2019 Schools of Thought: The State of Education in Santa Barbara

In taking a look at the latest news and trends related to education in Santa Barbara County, it’s clear that there is an impressive breadth and depth of learning opportunities here in town. From the readers and writers workshop model to incorporating mindfulness practices, social-emotional learning, Latin studies, highly experiential learning, and meshing digital design with fine art traditions, educators are working hard to develop strategies that work for the ways individual students learn best. 

This special section was developed by asking the issue’s sponsors to suggest story ideas based on people, projects, or trends that they’re excited about in their schools and organizations. From that list, we selected stories that represent a wide variety of learning experiences in Santa Barbara and produced the editorial content independently. 

We hope you enjoy it and learn something new about learning! 

African Adventures for Laguna Blanca’s Zack Moore

AHA!’s Peace Builders Put Social-Emotional Education First

Bodhi Path Offers Enlightened View of Technology

Fielding Grad Mallory Price Leads for Literacy

Providence Launches Innovative Design Program 

Raising S.B.’s Next Generation of Teachers 

Saint Therese Academy Provides a Latin Advantage 

SBCC Auto Tech Gears Up For The Future

SBCC Brings the World to the Kitchen

S.B. Middle School Brings Its Best to the Table

The Joy of Experiential Learning at Crane School

The Montessori Method’s Many Success Stories

Unplugged Yet Connected at Midland School 

Leslie Dinaberg is currently the editor in chief of Touring & Tasting magazine. She spent the last 11 years as managing editor of Santa Barbara Seasons, has also edited national business and college student magazines, and writes regularly for a number of publications. Leslie has also authored three nonfiction children’s books and is the coauthor of Hometown Santa Barbara: The Central Coast Book, an insider’s guide to her hometown. See lesliedinaberg.com or follow her on Instagram (@LeslieSDinaberg) and Twitter (@lesliedinaberg). 

Click here to read this story as it originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Independent on November 7, 2019. SB Independent Schools of Thought Insert 11.7.19

Unplugged Yet Connected at Midland School 

Ditching Cell Phones and Finding Community at Los Olivos Boarding School 

Midland School, From Schools of Thought, Santa Barbara Independent, November 7, 2019.

Midland School, From Schools of Thought, Santa Barbara Independent, November 7, 2019.

With research compounding the negative effects of cell phones, schools are struggling to come up with policies, and some are beginning to institute smartphone bans. Meanwhile, at Midland School, an independent boarding high school in Los Olivos, the founding values make it a bit simpler for students to be both unplugged and connected. 

“Mobile technology is ubiquitous, and most of us, schools especially, never stopped to think through the potential consequences,” explained Head of School Christopher Barnes. “We do on an ongoing basis. This goes back to our founding values of simplicity and considering what we ‘need’ and what we ‘want’ in every decision. Introducing new technology to our campus is always viewed through this lens and gives us the opportunity to truly weigh the benefits and costs on our community and program.” 

Students have Wi-Fi-accessible Chromebooks, but cell phones are not allowed, a policy that Hana Harvey, a senior and head prefect, finds just fine. “I do not miss having a cell phone at all,” she said. “I find that I am far less distracted without one, and I have learned so much about human interaction that I would not have been able to with a phone.” 

For example, if she’s upset with someone, she can’t just shoot a quick text to ask what’s wrong. Instead, she must talk to them directly. “Being here forces me to slow down and confront people face to face,” said Harvey. “When I am home for breaks or summer vacation, I am startled by how quickly I fall into the routine of relying on my phone for entertainment. When I am here, I feel like I have to work my brain to entertain myself instead of immediately pulling out my phone in moments of boredom.” 

Barnes said that Midland students frequently use technology, but that it comes with limits and expectations. “Can a student watch a movie in their free time? Absolutely,” he explained. “However, we do it as a group activity together, not alone hiding away behind a screen, furthering our commitment to face-to-face interactions and authentic community.” 

The students are sometimes most adamant about the cell phone policies. “Our students support and help enforce our community expectations, including the time in my first year when I snuck a peek at my phone on election night in the dining hall and a student gently reminded me to take it outside,” said Barnes. “They very quickly realize what a positive impact it has on their social and academic lives.” 

Harvey is very clear on what less cell phone use means for her. “I find that I am less distracted, more productive, and I can focus for longer periods of time,” she said. “Not having a phone means that I have a lot of extra time to focus on what matters to me.” 

Click here to read this story as it originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Independent on November 7, 2019. SB Independent Schools of Thought Insert 11.7.19

Growing Green Schools

Laguna Blanca Coastal Clean Up

Laguna Blanca Coastal Clean Up, courtesy photo

Inspiring students—and their families—to think globally and act locally, schools have become a vital incubator for environmental stewardship.

Students in Santa Barbara High’s Green Academy learn about green biology, environmental science and chemistry, but they also get their hands dirty by maintaining a large production garden, complete with row crops, native plant insectary, fruit trees, grapevines, chickens and bees. They also deliver regular orders of greens to the school cafeteria and take food home to enjoy with their families. Plus they provide native and edible plants to support thoughtful landscaping on campus.

Environmental awareness is woven into the curriculum at Laguna Blanca School. Captaining our local California Cleanup Day last fall, they helped clean up Miramar/Hammonds Beach and Hope Ranch Beach and collected a total of 65 pounds of trash and more than eight pounds of recycling. In addition to the daily discipline of an environmentally conscious curriculum, composting, recycling and using eco-friendly products, the school also celebrates Earth Day in a big way with their own festival, community service projects and even student-produced environmental short films.

As part of an architecture unit on developing the “perfect” school, students at The Knox School of Santa Barbara research “green” architecture and look into the future for energy sources beyond fossil fuels, ultimately constructing their own plans for green buildings.

At Midland School, boarding school students combine rigorous academics with a simple self-reliant lifestyle, close to nature, that emphasizes a connection to the environment and teaches students to be good stewards of the earth. For example, with the solar panel program, 10th graders have installed photovoltaic arrays every year since 2003—now more than 25% of the campus is powered by these arrays.

The outdoor education program at Santa Barbara Middle School offers a unique approach that takes students and staff on rigorous expeditions in the wilderness—with self-discovery in mind. These “trips” are learning adventures that take students by bike, boot or boat on journeys where they learn about pushing through personal boundaries while building communities.

Water Filling Stations are at schools throughout Santa Barbara

Water Filling Stations are at schools throughout Santa Barbara

At Cathedral Oaks Nursery School, an official Green Care Provider School, teaching children to live a green lifestyle is one of the main components of the school’s philosophy, with a garden program that provides snack-time treats fresh from their own fields, grown from seedlings sprouted in the school’s greenhouse.

Sprout Up!, a nonprofit youth-to-youth environmental education program that was founded at UCSB, sends college students into first- and second-grade classrooms at elementary schools to teach children vital concepts in environmental science and sustainability. Among the schools participating are Monroe, Adams and Isla Vista Elementary Schools.

Also a nonprofit, Lets’ Grow! (formerly the School Gardens Program funded by Orfalea Foundation), has installed or enhanced 35 school gardens in the county, including a recent one at McKinley Elementary School.

These are but a few of the exciting and positive developments on the local green school front. Stay tuned…

–Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in the Spring 2014 issue of Santa Barbara SEASONS Magazine.