Founding Principles Thrive at Crane Country Day School

Where Experiential Learning Emphasizes Public Speaking in Montecito 

Founding Principles Thrive at Crane Country Day School

Where Experiential Learning Emphasizes Public Speaking in Montecito 

Credit: Courtesy

As the story goes, about 100 years ago, Pasadena residents William and Kitty Crane awoke one morning to discover they’d literally shared a dream to start a school in Santa Barbara. At the time, William was an English professor at Caltech, and Kitty was big on music and performing arts. In 1928, they helped cofound Crane Country Day School on 11 acres in Montecito.

From the get-go, they focused on delivering an experiential education to their young students, with Kitty emphasizing that every child would be in a musical or play every year. Today, the founders’ time-tested legacy carries on, and the theme of hands-on, experiential learning has expanded. 

“Public speaking is woven into the curriculum at every grade level,” explained Kristen Peralta, the K-8 independent school’s director of marketing and communications. Just last month, for example, the kindergarteners were reciting memorized poems and reading stories to gathered parents. In 1st grade, students asked their parents, “What kind of bird am I?” as they fielded questions and described the appearances, habitats, and food preferences of the feathered fauna they’d been studying. Meanwhile, 5th graders were dressing up and acting out the contributions of their favorite American historical figures. 

Every year in 8th grade ​— ​with supportive coaching that helps the kids find their own voices ​— ​the final public-speaking piece is a lengthy, heavily attended presentation on topics handpicked by each student, this year ranging from ant ecology to mental-health issues in sports. During the pandemic last year, they learned how to adapt their speeches and slides to online only, using Google Meet and fielding questions remotely via the application’s chat feature.

The life skills also extend to the Crane kids in the audience watching their fellow students speak or perform. As an audience member, one learns respect, social skills, and critical thinking, Peralta pointed out.

Based on feedback over the years ​— ​and as a Crane alum herself ​— ​Peralta said that the school’s public-speaking practices “really help set them up for high school and beyond.” She also credits Crane’s steady run of plays and musicals in promoting student confidence and strengthening character. “In a fun way, they are getting more comfortable in front of an audience,” she said.

1795 San Leandro Ln., Montecito; (805) 969-7732;


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