A fun-filled evening courtesy of Santa Barbara Montessori School drew more than 200 spectators for the Circus Extravaganza live auction held at Bacara Resort & Spa. The evening showcased amazing acts, delicious food and amusing carnival games.
Under a big top, diners eagerly found their tables, which were arranged in the form of stadium seating stacked three levels high and overlooking the center ring.
“We really wanted to try something different this year,” said primary teacher and Santa Barbara Montessori School admissions director Aran Klingensmith. “The vintage circus theme was something we felt would be a great way to celebrate the whole school, and we definitely wanted stadium seating, which helped to provide a more connected feel between everyone.
“The Bacara staff was really helpful in working with us to create the ‘center ring’ feel of a real circus.”
The event was a delight for the senses, including dinner, a live auction and live entertainment that included jugglers, acrobats and aerial feats from AiRealistic, a performing troupe based in Ventura.
Guests also helped themselves to an abundance of cotton candy, lollipops, salt-water taffy and colorful gumballs that filled the decorative tables with the unmistakable buttery aroma of popcorn and fresh roasted peanuts.
Auctioneer Bill Pintard hosted the live auction as diners, many of them parents, were excited to bid on, among other things, a variety of unique handmade items from students.
Auction items included some that far exceeded opening bid requests of $350, such as a toddlers class “Jacaranda Class Peace Dove” with tiled pastels that went for $2,500; an upper elementary class’ “Audubon Illustrations” with watercolor, inks and a touch of pastel that was purchased for $2,200; and “Folky Arty Hometown” from Klingensmith’s primary class with one-of-a-kind colorful homes arranged Grandma Moses-style that sold for $5,500.
During the live auction, wait staff served mouth-watering Kobe beef cheeseburgers with corn on the cob and sweet-potato fries prepared by Bacara culinary staff and presented in cardboard boxes provided by Tony Morales, manager of In-N-Out Burger in Goleta. It was a detail that served as a delightful reminder of why those both young and old love the circus.
“This is the best event the school has ever done,” exclaimed longtime SBMS parent Steve Milam. “This is the best event I’ve ever been to, and my burger is delicious.”
This year’s event — with revenue from the online auction, silent auction, raffle ticket sales and the party book — exceeded goals as the school’s most successful auction: more than $141,000 in all. The success will allow SBMS to apply more than $90,000 to tuition-assistance applications.
Upon the conclusion of the live auction, the arena was converted into a dance floor that quickly filled up with energized guests who danced to thumping pop and R&B tunes from DJ Danny.
Across the room and behind a massive curtain was the “Midway Fun Zone” with an array of homemade carnival game booths created by a group of volunteers, including “Secret Dads,” that was a festive way for the attendees to further enjoy the circus-style theme.
“We threw a tent over the school this year and called it a circus!” explained Jim Fitzpatrick, the founding head of school. “What a year it’s been!
“The older elementary students’ outdoor science education programs took them to the Marin Headlands and Yosemite Valley for a week. Our junior high group has really had an adventuresome year with their two-week trek in Italy as the highlight of the Western Civilization study. Plus, their week in New York at the Montessori Model United Nations and one week in the temperate rain forest at the Olympic Peninsula Institute.”
These younger children’s programs create the groundwork and preparation for the older children’s extensive experiences, both in and out of the classroom, and the Circus Extravaganza provided a great opportunity for SBMS parents to celebrate everything about the school and its programs.
SBMS originally opened its doors as The Montessori Children’s Home in 1975. In 1987, the school began an administrative change by expanding programs and adopting its new name. Today, celebrating 37 years, the school at 7421 Mirano Drive in Goleta is the only recognized AMI Montessori school in the Santa Barbara area.
The main objective of SBMS is to provide each student with a specialized curriculum that aims to help children develop within themselves the fundamental habits, skills and ideas needed for a lifetime of social development, creative thinking and learning.
Original founder Dottoressa Maria Montessor was born in 1870 and would become Italy’s first female doctor in 1896. She later developed the concept of individual, cognitive learning fostered in a child-centered environment.
This unique and revolutionary approach to learning adapts to a child’s capabilities by utilizing the changing characteristics and sensitivities of each pupil’s developmental stage and incorporating them into all curriculum areas.
In a Montessori classroom, children acquire knowledge through the use of scientifically designed concrete materials that develop conceptual thinking and lead to abstract thought.
Thus, the child-centered learning process respects individual differences and fosters self motivation. Students are encouraged by their AMI-certified teacher to learn at their own pace and are free to complete a project or pursue a subject as deeply as they wish.
And, equipped with the freedom to explore his or her particular subject matter, this structure enables the student to reach his or her highest potential and achieve inner discipline, which subsequently enhances the child’s ability to learn by doing.
The innovations of Santa Barbara Montessori School and its programs were echoed in the excitement of an exceptional evening at the circus that successfully blended creativity with imagination.
“I’ve been to so many of these fundraising events around town and this is the most unique I’ve ever seen,” said Milam. “But I wonder, ‘What will they do next year to top this?’”
Santa Barbara Montessori School thanks the big-top supporters and all the parents and volunteers for a successful night at the circus: