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

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

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

Learn About the Holistic Approach to Food on This Campus

It’s not every middle school student that has the opportunity to experience lessons with pros from The Lark, Chocolate Maya, lobster fisherman James Voss, and Santa Barbara City College’s Culinary Arts teacher Charlie Fredericks. But then again, Santa Barbara Middle School is not just any school. 

Under the direction of Pierre (PA) Tremblay, SBMS alum and the former chef de cuisine at Julienne, the school’s already impressive culinary program is set to expand into an industrial teaching kitchen that will both prepare school meals and provide cooking classes to students. This new kitchen will also host summer camps and adult cooking classes and welcome other schools to come learn, all while partnering with community seafood and farm programs. 

“I am a little crazy about food, but behind this obsession is an even more profound desire to positively impact the community through educating and sharing the importance of cooking,” said Tremblay. “Food is nothing new to our species, and the way we’ve enjoyed it also hasn’t changed much. Most of the time, we sat around fires or tables in community to eat, and it is only recently that this has changed.” For Tremblay, that means there is a need to educate people about the importance of food beyond simply knowing our fruits and vegetables. He helps students understand “what food brings into our daily lives and our global cultures.” 

The campus gardens serve as a living classroom, where students learn about sustainable food production, pollinator habitats, native biodiversity, composting, and more. In addition, each student takes three extended school trips per year, which utilize a family meal system where teachers, students, and parent chaperones are organized into families that eat together and share thoughts about their day. “During the trips, we also bring students into the kitchen as ‘Cook Crew’ to help prepare the meal, practicing all skills important to the culinary arts,” said Tremblay. “Yes, that means cleaning too!” 

His plans include a cooking elective course that covers topics such as sanitation and safety as well as baking, knife skills, butchery, preserving, the “Mother Sauces,” spherification, and much more. There are also “Life Skills” blocks that teach students about nutrition and meal planning. An “Exploring Food in Santa Barbara” class includes visits to Fairview Gardens, truffle-making with Chocolate Maya, learning about coffee from the French Press, volunteering at the soup kitchen, and seeing how chefs from Loquita prepare for their best dishes. 

Tremblay’s passion plays into the SBMS motto, which is “Because of us them, because of them us.” Said Tremblay, “I know the teaching kitchen is a unique opportunity at SBMS, which will encourage the youth of the school and beyond to step forward. I can’t help but feel an enormous amount of gratitude to do the work I do, and in turn I want to give back what I have been given.” 

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.

Leslie Dinaberg Sits Down With Ken Saxon

Ken Saxon

Ken Saxon

Since arriving in town 12 years ago, Ken Saxon has served on the boards of some our most successful community endeavors, including the Santa Barbara Scholarship Foundation and the Santa Barbara Foundation. Now he’s taking his experience with the unique challenges nonprofit leaders face and using it to develop a new program called “Courage to Lead.”

LD: What first brought you to Santa Barbara?

KS: My wife Jo and I moved here when our twins were 1-1/2 years old. We felt that this would be a great place to raise children and it’s really turned out to be that. I remember we came at the beginning of June and two days after we showed up was the second annual Big Dog Parade … and a couple of weeks later was Solstice and then there was July 4th and then there was Fiesta and we just thought this town was one giant parade just to welcome us to Santa Barbara.

LD: I know you left a business in the Bay Area. What is your business now?

KS: What I’ve been doing for most of the last 12 years is I’ve taken my business skills and applied them to the nonprofit sector, mostly as a volunteer. … The venture that I’m most involved with right now is a program called Courage to Lead. I’ve worked with a lot of nonprofit executive leaders, and one of the conclusions that I’ve come to from this dozen years of experience of working with them, is that I think they have a harder job than business leaders because business leaders have one bottom line they are managing to. Nonprofit leaders have at least two: a financial bottom line and a social benefit bottom line. At the same time they have less resources to draw upon and also a lot less has been invested in them.

… Also I find that nonprofit leaders are very isolated from one another. Sometimes there’s a sense that only they know what the challenges are and sometimes there’s a sense of competition. … So I helped to develop Courage to Lead. … The goal is to nurture and support them in renewing themselves and in rekindling their passion and commitment for their work. And because it’s done in a group in retreat over time, they build a deep community and they provide each other with mutual support and inspiration. … The program is based on the work of a national group called the Center for Courage and Renewal.

LD: What stage are you in the development of the program?

KS: We are launching a group this year that’s going to start in November and they are going to meet quarterly in retreat for at least a year up in Mount Calvary Retreat Center for two days at a time. … From May 7-9th, we’ve arranged for an introductory retreat … people who are potentially interested are invited to come and experience what one of these retreats is like.

LD: Is there a religious or a spiritual component to it?

KS: There’s not a religious component. Spiritual is always a challenging word because it means so many different things to different people, but yes, there’s a spiritual component in that people are given opportunities and time for reflection and inspiration relative to core questions of meaning and mission and passion and they are given space to reflect and hear their inner voice and to tap into what it is that most motivates them in life that they want to do in the world. And I would call that a spiritual. But the text and things that we use most often is actually poetry and other inspired readings that help people think about their careers and their lives on a deeper level, rather than kind of a religious text.

LD: How will you select people the first people?

KS: We have gone out to leaders in the nonprofit and philanthropic world and we have asked for nominations of nonprofit leaders that they feel would benefit from this experience given who they are and where they are in their careers. But it is also open for application. We have a website that is CourageToLeadNP.org, where people can get more information about it. … We talk about environmental sustainability but there’s a big discussion as the nonprofit sector continues to grow it’s filling a huge need in our society, but whether we can run it in a way that is sustainable, rather than just burning everybody out. That’s a tough question. I’d like Courage to Lead to be part of the answer.

LD: I think you have a unique perspective in that you’re still in your 40s and able to devote yourself to nonprofit work fulltime.

KS: Absolutely, but it doesn’t mean that other people can’t be involved. The Katherine Harvey Fellows are an example. Another example is Craig Zimmerman and I created a group called FUND, Families Uniting to Nurture Dreams. There are 20 families with children who are mostly between the ages of 6 and 16, and we got together partly to raise college scholarships for local kids, but the biggest thing that we do is we create opportunities for our children to learn about the community and really about their world through hands-on ways of getting involved in the community.

… Our group the last three years has partnered in something called Project Healthy Neighbors that is done by Casa Esperanza and Santa Barbara County and Doctors Without Borders … they put on a health fair to try to try to attract the local homeless population to come in and get check ups, to get their immunizations and to get referred out to other services that they might need … (My son Griffin) was down with me at Casa Esperanza handing out the bags to the people that came through.

…The only way I know people in town is either through my kids, their school, but mostly it’s through volunteerism, the nonprofit boards and so on and what a generally terrific group of people. I’ve developed so many relationships with people that I like and respect through volunteering.

Some people move here and want to engage and other people move here and want to hide out and that’s fine and that’s their choice, but it’s awfully fun to engage.

Vital Stats: Ken Saxon

Born: Baltimore, Maryland, January 9, 1962.

Family: Wife Jo and 13-year old twins Griffin and Hope.

Civic Involvement: Courage to Lead; Santa Barbara Foundation; Katherine Harvey Fellows Program; Santa Barbara Scholarship Foundation; Santa Barbara Middle School; Eleos Foundation: Unitarian Society; FUND (Families United to Nurture Dreams); Foundation for Santa Barbara City College.

Professional Accomplishments: “I ran a business in the Bay Area for a dozen years (FARM, First American Records Management) that was acknowledged as both a financial success and a really fine place to work and really good at customer service and I’ve been a volunteer leader here. I approach things like, as the chair of the scholarship foundation, I didn’t approach that in any way differently than being board chair of my company. … I do look at my volunteer service here as professional.”

Little-Known Fact: “My kids perform in this musical theatre group called the Adderly School, and a year or two ago they created an opportunity for parents who were willing to subject themselves to it to have the same experience as their kids did, and so I was up on stage for three nights at Victoria Hall in ‘Mama Mia.’ … I performed on stage for the first time since 8th grade and the last time.”

Originally published in Noozhawk on March 18, 2008.