Nonprofit Explore Ecology ‘Digging Deep’ to Support Students Through Garden Education

By Christina Ferguson for Explore Ecology

Students from Notre Dame School enjoyed a healthy lunch at Satellite restaurant on State Street recently, prepared with food they grew in their school garden.

A walking field trip gave students a taste of the booming farm-to-table movement and a chance to learn about owning a small business.

Local nonprofit Explore Ecology runs the school garden and garden education program at Notre Dame with funding from the Audacious Foundation.

Students tend the garden throughout the year with their Explore Ecology Garden Educator who engages them in a variety of lessons and experiences focused on organic gardening, healthy eating, and the science involved in gardening.  

“The garden is a place for students to gain hands-on experience, growing different fruits and vegetables, learning where food comes from, and the importance of healthy eating,” said Caydi Dommeyer, Explore Ecology’s garden educator at Notre Dame. “Believe it or not, our students are actually excited to eat vegetables and healthy food because they have worked so hard to grow it themselves. It’s so fun, they almost forget that we are teaching the science curriculum while they’re doing it.”



A special field trip recently helped students see the fruits of their labor being put to good use at Satellite, a local vegetarian farm-to-table restaurant that served them lunch made with food they grew themselves. 

“Our students thrive best when they are learning from hands on experiences that they enjoy, and that is key to what makes our garden education program such a win-win,” said Notre Dame Principal Marissa May Carroll. “Seeing a local restaurant turning what we grow into a successful business helps students understand how our local economy works and they get to learn what it’s like to own a small business.”  

The special event began with students harvesting fresh produce from their garden, and then walking to the restaurant for a behind-the-scenes tour and presentations by Satellite Executive Chef Emma West and owner Drew Cuddy.

“Healthy eating and fresh, local food are passions for us at Satellite and we are very excited to share with students how a farm-to-table model can also be a successful business and career,” said Cuddy. 

“The garden is one of my favorite things about school,” said Alexia St. George, a fourth-grader at Notre Dame. “When I learned more about healthy food and eating, I told my parents and friends and they started eating better too. We might as well…we have the food right here in our garden, and it tastes great!”

Explore Ecology supports school gardens and runs garden education programs at 37 schools throughout Santa Barbara County.

Other Explore Ecology programs include the Art From Scrap Creative ReUse Store and Gallery, the Watershed Resource Center, Environmental Education, Art and Nature Exploration Summer Camps, and the School Gardens Program. 

You can also visit Notre Dame School at Learn more about Satellite at 

The Audacious Foundation helps fund Explore Ecology to run school garden programs at Notre Dame and other local schools.  For more information about the Foundation, please visit

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