Wednesday, November 25 , 2015, 7:21 pm | Fair 53º

Santa Barbara Montessori School Brings ’20s Roaring to Life with ‘Great Gatsby’-Themed Auction

Guests go all in at annual extravaganza to benefit 37-year-old Goleta school and its long history of successful local alumni

Santa Barbara Montessori School head of school and co-founder Jim Fitzpatrick is flanked by event chairwoman Caroline Powers, left, and online auction chairwoman Audrey Weiss at the Great Gatsby-themed annual Auction Extravaganza held Saturday at the Coral Casino Beach & Cabana Club.
Santa Barbara Montessori School head of school and co-founder Jim Fitzpatrick is flanked by event chairwoman Caroline Powers, left, and online auction chairwoman Audrey Weiss at the Great Gatsby-themed annual Auction Extravaganza held Saturday at the Coral Casino Beach & Cabana Club.  (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

By Melissa Walker, Noozhawk iSociety Columnist | @NoozhawkSociety | updated logo |

[Click here for a Noozhawk photo gallery from the event.]

The annual Santa Barbara Montessori School Auction Extravaganza is well known for imaginative and innovative party themes, and parents, faculty and the community eagerly await an opportunity to dress up to raise funds in celebration of a worthy cause.

This year’s theme did not disappoint with 1920s-style decorations in tune with the “Great Gatsby,” and guests arrived at the Coral Casino Beach & Cabana Club clad in attire with glam beaded details, flapper fringe, unique hats, elbow-length gloves, fur and other vintage-inspired ensembles.

The mood was festive as guests mingled, sipped champagne and moved about the appropriately decorated ballroom complete with gold and white details and the artistry of local balloon artists from Balloon Affair.

A video production entitled, Happy I Am, that was directed and created by Colin Fitzpatrick, director of the Coryat Media Center, captured the spirit of the organization and the evening’s boisterous mood.

Children from the school were shown in daily classroom activities, joined with choreographed dancing around the school’s Goleta campus that inspired guests for a jitterbug dance contest later in the evening.

The ballroom floor was converted into a dance floor that quickly filled up with energized guests who danced to rollicking tunes from DJ Danny.

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 impressive list of notable Montessorians is of novel proportions and head of school and co-founder, Jim Fitzpatrick, joyously shared some highlights.

“There’s hundreds of Montessori alumni who are recognized for their successes — a sampling includes the founders of Google — Sergei Brin and Larry Page, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Julia Child, Yo Yo Ma, Sean Combs, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Jimmy Wales, Sir Ken Robinson, Leo and Tatiana Tolstoy, Taylor Swift, Will Wright, Dakota Fanning, Gordon Ramsay, John and Joan Cusack, Clyde Drexler, Peter Drucker and George Clooney,” Fitzpatrick exclaimed.

“The list also includes Anne Frank and Helen Keller, and we can add our own Bill Pintard, manager of the Santa Barbara Foresters baseball team, who has lead our local college all-star team to a record 16-straight California Coastal Collegiate League championships, and four times the champions of the NBC World Series in Wichita, Kansas.”

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 that successfully blended the pomp and spirit of the classic period in American history portrayed in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s acclaimed 1925 novel, The Great Gatsby, as guests were already eagerly anticipating next years creative theme for the annual event.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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