Margaret Chadwick’s pioneering spirit lives on in every corner of our campus and in each Chadwick student.
Chadwick is steeped in more than 85 years of rich history and tradition that began with the extraordinary vision of one woman — Margaret Lee Chadwick. From her very first teaching assignment in a poverty-stricken school in the wild and barren Nevada desert to her entrepreneurial efforts to secure the first acres of land on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, Margaret Chadwick was a pioneer.
She long envisioned a progressive open-air country school that offered education as an experience to anyone eager to learn and willing to work hard. Inspired by a deep love of learning, the gifts of nature and the diversity of humanity, Margaret Chadwick set out to bring a better educational experience at a time and place where it was needed most.
A Rich History
In 1935, after discovering the rampant overcrowding of the local public schools, Margaret Chadwick opened Chadwick Open Air School in San Pedro, Calif., enrolling two of her three children. She and her husband, Commander Joseph Chadwick, believed in the kind of education that was both all-encompassing and experiential.
Every student — regardless of academic inclination, race, religious background or socioeconomic status — was seen as a possibility yearning to unfold. The Chadwicks knew that, just like the surrounding lands they cherished, each student simply needed to be acknowledged and nourished in order to thrive.
It is to be hoped that the winds that blow so vigorously across our beautiful acres will one day sweep away all prejudices.
Despite the conservatism of the day, the Chadwicks' lofty convictions inspired like-minded supporters who helped make the dream of the little school on the hill a reality.
Greatly impressed by Margaret Chadwick’s vision after attending a school play, Palos Verdes developer, Frank Vanderlip, generously donated the land. Chadwick School’s co-founders, the Roesslers — whose own children were among the first attendees — also provided financial support.
And so, in 1938, the Chadwick Seaside School officially opened.
Over and above the faculty, the students and the furnishings in the cars and moving van on that January day were many intangible things. There were the high hopes and great expectations of the founder parents, the many ideas about education and about life gleaned from wide and varied experiences, and a deep faith in children.
What began as a homeschool expanded rapidly, with some students boarding on campus and others attending as “day pupils.” The surrounding lands set the perfect stage for a farm, sparked by the gift of a piglet to Margaret Chadwick on her birthday. Next came horses, rabbits, chickens, the student victory gardens and a full-time farmer. Chadwick lovingly called it her “Animal Kingdom.”
At Chadwick, character, compassion and play were as essential as academics. Experiential learning beyond the classroom fueled students’ young minds and fostered their highest potential.
Education was seen as an opportunity to positively impact students, their communities and the world at large. It is on these core principles that Chadwick’s philosophy was founded. That ripple effect can be seen in the incredible contributions Chadwick students and alumni continue to make each day.
Since the school's inception, Chadwick’s teachers were encouraged to be involved, not only with the subject matter of their courses, but in the lives and creative ventures of their students. Parents were also involved, with some in the early days volunteering their services in exchange for their children’s education. A family environment was and is one of Chadwick’s guiding tenets.
The vivid experiences of those earliest years found their way into the courses and the practices that still live on today. The passion, conviction and effectiveness of the Chadwicks’ educational endeavors continued to attract the support needed to fulfill their vision for the future of the school, with each year marking new milestones and inviting new students, new buildings and new opportunities for growth and expansion.
Today, Chadwick School sits on 45 acres of Palos Verdes land and with 22 school buildings and 31 faculty residences, is home to over 860 students and 113 faculty. The campus has grown to include a spectacular scope of programs, facilities and organizations where students get every opportunity to explore and expand. With over 50 neighborhoods represented by our student body, Chadwick embodies diversity, or as Margaret Chadwick so eloquently called it — a dipperful of humanity.
In 2010, Chadwick’s sister school — Chadwick International (CI) — opened its doors in Songdo, South Korea (within the Incheon Free Economic Zone). Since its inception, attendance has jumped from 260 students in kindergarten through grade 7 to 1,200 students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12. Chadwick International graduated its first class with 68 seniors in May 2016.
Chadwick International School mirrors the Palos Verdes campus in its design and commitment to Chadwick’s Core Values, with students on both campuses frequently engaging in video-conference classes and in-person exchanges. Study-abroad opportunities, international conferences and Chadwick’s Community Service programs foster cross-cultural connections while empowering students to see the world through a wider lens and positively impact global communities.
Margaret Chadwick’s legacy lives on. Her values and vision define who we are and drive all we do. Each year, new Chadwick students graduate with a commitment to thriving, uplifting their communities and making the world a more vibrant and compassionate place for all. We are so much more than a school. We are a living, breathing example of what’s possible when a deep love of life, learning and humanity intersect.
Our rich history has paved the foundation for so much more ahead. Explore what's next: