Midland School

Midland School – Thinking Ahead Since 1932

Midland School

Our goal

To live out the vision of Midland's founders, Paul and Louise Squibb, who decided in 1932 to build an educational model around distinguishing between needs and wants within a rigorous college preparatory curriculum. We want to maintain Midland's relevance in the 21st century and define a transferable educational model that takes tangible, consequential steps towards environmental sustainability by producing food, clean energy, and most importantly informed young citizens. The key components of Midland's educational model are:

Make the relationship between human, resource, and waste transparent – food, energy, water, heat.

Instill knowledge and love of the land.

Uphold clear expectations of community conduct and individual responsibility.

Shrink the carbon footprint in increments. Move in this direction always, without being paralyzed by the scale of the problem.

Simplify; strip away clutter, comfort, media distractions, and imposing buildings, to allow students the space to find strength within themselves.

Everyone has a job, and everyone is needed.

Educating for sustainability greening a campus are not the same thing; informed students are our main product.

Eliminate the back row.

The development of individual character, community strength, and a healthy Earth are interrelated and self-reinforcing.

How we are doing it

The annual installation of photovoltaic arrays. As of February 2009, six 10th grade classes helped install arrays totaling 17-kW DC meeting 15% of communal electricity needs, and became community teachers.

A Conservation Easement with the Santa Barbara Land Trust and the Trust for Public Land, forever preserving 2,727 acres of Midland's 2,860-acre property.

An 8-acre organic garden maintained by students and staff since 1996 and grass-fed cattle that provide organic produce and beef to our dining hall.

A closed-loop food system, in which scraps from every meal are taken by students to the pigs or the garden compost. Students understand this tight nutrient cycling.

A job system, in which students daily complete a campus maintenance job, including the building and tending of daily shower fires that provide warm student showers.

Environmentally and economically sustainable grazing on Midland's ranch, with students trained in these practices.

Native valley oak restoration, in which every student plants campus-collected acorns every year. We monitor results.

A faculty and student-run recycling program that minimizes our waste stream.

What we are learning

At Midland, students learn viscerally that we live in a world with limits. Working to meet one's basic needs fosters treating resources as precious.

Students learn that they are in the cycle of life and materials. At Midland, the fruits and the waste of our labors are right there in front of us, where we're more likely to take responsibility than we would by just flipping a switch to get what we need.

Distinguishing between needs and wants is the starting point of a meaningful conservation ethic.

What we do matters. Success is found in a hot shower. Making our peers the ones who count on us for a hot shower or a clean kitchen fosters internal rather than external motivation to do the job well.

Students learn that solar panels are not untouchable things, but things they can understand and install in their home communities again some day.

Students are always watching us. They learn values from the way the adults around them live their lives.

Summary Statement about Midland's relevance in the 21st century:
As leaders wrestle with formidable challenges in a world where climate change hangs in the balance, while the excesses of American life are considered birthrights, the world needs an informed citizenry that can distinguish needs from wants.  Americans need model communities in which ethical and environmental responsibility are imprinted in institutional memory and lived daily by youth, rather than just quaintly spoken of by grandparents.  Herein lies Midland's unique and exemplary strength and the idea behind our motto, "Midland School – Thinking Ahead Since 1932."

Awards received: 2009 recipient of California's highest environmental honor, a Governor's Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA) in the children's environmental education category

2005 recipient of a Santa Barbara County Green Award

School Information

School: Midland School
Grade level: 9-12
Number of students in your project: ~90
Subjects: Other (please specify in box below)
Other subjects: A Rigorous College Preparatory Curriculum, Garden, Ranch, Jobs Program, Renewable Energy
Number of students in your school: ~90 incl boarding and day
Project initiator: Faculty, Headmaster, Board, Ranch Manager, Director of Environmental Programs

Contact Information

Lise Goddard, Director of Environmental Programs
5100 Figueroa Mtn. Rd.  Los Olivos,  CA  93441

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Center for Ecoliteracy. All rights reserved.