Tuesday, September 1 , 2015, 2:32 pm | Partly Cloudy 75.0º




SBMS Students ‘Gather’ Integrated Experiences Ahead of Bike Trip

Santa Barbara Middle School sixth-graders visit Ellwood Canyon Farms in Goleta, where they gathered herbs to dry, pumpkins and squash to puree, apples and persimmons to dry, and mixed together dry oats, nuts and honey to make granola in preparation for their bike expedition to Monterey Bay next week.

Santa Barbara Middle School sixth-graders visit Ellwood Canyon Farms in Goleta, where they gathered herbs to dry, pumpkins and squash to puree, apples and persimmons to dry, and mixed together dry oats, nuts and honey to make granola in preparation for their bike expedition to Monterey Bay next week.  (Santa Barbara Middle School photo)

By Sue Carmody for Santa Barbara Middle School |

With “survival” instincts in tact, Santa Barbara Middle School students have prepared for their school’s hearty six-day bike expedition to Monterey Bay next week.

Sixth-grade students became “hunters and gatherers” as they wrapped up their unit of study on early humans. After a visit to Ellwood Canyon Farms in Goleta, the clan gathered herbs to dry, pumpkins and squash to puree, apples and persimmons to dry, and mixed together dry oats, nuts and honey to make granola.

Next week, these students will be stopping in Salinas at a roadside farm on their way to Monterey to shop for local produce and continue with their responsibility for the trip’s food preparation. All of these foods will be consumed next week as the school gathers around the fire at their campsite.

“This feels like a bonding experience for our sixth grade, and it feels even better knowing that the whole school will appreciate our hard work and good food,” Coco Essellier-Norton said.

Student geographers were able to download Google Maps and virtually ride the mountain bike trails, kayak the Monterey waterway, navigate the terrain, and set up camp among the pine and cypress trees along the Monterey coast. Disease and germ prevention, hygiene, adolescent nutrition and sleep habits were woven into recent health lessons at all grade levels.

Ninth-grade students will take time out of their bike tour of Monterey Bay to visit the Steinbeck Museum in Salinas. This extension will be an integrated highlight, and will connect student life on the bike along Cannery Row to their unit on John Steinbeck’s literature and life.

Having read both The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, students will conduct hands-on research in the museum to find biographical information that may give insight into why Steinbeck chose to write about the characters, places and themes in his novels.

“I think it will be interesting to see where Steinbeck grew up and notice how his surroundings have influenced his writing,” ninth-grade student Hunter Bacon said.

Students will return to school next week to write comparative essays that explain the connection (or lack thereof) between Steinbeck’s life experiences and his body of work.

“The outdoors is one of our best classrooms,” Head of School Brian McWilliams said, "and our staff recognizes this valuable opportunity and capitalizes on it. Prior to any outdoor expedition we take as a school, we put an emphasis on front loading and integrating our instruction with relevant, connected learning inside the classroom.”

It appears SBMS students are more than ready to hit the farms, trails and historic sites of Monterey Bay, and mark their prior learning with some meaningful, real-life experiences.

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




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