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Santa Barbara Middle School Career Studies Week Back in Business

Eighth-grade students from Santa Barbara Middle School working at Wheel Fun on State Street.

After a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic, Santa Barbara Middle School (SBMS) students recently entered Career Studies Weeka week of experiential learning within the Santa Barbara community.

The program is designed to harness opportunities within the Santa Barbara community and expand the horizons of SBMS students.

Students in sixth- and seventh- grades participate in a week-long Career Studies Program; and eighth-graders are placed in a Work Internships Program. The ninth-grade journey culminates in the launching of the students’ Community Service Program that continues throughout the year.

SBMS believes learning happens everywhere you go, and using a scaffolded approach, students in sixth-to-ninth grades left campus to explore industries, career pathways, and volunteer opportunities.

Students in the Career Studies Program went to the Santa Barbara Harbor, where they met with Chris Voss, who has been in the fishing industry for decades. Voss explained the numerous careers the fishing industry supports, and how they work toward being more sustainable.

Students were introduced to Chris Mobley from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who is also an SBMS parent. Mobley talked about the hundreds of careers available in his field. He gave kids a tour of the Harbor Museum, highlighting some of the stories and diversity the Santa Barbara coastline offers.

Walking across to the Santa Barbara pier, students were assigned to interview at least five randomly chosen people about their careers and why they chose that path.

Sixth- and seventh-graders also spent time with the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade at Elings Park, MarBorg, and Santa Barbara City Services. Most of the week was devoted to industries that work toward making Santa Barbara more sustainable in the long term.

SBMS eighth-graders entered their Work Internship Program in collaboration with local business owners. They were placed for a minimum of 25 hours in specific businesses over the course of the week. They received work experience and were challenged to integrate themselves into working environments without teachers or parents present.

The Santa Barbara community answered the call for student placements, and businesses from restaurants to child care centers and surf shops opened their doors to the young learners. (There was no exchange of money, and all student placements were in full compliance with Department of Labor Standards Enforcement.)

“These experiences are highly impactful, and being out in the workplace provides a first-hand insight into life outside of school,” said Marco Andrade, SBMS faculty member and eighth-grade Career Studies Program leader.

“At the same time, it is an opportunity for our students to learn valuable life skills, make connections, and give back to the community,” Andrade said.

Ninth-grade students embarked on an adventure in leadership, learning, compassion and service. Students found their own placements at local nonprofits and spent 4-6 hours per day volunteering at such places as Friendship Center, Heritage House, Unity Shoppe, A-Z Cooking, Oaks Preschool, Botanic Gardens, GAIA Farms, and BICI Centro.

A number of the students will continue with these organizations throughout their ninth-grade year and accrue up to 60 community service hours, which count toward the requirement needed to graduate high school.

“There’s no better way to learn than to do,” said Teddi Drew of Wheel Fun Rentals Santa Barbara. “Welcoming Santa Barbara Middle School students to be our bike mechanics for a week was an amazing experience.

“They were able to expand their skills by working hands-on with our mechanics, and assist with not only pedal bikes but electric bikes and trike repairs as well. They’ll have a job here whenever they want it.”

During the week, the SBMS teaching faculty also held a series of student-led conferences. The 30-minute conferences provide a setting for students to receive feedback and guidance in helping them become leaders of their own learning.

“These experiences are highly impactful, and being out in the workplace provides a first-hand insight into life outside of school. At the same time, it is an opportunity for our students to learn valuable life skills, make connections, and give back to the community.” – Marco Andrade, SBMS Faculty & 8th Career Studies Program Leader.


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