Clairbourn – A Community Designed For Learning Excellence

Clairbourn Students in Chapel singing a hymn.
Students heading to class

Clairbourn School, conveniently located on Huntington Drive in San Gabriel, is known to many area families as a launching pad to the top area high schools. Not only do students develop strong academic abilities, but they are also guided to develop their character in accord with Christian values such as kindness, compassion, and service to others. But what makes Clairbourn so special is its expression of community designed especially for fostering academic and personal excellence.

Cross-grade Library book presentation

As a learning center, Clairbourn has a beautiful eight-acre campus that is well equipped with the facilities and technology to deliver an excellent academic experience. But at the heart of the school is a welcoming, involved, and supportive community that comes together to nurture and encourage the growth of each and every child.

Clairbourn is known as a parent-friendly school with many opportunities for moms and dads to be involved in school activities. On any given day, visitors to the school can see parents attending the morning Chapel assembly with their children in order to get a good start to their own day. They commonly visit with other parents after Chapel over a cup of coffee at the corner Starbucks. After school, they often join their kids on the playground, grab a snack together at the parent-run “Cougar Corner” store, or stay for a sporting event and cheer on the teams. Parents also volunteer to staff special lunch day events, chaperone field trips, run scout meetings, and eagerly attend special visiting days.

Service Learning Thanksgiving Food Distribution

Several times a year, parents also volunteer to support major school events like the Book Fair, Carnival, and the Spring Benefit. These important school activities are organized, funded, and coordinated by the Clairbourn Families Association (a parent group dedicated to enriching the student experience). In addition to the benefit these “extras” provide, the net result is that students see their parents caring! They see them give their time and talents on campus, and they get the message that their education is a valuable gift from their parents that should be appreciated and utilized to the fullest.

Parents Staffing Cougar corner Snack Shop

Just like the parents, students also have their own unified community. Clairbourn students know each other between the grades. They participate in cross-grade buddy reading activities, hands-on science projects, and do service learning projects together. They also share a core set of values called “The Clairbourn Code of Ethics” which include the qualities of responsibility, citizenship, honesty, respect, and spirituality. Every student is taught to understand and measure their actions to these qualities, both in the classroom and on the playground. These qualities not only build character, but they build a friendly community of learners who support each other with good behaviors that bless everyone.

Chapel students assembled by class

The morning Chapel assembly is also a major community builder on campus. Each day, children in grades first through eighth gather in the Multipurpose building and sit either with their class or with parents in attendance. The assembly begins with a greeting by the headmaster, and then the group sings a patriotic song followed by the pledge to the flag. Students, who have been assigned to conduct Chapel for the week, stand at the lectern and invite everyone to sing a hymn together and then share a brief Bible-based inspirational message that emphasizes universal values like wisdom, forgiveness, compassion, and helpfulness. Chapel then comes to a close with a moment of silent prayer followed by a group recitation of The Lord’s Prayer. Parents from all faiths, or no faith tradition, appreciate the simple universal values celebrated at these assemblies. Some have even reported using Chapel messages to reinforce good behaviors at home by telling their children such things as, “Remember at Chapel this week we learned about the importance of helping others…so let’s choose to do that now by helping to clear the dinner table.”

Clairbourn is also known as a community of service-minded individuals. Students are involved campus-wide in activities that teach them to give back to society and to use their skills for positive purposes. They help organize book drives, raise funds for homeless families, make enrichment toys for animals at nature parks, visit the elderly at the neighboring care facility, provide Christmas meals and toys to needy families, and much more.

Dr. Nafie explains, “Many children attending independent or private schools are born into privileged families. Through the act of service, their eyes are opened to appreciate what they have, they learn to take full advantage of their opportunities, and they learn they can make a real difference in the lives of others as well as find meaning and purpose in their own lives. Our students will be tomorrow’s leaders in the community and in the business world, and we want to make sure that when they take on those roles, they will be equipped with the vision to be good leaders. It is a privilege to enroll in schools such as Clairbourn, and we hope our students will use the knowledge they gain for a higher and noble purpose.”

In addition to having a service-oriented student body, Clairbourn has a unique teaching community that is unified around a shared educational philosophy. Clairbourn was founded by Christian Scientists, and today, while the school serves primarily a large student body of other faiths, it has retained a Christian Science staff. Thanks to their shared faith, teachers consequently have a unified Bible-based view of their students as God’s children who have access to unlimited ability and intelligence. Having the teachers share a positive educational philosophy, makes a big difference to the students as they move through each of the grades. With teachers providing a consistent view of each child’s ability, students gain confidence that they can live up to their own potential, apply themselves, and take advantage of the learning opportunities before them—no matter what academic or social hurdles rise up for them to conquer.

Clairbourn School’s Headmaster Dr. Robert Nafie remarks that, “As an educational community, our focus is really the development of the whole person. Clairbourn’s educators do not accept artificial barriers of I.Q. scores or other kinds of intelligence tests. We believe that every student is capable of great things. We develop that potential by first equipping students with all the tools that lead to academic excellence. These tools consist of a “core of knowledge” with essentials like the eight parts of speech, the basics of numeration, literacy, communication, grammar, vocabulary, and writing—lots of reading and writing are required in Clairbourn’s program. Students are also given the latest technological tools and are shown how to make wise choices with those tools.”

Dr. Nafie continues, “We also make sure students are equipped with critical thinking skills. Today, thinking independently in the face of media persuasion and peer pressure is vital. We must know how to validate the tsunami of information found on the Internet. We have to be careful about the information we take in and ask ourselves, ‘What’s the point of view here and who’s talking?…Is this a trusted source?’ Consequently, we encourage students to be critical thinkers—that’s a big part of our educational program.”

For over 85 years, Clairbourn School has served families in the Pasadena, San Marino, and surrounding cities in the San Gabriel Valley. The school was founded in 1926 at the San Marino home of Emily Bourne, wife of A.K. Bourne who was heir to the Singer Sewing Machine fortune. Originally, the school was established for their daughter Claire and her Sunday school friends. Today, the school serves students of all faiths from Junior Pre-Kindergarten up through eighth grade and has an enrollment of approximately 350 students.

Clairbourn School, 8400 Huntington Drive, San Gabriel, (626) 286-3108 or visit

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