Ninth Grade Embarks on Ethnography Walk in Downtown Santa Barbara


The Ninth Grade field trip to downtown Santa Barbara this week, timed to coincide with the Tuesday afternoon Farmers Market, marked the midpoint of the class’s Urban Studies Unit. Exploring the familiar landscape of the State Street corridor to the Funk Zone with a new perspective, this unit offers students an introduction to collaborative ethnography, which is observing people, cultures, and places, and interacting with people you don’t know—and then writing about it. 

As the State Street corridor to the Funk Zone is a prime location for observing the juxtaposition between old and new developments, students prepared for this walk by studying complex issues related to downtown Santa Barbara such as gentrification, homelessness, and the creation of the State Street Promenade. During the walk, students had the opportunity to be participant observers within a familiar landscape, to broaden their understanding of our local community, and to push outside their comfort zones by talking to strangers. 

“Talking and seeing others talk to people experiencing homelessness really changed my viewpoint and showed me that these are humans, and we should not dehumanize them because they are going through a tough time,” says Alex McClintock '26. “I heard myself leading conversations, helping others get through tough conversations, and picking up conversations that I was surprised to have.”

Students were asked to think about what it means to walk, talk, look, and listen in a city, and to grapple with real-world questions. Within a final creative writing assignment, students will draw on creative stylistic devices to bring to life their dominant impressions of, and reflections on, the experience.

“The project the students participated in this week was priceless—an eye opener—and will go a long way in making them great citizens, community advocates, and with a hope and prayer, future leaders should they be so blessed,” says a Ninth Grade Laguna Parent.
Laguna Blanca is Santa Barbara’s premier private, co-educational, college preparatory day school for students in Early Kindergarten through Grade 12.