Crane Brings Boston to Montecito

By Kelly Herrick   |   June 24, 2021
Fifth graders take over the Crane kitchen to cook from scratch and learn about 1800s New England life

Facing the second year of not being able to offer their students a yearly springtime trip to Boston, Crane Country Day School fifth-grade teachers Carrie Althoff and Ryan Long set out to “bring Boston to Montecito,” allowing their students the opportunity to have unique learning experiences. 

The Boston trip has been a rite of passage at the school for 13 years prior to the COVID pandemic that forced the trip’s cancellation in 2020 and 2021. A culmination of the history curriculum taught in fifth grade, the trip teaches the kids about life in the 1600s, 1700s, and 1800s. The Boston trip allows students to visit various “living history” museums, where docents dress in period garb and guide students to various setups that look like buildings and places of the time.

“They get to live and breathe it for a whole week,” said Althoff, who says it’s one of her favorite parts of teaching 5th grade.

The students also learn how to travel without their parents, as it’s the first school-sponsored trip where parents do not join.

“It’s usually their first time away from home without parental guidance. They are responsible for managing their money, staying in a hotel room, choosing what they want to eat, and more. It’s really a rite of passage,” Althoff said. “When we get home they feel proud of their independence.” 

Last year the teachers were able to pivot and visit the museums virtually while students were learning from home; this year they took it a step further and added extra elements to make it special for the kids, including recreating Old Sturbridge Village and having the kids make their own food from scratch; recreating a baseball game at Fenway Park by having them play ball on the fields, complete with hot dogs, lemonade, and cracker jacks; recreating Walden Pond by walking the kids over to Ennisbrook for a nature walk and journaling; and a virtual tour of the Freedom Trail and Plymouth Plantation; among other adventures.

“It was a great opportunity for us to rethink the way we present material,” Long said. 

“It allowed us to break free of the regular routine and have some fun,” Althoff added.

The school, which offers kindergarten through eighth grade, was back on campus last October, while many public schools in Santa Barbara County continued virtual learning for students during the second half of the pandemic. Parents had the choice whether to bring their kids to school or keep distance learning from home.

“We had very strict protocols, which is why we were successful,” said Crane’s Director of Development Debbie Williams, adding that the campus, like Montecito Union and Cold Spring School, had no reported cases of COVID, and nearly 100% of teachers were vaccinated when the vaccine became available. Class trips for the sixth, seventh, and eighth graders were also canceled last year, with no plans yet on how they will return in the post-pandemic world. 

School is out for summer now, with plans to be back on campus on September 8. The school will welcome 240 students in the fall, which is an increase in enrollment.

“The fifth-grade trip is a solid introduction to the independence needed for students entering the middle school years. Beginning at sixth grade, Crane students receive instruction from a slate of eight to 10 teachers, choose from a unique selection of electives, and start a three-year design and engineering curriculum. Class sizes increase in the upper grades and many new students begin their Crane journey at the sixth and seventh grades,” Williams said. 

Limited openings for Fall 2021 are available. To inquire about space availability or to schedule a tour, contact Director of Admission Erin Guerra, 805-969-7732, ext. 106, or visit


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