Opening day at Laguna Blanca School, Sept.21, 1933. (Courtesy photo)
Laguna students enjoy lunchtime birthday festivities.

Laguna students enjoy lunchtime birthday festivities. (Courtesy photo)

On Sept. 21, 85 years to the day since opening its doors, Laguna Blanca School’s faculty, staff and students gathered to celebrate where the school has been, how it has grown, and where it is today.

The All-School 85th Birthday Bash openned with a pep rally in Merovick Gymnasium and a drone shot of the entire school formed in a giant 85.

A taco lunch, gluten-free birthday cake donated by Lilac Patisserie, and a hand-painted photo booth created by Laguna Blanca Lower School art teacher Courtney Guay and grades EK-4 students rounded out the extended lunchtime celebration.

The highlight of the day included remarks from Laguna alumnus Arthur “Bam” Spaulding (class of 1943), nephew of the school’s founder Edward Selden Spaulding and one of the first 40 boys who was there on Laguna’s opening day — Sept. 21, 1933.

A veteran who fought under Gen. Patton in the Battle of the Bulge, Spaulding was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds in combat and a Bronze Star for gallantry in action. After serving in the U.S. Army, he graduated from Cal Tech and spent his career in oil and natural gas.

At the pep rally, he reflected about what it was like to be a Laguna student in the early years — how some boys rode their horses to school in the 1930s, how happy he was when girls joined the school in 1942, and how attentive his teachers and coaches were, always encouraging him to succeed.

Spaulding encouraged students to get involved in music or to learn an instrument, as he said it brings much joy to the retirement years. Currently a saxophonist in several swing bands, Spaulding plays shows around Ventura County as a member of The Swing Shift Big Band.

Over the past 85 years, Laguna Blanca has evolved from a budding boys academy into a dynamic, co-educational early kindergarten through 12th grade learning environment. The school continues to make good on its commitment to experiential learning:

At the Lower School in Montecito, integrated, cross-curricular instruction promotes deeper learning and builds a strong academic foundation.

In the Middle and Upper schools in Hope Ranch, project-based learning lets students spend less time listening to lectures and more time working together to produce tangible outcomes in such programs as TEDx, science research, robotics and engineering, entreprenuership, IoT, and Global Urban Studies.

Faculty use novel teaching methods to give students memorable experiences, an approach designed to capture students’ interest and provoke serious thought in team-oriented, problem-solving contexts, reflective of the skills needed for today’s innovation economy.

A school-wide population of some 360 students creates a strong community atmosphere that has allowed for true personal connections to take place — a cornerstone of the Laguna experience.

The reason Laguna Blanca has stood strong for 85 years is that teachers know and understand each student, which not only creates enduring family-like bonds, but as Spaulding said, “It also provides a supportive environment where students feel confident to push their limits and succeed.”

For more information, visit or contact 805.687.2461.

— Tara Broucqsault for Laguna Blanca School.