Thursday, November 26 , 2015, 7:59 am | Fair 36º

Santa Barbara Middle School Electives Foster Community Goodwill

Santa Barbara Middle School students Jordan Bollag and Lamont Stiff use their Bike Monkey skills to tune up bikes at Bici Centro.
Santa Barbara Middle School students Jordan Bollag and Lamont Stiff use their Bike Monkey skills to tune up bikes at Bici Centro.  (Santa Barbara Middle School photo)

By Sue Carmody for Santa Barbara Middle School |

One look at Santa Barbara Middle School’s Friday afternoon elective schedule, and the school’s commitment to student-centered personal choice, community and service has never been more apparent.

From the 14 course offerings this quarter, each elective is required to have some kind of service component. SBMS staff embraced this new requirement and designed a variety of creative and humanitarian-inspired elective classes.

Students made their elective selections based on personal passion, and their own penchant for giving back. Any funds raised in these elective classes are earmarked as contributions back to the Santa Barbara community, or for schoolwide, student-determined sustainability projects.

The array of classes available to the SBMS students is almost as varied and plentiful as the selection of nonprofit and philanthropic businesses in Santa Barbara.

A group of SBMS Bike Monkeys (mechanics) are volunteering each Friday at Bici Centro, Santa Barbara’s do-it-yourself bike shop, where the students are tuning up and repairing bikes that will be donated to those who really need and rely on the bicycle for their livelihood and transportation needs.

Across town at the Santa Barbara Boys and Girls Club, another team of teenage do-gooders are tutoring and coaching younger students in their after-school homework and sports clubs.

Technology options include a class where students produce and film fun bike safety videos that will be viewed by Santa Barbara youth at various instructional venues.

Some of the elective choices sparked the creative arts. Students are designing and carving wood block prints to be stamped on canvas bags — the intent is to promote the accessibility and use of reusable bags. The bags will be on sale at the school’s own Monday Farmers Market.

Santa Barbara Middle School students take their art lessons on the road as they embrace the ease of gestural drawing at the Santa Barbara Zoo. (Santa Barbara Middle School photo)

The Animal Art and Drawing class takes place on location at the Santa Barbara Zoo. There, students’ animal artwork will be transposed into note cards that will be on display and available at the Santa Barbara Zoo and sold at SBMS.

Fitness options have small groups of students traveling off-campus to participate in a circuit training class, thanks to the generosity of Dustin Alliano at Superior Fitness Center. When the students return to campus, they will organize and facilitate noon fitness classes for the other SBMS students. The SBMS Surf Team is adopting local beaches to clean — ridding the shoreline of plastics and other manmade debris.

Those students who are enrolled in the Remote Control Car elective will be grooming and cleaning the track at Elings Park before the checkered flag drops and students are able to race their cars.

SBMS Friday afternoon electives have always been designed to stretch the creative experience and at times, extend the school day to allow teachers and students to really delve into a project, topic, or area of interest that isn’t governed by the clock or a designated class period.

This offering of community-centered electives falls on the heels of the SBMS ninth-grade work internship program, when 30 ninth-grade students each contributed 30 hours of service, equaling close to 1,000 hours of goodwill to nonprofits in the community. These students split their volunteer efforts between the Unity Shoppe, Friendship Center, Hillside House, Storyteller Preschool and Heritage House.

One of the most valuable benefits of these community service offerings that take students out into the real world is the unique community partnership that develops — connecting youthful passion with civic purpose and need.

— Sue Carmody is a community outreach coordinator for Santa Barbara Middle School.

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