Home of the Montecito Stars

Westmont’s new high-tech telescope will aim for the heavens Friday, June 15, during an 8 pm public viewing. The college and the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit hold free, public viewings every third Friday of the month. Several students are conducting astronomical research this summer using one of the most powerful telescopes on the Central Coast. This is a great opportunity for neighbors to enjoy stargazing. Bring a sweater and the kids.

Gimme Shelter

One of the driest years in Montecito’s history has firefighters concerned, but a recent wildfire drill at Westmont may have eased their minds some. More than 40 people took part in the exercise, setting up an emergency shelter inside Murchison Gym. Officials from the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Services (OES), Montecito Fire Department, the California Highway Patrol, the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens, and Westmont participated.

“It’s important that we’re getting people thinking about the possibility, what if we have to hold a lot of people here,” says Chip Hickman, Montecito Fire battalion chief. CHP Lieutenant Donna Maulucci stresses the importance of keeping as many people as possible at the shelter and off the roads. Bruce Carter, OES manager, says the Westmont gym is an excellent site for a longer-term shelter where residents can come if their homes are damaged.

In the 1991 Oakland wildfire, for example, most of the 25 people who were killed died while trapped in their cars, so if we’re heading to the shelter at the gym or if it’s safe enough to drive out of Montecito, Hickman says, it’s important that we know about alternative evacuation routes. “The challenge is getting people down the mountain as fast as possible,” he says. “You have to know how to leave your home if the one road you always take is affected.”

Westmont’s Situation Readiness Team (SRT) has been meeting monthly for seven years, running through scenarios such as earthquakes and wildfires. Each member of the team is trained for specialized roles in the event the team is activated.

Tom Bauer, director of safety and security at Westmont, says that on days Montecito Fire officials declare a red flag fire danger, the college hires two people to act as fire spotters from Mountain Drive and another on top of Page Hall.

Fire officials applauded Westmont for having a large portable generator on campus to use in an emergency and for allowing Montecito Fire District to put a communications transmitter on top of the library.

Let the Camps Begin

Mayterm, Westmont’s version of summer school, is now over, heralding the official start of the summer camp season. For many in the local community, their first exposure to Westmont’s 111-acre campus is through the college’s popular summer camps. Athletic Director Dave Wolf says that when he’s recruiting athletes, he’s often surprised how many have taken part in the college’s summer programs. About 1,600 kids go to Westmont summer camps each year. Archery and sports skills camps are consistently the most popular. For the first time, the college has combined archery with fencing as well as badminton. Not surprisingly the archery/fencing class was the first to fill up.

“We’re talking about weapons and little boys,” Wolf says.

Westmont is continuing with more girls-only activities including soccer, volleyball and basketball. “We’re responding to the ethos of the town in promoting sports for girls,” says Wolf. “We want to continue valuing the opportunity for girls to be in physically stimulating types of environments.”

This is the first year that summer camp registration is taking part exclusively online.

Westmont was the first-place winner of the 2007 Parents Choice Award in the camp category (6-12 years) of sbparent.com.

Summer Brain Food

For the second year, Westmont is offering ThinkCamps, which include Bravissimo!, Computer Quest, Discovery Camp, Somos Amigos, Living like Writers, and KidzArt.

ThinkCamps are the brainchild of Chris Hoeckley, director of the Gaede Institute for the Liberal Arts. He says ThinkCamps are a natural outgrowth of the institute’s effort to provide liberal arts learning experiences to those outside the college community.

“We have tremendous educational resources here, the facilities, equipment and, above all, people,” he says. “ThinkCamps are a way to serve the local community with those resources. Too often children see learning as a chore. ThinkCamps inspire kids to love learning and create an early impression that college is accessible and exciting.”

The camp has grown in popularity since last year, from about 150 campers to 270 this year.

“ThinkCamps is unique in that it offers focused academics in a fun summer-camp environment,” says Katie Monley, ThinkCamps coordinator. “Students interested in these areas dedicate an entire week or two to diving into their interests in a fun and exciting way, guided by experts in the field.”

Contributions from The Hutton Foundation, Venoco Inc., Santa Barbara Police Activities League and other supporters have allowed Westmont to offer numerous full and partial scholarships to families who would otherwise not be able to afford the camps.

Bravissimo! is a two-week summer musical theatre camp that offers kids an opportunity to rehearse a fully staged music and theatre production, culminating in a grand performance. Last summer the campers presented “Pirates of Penzance.” This summer they will tackle Gilbert & Sullivan’s “H.M.S. Pinafore.”

Computer Quest explores everything from digital photography and computer storytelling to keyboarding skills. An online design course will teach campers how to incorporate digital graphics and design in their own Web sites. A course focusing on creating video games was the first to fill up.

Discovery Camp is a hands-on approach to the world of science. Campers will work on chemistry experiments with liquid nitrogen, make speakers, and assemble water rockets. It’s co-sponsored by Santa Barbara Parks and Recreation and The Endowment for Youth Committee.

Somos Amigos will be like taking a trip to Mexico or Central America. Campers will be immersed in Spanish, learning about Spanish-speaking cultures all over the world, their food, traditions, music and people. Experienced and credentialed bilingual teachers will lead the fun and be joined by students from César Chávez Charter School, a Santa Barbara bilingual school.

Living Like Writers, new to ThinkCamps this summer, offers a novel approach to writing and culminates in each student having their best work bound into a book to take home.

For the first time, ThinkCamps is teaming up with the popular KidzArt Santa Barbara and offering camps at Westmont. Kids will create original drawings, 3-D sculptures, paintings and multi-media projects using illustration markers, oil, and soft pastels, acrylics, watercolor, charcoal and clay.

Pooling Our Resources

Of all the resources at Westmont open to the public, the coolest has to be the pool. Summer memberships are available at the pool, $125 for a single person or $175 for families. Hours are 2 pm to 6 pm on weekdays and 1 pm to 6 pm on weekends. Beginning Saturday, June 16, the pool is open everyday from 12:30 pm to 7 pm.