A School for Our Times – Midland School Highlighted at Bioneers Conference

Bioneers is a thriving network of visionary innovators and leaders working to make the human experiment on Earth sustainable, sane, and grounded in biological, ecological, and indigenous wisdom.

Karen Brown, Creative Director for The Center for Ecoliteracy (which is THE organization for bringing sustainability to schools in ways that work), highlighted Midland, saying, “There’s maybe no school that’s a better example of [communities working together to sustain life] than Midland School in Los Olivos, California” in her plenary talk Revolutionizing K-12 Education with Sustainability in Mind.

Since Midland’s founding in the Great Depression, values of stewardship and distinguishing needs from wants have been woven into the school’s fabric and mindscape. Educating for sustainability was encoded in Midland’s DNA long before there were even words to honor being “green.” After receiving a Governor’s Award (California’s highest environmental honor) in 2009, Midland has gained momentum as a “school of the possible,” a small school with big lessons to share about learning one’s place in a landscape of contour lines rich with geology and ecology (far more electric than a digital Latitude-Longitude reading on a GPS unit), tending an organic garden, participating in a Jobs Program, and helping to build the campus’s renewable energy infrastructure at a rate of 3% each year as part of the 10th grade science curriculum. As of 2011, 20% of campus electricity needs are met with student-installed solar arrays.

But it wasn’t just these things that drew Karen Brown to Midland as a school well worth paying attention to, an educational model with elements that can be replicated elsewhere. It was also the work of Midland’s art department, a brilliant foray into a scale that resonates with our youth, a scale that kids can relate to. In so many ways, Midland draws its inspiration from the natural world right outside our doors. Most of Midland’s 2,860 acres have been preserved in perpetuity with the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, and the land is a classroom for Midland students, particularly in science classes. Midland’s art program finds creative and beautiful ways to honor the natural world by incorporating natural elements into art projects, beginning in the Freshman year in Foundations in Visual Arts. And, after all, knowing one’s place in the natural world is the first step in preserving it.

About Midland School

Founded in 1932, Midland School is a coeducational, college preparatory boarding school for grades 9-12. It is located in the Santa Ynez Valley on a 2,860-acre working ranch. The school combines rigorous academics with intensive immersion in the environment, and maintains a commitment to authentic student leadership, simplicity, self-reliance and environmental stewardship. Midland enrolls 85 students and employs 20 teachers, all of whom live on campus. For more information about Midland School, please visit www.midland-school.org.

About Bioneers

Bioneers is a nonprofit educational organization that highlights breakthrough solutions for restoring people and planet. Since 1990, Bioneers has acted as a hub of social and scientific innovators with practical and visionary solutions for the world’s most pressing environmental and social challenges. A celebration of the genius of nature and human creativity, Bioneers connects people with solutions and each other. Its acclaimed annual national and local conferences are complemented by extensive media outreach including an award-winning radio series, book series, and a role in media projects such as Leonardo DiCaprio’s film The 11th Hour.

About The Center for Ecoliteracy

The Center for Ecoliteracy is a leader in the green schooling movement. Smart by Nature™, the Center’s framework and services for schooling for sustainability, is based on two decades of work with schools and organizations in more than 400 communities across the United States and numerous other countries. The Center is best known for its pioneering work with school gardens, school lunches, and integrating ecological principles and sustainability into school curricula. The Center for Ecoliteracy offers books; teaching guides; professional development seminars; a sustainability leadership academy; keynote presentations; and consulting services.


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