Learning Beyond the Books at Malibu High School  

Malibu High School’s caring faculty and staff take pride in ensuring students receive a world-class 21st century education delivered in a friendly, caring environment that prepares learners to be “thoughtful, insightful, lifelong learners, who are responsible citizens of a global community.”

A Malibu High School education extends beyond the books to include opportunities to learn outside of the classroom via numerous extracurricular programs, such as sports and visual and performing arts.

Many of these programs have earned high accolades, including Malibu High’s ensembles, which routinely earn “superior” and “excellent” ratings at the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association Festival, and their award-winning sports teams.

Talented and passionate educators provide students with a carefully planned curriculum designed to equip them with real-world skills. When it comes to the visual arts—more specifically analog and digital photography—students access both the darkroom and the newly installed Mac Lab.

“By learning traditional 35mm photography, with only 24 exposures available, students have to slow down, think about exposure and composition, more than you would digitally,” explains Carla Bowman-Smith, Visual Arts teacher and Visual and Performing Arts Department Chair.

“Learning the fundamentals through analog allows them more control when they switch to digital photography,” Bowman-Smith says. “We have a few levels of photography; the more advanced students shoot both long exposures and studio photography—both of these allow them to really manipulate light for their desired outcomes.”  

Malibu High’s photography students also have full access to Adobe Creative Suite both at home and school, and each student has a digital single-lens reflex camera checked out to them for the school year. 

“Our students have entered various photography contests over the years, many of them placing 1st and 2nd,” Bowman-Smith says. “We work with the City of Malibu to have art openings. The school district has an annual districtwide art show that our students have won awards. Our booster group, The Arts Angels, helps get pop-up art shows throughout Malibu.”

Besides photography courses, Bowman-Smith also teaches Digital Design, Yearbook and AP Studio 2D. 

“Digital Design and Yearbook students learn to excel in Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, and often come back to me to say how much my classes helped them in college and beyond,” she says. “AP Studio 2D is a combined class of 2nd and 3rd year photography and digital design students. My students have a high passing percentage, which gives them college credits.”

Bowman-Smith adds that Malibu High is “very lucky” to have a wonderful booster group, The Arts Angels, supporting programs.

“With the help of The Arts Angels, students have access to equipment that traditionally is not available at the high school level, such as digital infrared cameras, medium and large format analog cameras, a large variety of lenses from fish eye to tilt/shift to 800mm.” 

In other programs, Art Teacher Thor Evensen notes, “We are a small high school with a large Fine Arts Department.”

“We have only two art teachers at Malibu high—not including music or drama—but between us we teach 12 different art courses,” Evensen says. “To compare this with a large high school like Santa Monica High, they have six art teachers and they teach 12 art classes between them.” 

When Malibu High has a district-wide art show, “Malibu students win most of the awards because we push our students to produce the best possible work,” Evensen says. “We create a positive environment in the classroom that promotes critical thinking and creative exploration. We help each student individually and make sure students understand the projects and are able to excel in each assignment.” 

What also makes the program special “is the support we receive from the Malibu community—parents’ donations help us purchase supplies that keep our programs strong and well-funded,” Evensen adds. The Malibu High Art Department “flourishes because of teacher involvement, parental support and the students themselves that consistently create interesting thought-provoking work.”

Jodi Plaia, Theatre Arts Director at Malibu High, says that “we are a small school,” and therefore, have a smaller theatre program compared to neighboring schools.

“Some years, this makes it more challenging to do shows that require a large cast,” Plaia says. “However, due to the nature of a more intimate group, as a director, I am able to tailor the productions we do specifically for the group of students we have at that time.”

This unique characteristic “allows the shows we produce to feel like they ‘fit’ us, highlighting the current talents and qualities of the individual students at that specific time,” she explains. “It always feels like just the right show for us.”

Additionally, “our department feels very much like a family. Most students have known each other since elementary school, so we are able to go deep into the vulnerable work, as friendships have already been established. And this camaraderie lends itself to enveloping new students into the group pretty seamlessly. Teamwork is a quality we take great pride in at Malibu High Theatre.”

While the Theatre Department has not competed in theatre competitions, “our accolades come from our community, and being recognized…also, the amount of community members who return show after show, and the alumni who return regularly to continue to support the program, is recognition that we take to heart.”

The Malibu High School Theatre Department aims to put on quality productions year after year, Plaia further emphasizes.

“We strive to bring our community together to share the talents of our students, as well as to share stories that make us feel something—we hope that both students and community members leave our theatre with lasting memories.”

Above all, “being a part of the Malibu High Theatre Department means being a part of a group where you feel like you fit in and can be yourself, a place where you feel safe, a place you can call home.”


Sports at Malibu High include cross country, football, tennis, volleyball, water polo, basketball, soccer, baseball, golf, Lacrosse, softball, swimming, tennis and track and field.

The Malibu High Varsity Golf team comprises a core of uniquely committed student athletes who love the sport of golf and play every chance they get.

“Although we don't have a home golf course, driving range or practice facility here in Malibu, our student athletes are so passionate about the game that they make it work to practice and play over the hill and up the coast,” says Anna Deshautelle, Golf Coach at Malibu High.

“Another quality that made our team unique is that we had two girls competing on our boys' varsity golf team this past season,” says Deshautelle, adding that Freshman Sailor Graham was the top golfer for much of the season, earning First Team All Citrus Coast League Honors.

Sophomore Graydon Phelps ended the season as MHS's top golfer, followed by Junior Sam St. John and Freshman Sailor Graham. All three earned First Team All Citrus Coast League Honors.  Freshman Fergus Flanigan was named to the Second Team for All Citrus Coast League. 

“We are a young team and our core golfers are very passionate about the sport,” Deshautelle notes. “I feel that we are going to continue to improve dramatically and challenge traditional League powerhouse Nordhoff in the Citrus Coast League in coming years.”

She added that “we have no seniors, so next year we are looking forward to great seasons from returners Sam and Will St. John, Graydon Phelps, Sailor Graham, Fergus Flanigan, Colten Fisher, Sophia Sabag, Shelby Woodman and Hudson Jaret, as well as welcoming new golfers to the program.” 

In perhaps the most exciting development, “thanks to some excellent recruiting by our current scholar athletes, we also plan to field Malibu High School's inaugural Girls' Varsity Golf Team in Fall 2022.”

Learn more about Malibu High School’s extracurricular offerings at

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