health - This quarterly magazine gives up to date information on being watershed wise in LA and is relevant to the Santa Barbara region. Volume 14, Number 1 and Volume 14, Number 3 from Fall 2012 articulates how native plants play a crucial role in watershed health – especially in the urban environment.

Online Training in Watershed Management, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - This online training course gives a thorough overview of watersheds. This PDF was taken from the Introduction to this training module by Tomas C. O’Keefe, Scott R. Elliott, Robert J. Naiman, Doublas J. Norton.

Classroom Activities

Walk through the Watershed, Mission Creek Watershed, Kate Davis - A PDF with background information and activity written by Garden staff focusing on how water flows through the Mission Creek watershed into our ocean. It emphasizes human impact on water health and the global impacts on our ocean. Also check out COSEE CA for additional resources on communicating ocean sciences.

Water, Water Everywhere, Coastal CA (5th Grade) - Watershed activities and curriculum for 5th grade students, including building a watershed model and tracking daily water usage. 

California Coastal Voices, California Coastal Commission (6th-12th grade) - A six unit curriculum that addresses California's Next Generation Science, Common Core, and History-Social Science standards through project-based learning. Explore the links and find all you need to know to implement teacher-guided and student-driven projects in your classroom.

Watershed Education, NOAA Fisheries (6th-12th grade) - A complete education package developed to explore watershed habitat, enhancement, and monitoring. It includes complete curriculum guides for activities you can use in your local watershed including discussion questions, worksheets, and a complete glossary of terms. From how your water falls and where it goes, to benthic macroinvertebrate sampling, this package provides a guide to in depth scientific exploration for Middle/High School students.

Salmon/Steelhead Life Cycle Bracelet Activity, NOAA Fisheries (K-5th grade) - With Mission Creek an essential location for Steelhead habitat restoration, focusing on fish life cycles can demonstrate the importance of keeping our watershed clean. This activity emphasizes how the ocean supports biodiversity of local ecosystems.

Water Stewardship: A 30 Day Program to Protect and Conserve Our Water Resources…One Drop at a Time, David Gershon - Published in 2007, this illustrated readable handbook guides readers through 32 behavior change actions and action plans that improve water quality, promote water conservation, and inspires community volunteering/advocacy. Although not specifically geared for the classroom, Gershon outlines some easy behavior changes you and your students can adopt in working towards water conservation.

Lesson Plans, Teacher Guides and Online Resources, EPA (K-12th grade) - An assortment of science activities including water, climate change, and ecosystems.

Environmental Education: Compendium for Water Resources, The California Department of Education & The California Department of Water Resources - A compendium of water curriculum and resources that grades each activity on its content, presentation, pedagogy, usability, and water resources.

Other Resources

NOAA has several educational resources, background information, and curriculum for teachers. They focus on science, service, and stewardship of our natural resources – especially water related sciences. See their Education Strategic Plan 2009-2029 here.

Project WET (K-12th grade) (Water Education for Teachers) facilitates and promotes water resources awareness, appreciation, knowledge, and stewardship by dissemination of classroom-ready teaching aids. Their curriculum connects to content standards and their workshops provide education for teachers. Visit their website here.

Project Wild: Aquatic (K-12th grade) Curriculum & Activity Guide is updated periodically and full of complete activities that bring the classroom outside. The curriculum resources are not for sale, but distributed to participants of at their workshops. Activities, trainings, and resources can be found on their website.


Many additional resources for teachers are found in the Garden Shop and the Blaksley Library at the Garden.