Campus & Facilities
Dunn’s campus retains the rural identity and country charm of the Valley, with ranch-style buildings that open to the outdoors, athletic fields with mountain views, and outdoor meeting spaces under the massive Red Oaks that characterize California’s central coast. Learning takes place everywhere on campus, which supports and encourages Dunn’s decidedly collaborative, hands-on, friendly and open-minded culture of learning and living. Dunn’s buildings and grounds are outfitted for contemporary learning and living experiences.
Middle schoolers enjoy their own space on campus, largely secluded from the Upper School, with sprawling decks, grassy courtyards and homey, sun-filled classrooms.
The Upper School campus blends the charm of the California countryside with modern needs of contemporary, college preparatory learning. Classrooms are designed for small, seminar-style classes and are appointed with learning technology. Students gather for assemblies on wooden benches each week and eat on picnic tables under an oak grove at the center of campus. A modern library provides a quiet study space, day and night, and the College Counseling center offers a place to research colleges and work on applications.
Dunn’s dining hall is not run by your average lunch lady. Chef Robin Reynolds leads Dunn’s food service, serving three hot meals and two snacks per day for the Upper School Dining Hall and Middle School lunches. Foods are prepared from whole fresh ingredients, limiting the use of processed foods and avoiding products containing artificial flavourings.
Art & Music: The Sinclaire Art Studios feature a painting studio, ceramics studio with an outdoor kiln, and a multimedia classroom for digital photography and film-making students. Designed to take advantage of natural light as well as new technology, the Studio is the perfect place for all students to explore hidden talents and for budding artists to get the foundations they need for lifelong expression.
Music facility is an old one-room school house donated to the school by the Firestone family. The open space inside makes for a perfect place to learn the basics of music theory, how to play different instruments, and jam with friends and faculty. Walk by any time of the day or evening and you’ll hear students working on their craft.
RAD Lab: This makerspace is designed for a 9th grade “Research and Development” class that is a problem- and project-based approach to scientific fundamentals. Students engage in coding, robotics, woodcraft, applied physics, and related activities to learn the principles of science and engineering.
Founded in 1957 as the Valley School, Dunn School has deep roots of teaching generations of students as it continues to grow and carry on founder Tony Dunn’s vision for independent education in Santa Barbara County. The Valley School opened with 49-day students and 7 boarding boys, grades kindergarten through eight. Tony Dunn’s objective was to establish a residential high school which had roots in the example of Eton and the tradition of English private education.
Dormitories: Residential students live in attractive, well maintained dorms that include housing for resident faculty families — complete with kids, pets and all the bustle of daily life. Each dorm includes for student use: a full kitchen, comfortable lounge with fireplace and TV, Wi-Fi access (available during age-appropriate hours), laundry facilities, cleaning supplies and multiple patios. Students (with faculty supervision) are required to clean their rooms each evening and keep the common areas tidy and sanitary. The dorms also organize programming to foster community and responsibility, which we consider part of our whole student approach to learning and living.
Dunn Middle School (DMS) offers grades 6-8 an education unparalleled in engaging the mind, body and spirit. In history classes and language arts, for example, students learn the crafts of the historian and the writer from the inside out, through reenactments, role playing and storytelling. Math classes regularly relate problems to real life experience, teaching students how to apply what they learned in addition to knowing fundamental skills.In science classes, students design and conduct their own experiments, thus gaining a deeper understanding of scientific principles at work in the world. And Dunn's unique elective "Enrichment" courses offer students dozens of ways to try something new, spark a passion, and stretch their comfort zone—from surfing to sewing, kite-making to the kazoo marching band. The School intentionally integrates Dunn's core values throughout the curriculum, both in and out of the classroom. Pursuit of academic excellence is balanced with emotional wellness, physical readiness, moral courage and social responsibility. And students participate in their assessment on their growth in each of these areas.
Dunn’s Upper School curriculum offers rigorous academics with personalized approaches to teaching and learning. All students participate in a broad program of challenging coursework, enhanced by athletics, arts, outdoor experiences, leadership opportunities, and community service. Because class sizes are small, students engage actively in discussion, debate and collaborative work. Dunn’s intimate size facilitates student-teacher dialogue outside the boundaries of the classroom. Advanced Placement (AP) and Honors sections are offered to qualified students seeking the challenge. Dunn offers diverse electives in addition to a rigorous core academic foundation. Students at Dunn learn with the future in mind. In classes, students practice and strengthen essential contemporary skills and capacities: creativity, critical thinking, communication, teamwork, problem solving, innovation, global perspectives, and applied ethics.
Students enroll in at least five core college-prepretory classes each semester. Dunn’s graduation requirements ensure that every student is well prepared for rigorous, college-level work in any field of study.
Students must take five or six classes each semester. In addition to the required diploma standards, students supplement their program with a variety of electives. Dunn School grades on a two-semester calendar totaling 34 weeks, and grades are issued twice a year.
The campus boasts four outdoor athletic fields: three fields for soccer and lacrosse (including a new field for Girls Soccer completed in 2016) and a state-of-the-art baseball field and practice facility (with covered batting cages and video playback technology) that was completely remodelled in 2015.
Two outdoor basketball courts and two sand volleyball courts are available for recreational use. Students also have access to a quarter-mile running track and the mile-long "trail around Dunn" for running and biking. Mountain bikers also enjoy the short but challenging trail on the southern end of campus.
Dunn offers six well-kept tennis courts for use by students and teams.
The heated pool provides for year round swimming, various team sports, special events and parties, and a summer aquatics program.
The Dunn School Gym has been a fixture on campus for many years, but the new hardwood floors and scoreboards installed in 2015 were much-needed improvements for students who play basketball and volleyball in the facility.
The Gym includes cardio equipment, free weights and weight machines, as well as a massive climbing wall on one entire end of the facility where students learn basic techniques, route setting and climbing safety.
A separate bouldering shed also supports beginner climbers as they learn basic techniques.
biking, jogging, swimming, climbing, volleyball, basketball, tennis, surfing, snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, "Try-athalon" , baseball, cross country, dance, soccer, lacrosse, recreational softball,
The arts and enrichment curriculum at Dunn Middle School is recognized for its unique blend of traditional and non-traditional offerings.
Each day at DMS, students of all grade levels have the opportunity to receive instruction in visual and performing arts.
Music, Art & Drama
Music classes allow students to learn the basics of reading music, understanding rhythm, and develop skills on traditional band instruments as well as percussion and guitar.
Art classes are varied in their approaches and include foundational art classes, sketching, watercolor, printmaking, sculpture, 3D arts, ceramics, jewelry making and photography.
Drama is offered as a stand-alone course as well as being integrated into academic classes, equipping students with tools to develop their acting, personal, and public speaking skills. Classes include both improve and scripted productions.
A Summer Program for Academic Improvement
For students entering grades 8, 9 & 10
Saturday, July 14–Friday, August 10, fee 8000 $
Dunn created its Learning Strategies Center in 1973 to serve bright, college-bound students who learn differently. The Learning Strategies Center now offers a unique summer boarding program. Students entering 8th, 9th or 10th grade are invited to apply to this residential summer session.
ESL Summer Academy
For students entering grades 8, 9 & 10
Saturday, July 14–Friday, August 10, fee 8000 $
For international students entering 8th, 9th or 10th grade, Dunn Summer Academy offers an extraordinary English Language program. Every morning, students take academic classes designed to improve their English speaking, writing and reading skills. Each afternoon, students choose from a variety of enrichment activities with American students their own age. Weekends are filled with exciting activities in California, including surfing and a trip to see a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game. The program is ideal for students considering American boarding schools, or American colleges and universities. Parents and students report raised TOEFL Jr. test scores, and enter into boarding schools with great success.
Dunn School is located on a 55-acre campus among the ranches and wineries of northern Santa Barbara County, in the town of Los Olivos
Originally inhabited by the Chumash Indians, the Santa Ynez Valley (pop. 20,000) is a picturesque area partially surrounded by the Los Padres National Forest, with the Pacific Ocean a short drive away. The city of Santa Barbara (pop. 91,000) is 30 miles to the southeast. Los Angeles is a two-hour drive south, and San Francisco is five hours north.