Wednesday, July 18 , 2018, 4:10 pm | Mostly Cloudy 72º

 
 
 
 

Santa Barbara Middle School Students Receive Happy Homecoming After Expedition

Santa Barbara Middle School celebrates its 35th Homecoming and 2 million miles of biking since the school’s inception in 1977. The celebration marks a shift in the traditional homecoming celebration.

Hundreds of proud Santa Barbara Middle School parents, siblings, alumni and even family dogs gathered at Goleta Beach on Saturday afternoon to welcome home triumphant teens from the school’s weeklong fall biking and kayaking expedition to Morro Bay.

Colorful flags, personalized welcome home posters, music and lots of smiling faces lined the parking lot as close to 200 students, faculty and volunteer parents rode through the rainbow-colored banner. Parents beaming from the edge of the spiraling circle were eager to rush in for welcome home hugs, and to learn about their child’s week of accomplishment, growth and outdoor adventure.

Stories about bike rides along the Morro Bay coastline, challenging climbs up and over See Canyon, pedaling the scenic Montana de Oro single-track landscape or kayaking the Morro Bay estuary were soon to become topics of family conversation.

Students pitched their own tents setting up their makeshift home for the weeklong trip at Morro Bay State Park Campground. Seventh-grade student Jayna Toye suggests taking off your shoes and leaving them outside your tent as a good tip. Otherwise, “the tent begins to smell after a few days.” Great advice from someone who has experienced this first hand!

Many students were both surprised and amazed at their own strength and stamina on the 35-mile coastal ride from San Simeon through Cayucos and back to their campground in Morro Bay.

“I was one of the last kids to finish the ride just as the sun was setting, and it felt so great when I rode into camp and all my friends were cheering and clapping for me,” proud sixth-grader Katie Prudden said.

The evening meals drew the bike riders together around the “chuck wagon,” where the food had been partially prepared by the sixth-grade Humanities class the week before. The class, who is studying early civilizations and hunter and gatherer societies, was working to replicate parts of early civilization life. The class had visited Ellwood Canyon Farms and “gathered” produce such as tomatoes, persimmons, squash, apples and more. They then prepared tomato sauce, dried fruit, made butternut squash soup and dried herbs, all which were consumed by hungry students on the school-wide trip.

Evenings brought the whole group together singing and sharing stories around the campfire. This year’s school theme, “The Power of Story: Yours, Mine, Ours,” revealed unlikely heroes in the form of stories and special recognition. Over 35 student musicians either sang or performed around the campfire each evening.

When most people think about fall homecoming, images of a hopeful football win against the cross-town rivalry comes to mind. At Santa Barbara Middle School, the celebration of success and school spirit took a different form. All students are acknowledged for their external physical growth the biking expedition requires, and also the significant internal journey that takes students away from home — teaching independence, self-reliance, patience and perseverance.

Sophia Alexander, a seventh-grade student, stated, “I figured out that I was capable of a lot more than I thought I was, especially on the bike rides. I was stronger than I ever thought I would be.”

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

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