Experiential Learning Course Descriptions


Ninth Grade Seminar (0.5 credits)

Offered during the first semester, the Seminar is a required class for all 9th graders. Initially we focus on building skills and knowledge to help students transition into high school. In particular, the course aims to build a solid foundation for the unique attributes of living in the Midland community – organizational and time management strategies, having a roommate, understanding the systems of the farm, developing wilderness skills, and providing service for the school. After an orientation to life on campus, the focus turns more inward as students gain a deeper understanding of themselves and the rite of passage of adolescence during a holistic unit of health and wellness. 

Midland 101 Plus (0.5 credits)

Offered during the first semester, 101+ is required for all new 10th and 11th graders. The course pulls from key components of the Ninth Grade Seminar and Midland 101, distilled down to a semester-long course. Through readings, lecture, and discussion we prepare for weekly trips into the field, exploring and orienting students first to the immediate campus and school culture, followed by the farm, and eventually the greater 2,860-acre property. Throughout the course, students develop a foundational place-based knowledge, such that they may deepen their Midland experience over time.

Junior Leadership Seminar:  moving from “me to we” (not for credit)

“There is no school in the county that asks and expects more of the senior class than Midland School.” Will Graham, Head of School 

During the second semester, the junior class meets once each week with the Head of School to begin the transition to the senior year. The group explores the aspects of leadership that lay the heart of any Midland endeavor: Dependability, Initiative, Fairness, and Leadership.  Students discuss time management, responsibility, the college application process, and the daily demands of the Prefect system and Jobs program. Each member of the junior class reflects on their collective strengths and the responsibilities and challenges before them.  They consider their legacy and the impact they may have on the younger students and the life of the school.  After the annual Junior Leadership Retreat in May, the class prepares to run the Jobs program and supervise the living yards during exam week.  Finally, the Student Contract and Guidelines for Prefects are reviewed, and juniors apply for a Prefect position by writing a letter to the Head of School followed by an interview, which ultimately, with input from the faculty and the ninth and tenth graders, results in Prefect assignments in the senior year.

Mindfulness, the Freedom to Excel (0.25 credits)

The Mindfulness course introduces students to mindfulness practices, scientific research, essays, and poetry as they consider the benefits of intentionally experiencing present moment awareness – non-judgmentally – with openness to the unfolding of one’s life experiences. The course follows the curriculum of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn of the University of MA Medical School. We explore the basic anatomy and physiology of the brain, as well as the anatomy of stress and its effect on the systems of the body. Students are encouraged to develop a personal practice and to apply mindful awareness to all areas of their lives – cultivating emotional intelligence, creating a greater sense of inner balance, and promoting general health and wellness.

Wilderness First Aid (0.5 credits) 

Midland's Wilderness First Aid class is modeled after the eighty-hour Wilderness First Responder Certification Courses. Topics covered include but are not limited to:  the Patient Assessment System, muscular-skeletal injuries, wound management, environmental injuries, shock, head injuries, spinal injuries, evacuation protocols, bites and stings, and medical issues. The course uses a combination of readings, lectures, and question/answer sessions combined with hands-on scenarios. It includes a back-country trip where students practice preventative medicine skills and scenarios involving treatment/evacuation plans, long term patient care, and documentation. This course has immediate practical applications as students travel and lead trips on Midland's 2,860 acre property.

Farm Internship (0.25 credits; Pass/No Pass)  

Students can be involved in the activities on Midland’s Farm during their academic day, three 45-minute periods per week. Students take part in whatever work needs to be done, including weeding, planting, picking, washing, and coordinating with the kitchen for needed produce. The activities are similar to those during the Farm afternoon Sports alternative, but can be done while still participating in three competitive sports seasons.  

Kitchen Internship (0.25 credits; Pass/No Pass)

Students can help in food preparation and learn their way around the kitchen as a chef’s apprentice during their academic day, three 45-minute periods per week. The activities are similar to those during the Kitchen afternoon Sports alternative, but can be done while still participating in three competitive sports seasons.  


Jobs Program

The jobs program at Midland is remarkably efficient in developing self-reliance, leadership, and responsibility in our students. Daily jobs contribute not only to the operations of the school, but to students’ sense of belonging and ownership of their community. Every aspect of Midland’s daily operation is supported by our students, from washing dishes to picking produce in our garden. New students are generally assigned jobs in the dining hall as waiters or dishwashers, while older students generally work more independently in other areas of campus. Seniors step into leadership roles as job heads, guiding and mentoring underclassmen in their work. Throughout the Midland experience, students internalize the benefits of working as a team, knowing that we’re all in this together, as well as the responsibilities of mastering real tasks as an individual.  



All Midland students participate in competitive interscholastic sports – cross-country, soccer, volleyball, basketball, or softball (girls) – during at least two of the three seasons. Our program provides an opportunity for all students to play the game while fostering leadership, sportsmanship, self-discovery, and physical fitness. Students discover their own talents and determination, while experiencing the value of disciplined practice. All Midland teams are coached by faculty who mentor students in other capacities, so the field, court, and trails are extensions of Midland’s learning environment – in particular, cultivating authentic student leadership.  In Midland athletics, no child is left inside; even our gym is open to the outdoors.


The Midland Farm is 10 acres, and while tractors are used to work the fields, much of the work is done by hand, or by many hands. Students dig, sift, winnow, seed, mulch, pull weeds, and save seeds. They plant, cultivate, harvest, wash, and deliver organic produce to the kitchen, learning what it takes to grow their own food by tracing their hard work from the farm to the table. Vegetable scraps are wheeled back and layered into the compost pile, and leftovers are hauled by wagon to the pigs. It is a closed loop, an example of how to provide healthy food within a local food system while also building soil health. Over four years, students' awareness of the cyclical nature of raising food grows as they work and eat through seasonal menus on the farm. The scale of the farm allows a balance between education and production.


Caring for horses is good, hard work, requiring regular handling, grooming, exercise, stimulation, creativity (to save schooling horses from becoming bored), and elbow grease – from bucking hay to managing manure. Using horses in work and in play instills values of simplicity, self-reliance, responsibility to the animals and community, and a meaningful work ethic. Participants in the horse-riding classes learn balanced and thoughtful riding techniques. We cover preventative veterinary care, nutrition, pasture management, horse behavior, and the science and ecology of horses. Advanced students help to school new horses to the riding string, and further develop their skills in areas such as collection and extension, lateral movements, and competitive show patterns. All students get out and ride on Midland’s 25 miles of trails. Several horse camping trips occur during the school year.

Outdoor Leadership

Outdoor Leadership is offered in the Spring. Students learn, practice, and work towards mastery of skills associated with safe, fun, and engaging travel with in the natural world including hiking, trip planning, packing, knots, trail work, slacklining, stand up paddle boarding, and camp craft. The group takes two trips of 3-4 days in length, one in the local San Rafael Wilderness and the other in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Joshua Tree, Big Sur, or the Channel Islands. Throughout this program, students become more involved in planning and implementing trips. Qualified students who participate in a season of Outdoor Leadership are eligible to get checked out to lead their own overnight trips on the 2,860-acre Midland property.


Midland’s maintenance team remains true to one of Paul Squibb’s founding tenets – that Midland’s self-help plan “can give a boy a sense of pride in contributing to his own support and education, and can make him feel in turn that he is taking a real part in maintaining and building up the school”  (Squibb, 1932). This team is exposed to new work challenges every day. Students leave each session – including myriad small building and repair projects – with the satisfaction that their work has benefitted the school community. Outside of this program, there are other opportunities to help with maintenance projects, such as Sunday work periods and class projects. A dedicated troupe of students called “Heroes” is on call 24/7 to keep Midland up and running. Skills developed on the job become useful tools students can use for the rest of their lives.

Midland Kitchen

The Midland kitchen is offered as a sports alternative during every season. As the center of food processing for our community of 150 people, the kitchen offers students a chance to understand and participate in a commercial-size food cycle. Here, many of Midland's philosophic tenets are communicated and lived daily. Alongside our cooks, students experience the immediacy of freshly picked produce through their culinary senses. They take part in a garden-to-table food system, with scraps going to the compost and back to the soil. Students learn the basic skills of prep cooking, chopping, measuring, using kitchen equipment, following recipes, proper hygiene, and clean-up. They help make sauces, casseroles, pizzas, salsas, granola, vegetable and meat dishes, salads, drinks, desserts, and a myriad of other creations. As the term progresses, confidence, initiative, and self-starting lead to efficiency and the satisfaction of a job well done.

5100 Figueroa Mountain Road/PO Box 8, Los Olivos, CA 93441 | ph: 805-688-5114 | admissions@midland-school.org

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