Friends Seminary

Welcome to the Headmaster's Blog where you'll find updates, thoughts, and events regarding Saint David's School, the education of boys, and other items of interest. This is by no means meant to be a complete account of all that happens at Saint David's. Please refer to the school's website for more complete details -- it's more a Headmaster's musings.

Friday, April 29, 2016


Ra'ad '15 and  Vladimir '14 dropped by my office to chat. They had a long weekend away from school at Groton. Seeing them both again so happy and confident made my day. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Lawrenceville and Blair

Today I visited Blair Academy and Lawrenceville with Mr. Imbelli to catch up with alums. We have three at Blair and two at Lawrenceville with one from each graduating. Jack '12 is off to West Point and Henry '12 is off to Brown. They are both very excited about their next chapters.

It was great fun spending time with Tim '14 and Henry '12 at Blair. It was a really special surprise to catch up with Pierce '15 who left Saint David's in the 2nd grade for Hong Kong. He loved his time at Saint David's and spoke of how much he treasured his early foundation and memories. 

At Lawrenceville Jack '12 and Fabrizio '15 hosted us for a fabulous lunch and discussion in the senior hall. 

I'm very proud of what our alums are doing at their respective schools. They are leading, learning and giving to their communities. 

Cupcakes For The Seeing Eye

From the crowds at all lunch periods and dismissal times today it was apparent that few could resist rice crispy treats shaped like dog bones, or vanilla and chocolate cupcakes sporting Oreo puppy ears or, for that matter, any of the delectable treats that took up house in Saint David's Lobby this afternoon. 

All for a good cause.

It was the Fourth Grade's annual Pennies for Puppies Bake Sale, a long-term tradition that engages our boys in all facets of running a fundraiser, from planning to marketing, to baking and selling. First graders also participate by helping make posters advertising the sale. Proceeds will benefit The Seeing Eye, an organization that trains guide dogs, and the boys will visit their facility in Morristown, New Jersey, to deliver their check.

Doing good for others through expenditure of time and effort is something we encourage at Saint David's.  Our boys embrace these projects with energy and excitement.

Mark Church of Harvard Runs Faculty Workshops on Making Thinking Visible

“If classrooms are going to be rich cultures of thinking for our students, then schools must be rich cultures of thinking for educators.”

On Monday and Tuesday, 18 teachers participated in a series of workshops with Mark Church, our learning consultant from Harvard, and co-author of Making Thinking Visible. As part of our school's reflection on this year's theme, Deliberate Moral Introspection, the sessions focused on “How do we frame the story of thinking and learning at Saint David’s?"

Mark shared the Understanding Map, which was developed by Harvard Project Zero. The map identifies a number of high leverage thinking moves that people use to solve problems.

These thinking dispositions are representative of the types of thinking that lead to deeper understanding. For instance, when studying history, Considering Different Viewpoints and Reasoning with Evidence are certainly essential. In math, when solving an algebraic equation, Making Connections and Uncovering Complexity are key moves to consider. Teachers can use the Understanding Map as a planning tool to determine the “thinking agenda” for their units of study.

The 18 teachers in the seed group routinely meet throughout the school year to discuss teaching and learning, and examine ways they can make thinking more visible in their classrooms.

These professional learning teams stimulate and fuel our teachers’ practice, creating a rich culture of thinking for our teachers and boys.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Morning Concert for Lower School

Our youngest musicians in the First Orchestra, led by Mrs. Francis, and our older boys of the Philharmonic Ensemble, conducted by Mr. Hough, performed in a special concert for the Lower School boys this morning.  First Orchestra played "Ode to Joy" and "This Land Is Your Land," while the Philharmonic performed "Dance of the Tumblers" from Snow Maiden and the theme from Star Wars. Lower School boys also learned about the different instruments in both orchestras, and the First Orchestra members provided spoken introductions to their pieces.

They did a terrific job! We all enjoyed beginning the day with music courtesy of our boys.

"Drawing the Guggenheim" in Preparation for new Collaboration with the Museum

In preparation for a new school partnership with the Guggenheim for our seventh and eighth grade observational drawing classes, faculty members Jenna Boccella, Nancy Iannicelli  and Melanie Fidler recently attended a drawing workshop at the museum.

Led by the Guggenheim's Director of Education, Sharon Vatsky, the workshop included a slide presentation on the history of the museum, followed by a tour from an architectural perspective focusing on the use of geometric and organic forms in both the the interior and exterior of the building, and how the museum's design is based on the modernist idea that “form follows function." Participants then drew from the vantage point of their choice.

Beginning in the fall, our school's exciting new collaboration with our neighbor down the street will include several sessions of our boys' drawing onsite at the Guggenheim, and culminate with an exhibit of their work in a museum gallery. Art Department Chair Jenna Boccella and art teacher Mark Sunderwirth will finalize the new program over the summer.

This is a wonderful addition to our robust art program and another meaningful educational partnership between Saint David's School and a major global cultural institution.

Friday, April 22, 2016

"Mapping My New York" with the N-Y Historical Society

Our first graders are official cartographers, having learned all about mapping through our partnership with the N-Y Historical Society!

Over a series of weeks in March and April, an educator from the N-Y Historical Society joined Saint David's classroom teachers to lead the boys through a comprehensive hands-on study of maps. 

Boys examined historical maps of New York from the N-YHS collection, noting how the city has changed over time, and they learned about a map's essential components: compass, scale, map key, and color.

They then set about creating their own maps of the neighborhood around Saint David's on the Upper East Side, incorporating stamp symbols they conceptualized designed, and printed, to mark the location of places of interest.

The exercise required the boys to think analytically and critically as they planned their maps.

The result? A collection of colorful and accurate maps, and a group of proud young cartographers with enhanced understanding of how maps "work."

This is the second year of our collaboration with N-YHS for the First Grade "Mapping My New York" unit.  It is an example of several partnerships between Saint David's and a variety of premier historical, cultural, and scientific institutions that extend learning through exposure to great collections and experts.

Author/Illustrator Matt Phelan at Saint David's School

Matt Phelan, award-winning author or illustrator of several books for young readers, including Marilyn's Monsters, Flora's Very Windy Day, and the Scott O'Dell Award-winning graphic novel The Storm in the Barn, visited Saint David's last week to discuss the process of writing and illustrating books with boys in first through sixth grades. He gave our boys the inside scoop on the many steps involved in a book's journey from conception to completion.

Mr. Phelan noted that he draws so many more illustrations than appear in the final book, as a way to record his ideas and determine how characters will look or dress.

He also stressed the editing process and the fact that final illustrations are often the result of several iterations, telling the boys, "Every time you draw a picture, it gives you a chance to make your idea better." Boys were surprised to learn that the cover illustration is the last thing he creates, done "at the end of the process, when I really know the book."

The boys listened carefully and asked Mr. Phelan thoughtful questions at the end of his presentation.

From their very early days in Kindergarten at Saint David's, our boys are writers and illustrators of their own picture books, which they read to their fellow classmates.  This wonderful opportunity for them to learn from and interact with a renowned author/illustrator is made possible through our Parents Association Author Series program.

Q & A With Senator McCain

Our sixth graders met with Senator John McCain in DC. The Senator cited the Spanish Civil War and For Whom The Bell Tolls as his inspiration of how to live his life and his motivation for joining the military.

He participated in a question and answer session with the boys that covered a variety of issues including the lack of bipartisanship, illegal immigration, and ISIS.

He also provided his views on the current presidential election.

The boys return to New York today after a whirlwind tour of the nation's capital, her monuments, branches of government, and many of her most significant players!

This is education in the world for the world.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Senator Gillibrand

The 6th grade met with Senator Gillibrand of New York, their senator, this afternoon at the Capitol, and took the opportunity for a photo op.

Senate Majority Leader Meets With Boys

The sixth graders met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the steps of our nation's Capitol, where the Senator engaged the boys in a question and answer session on topics ranging from Trump to high capacity magazines and his support for the coal industry.

The session followed the boys'  earlier meeting with Speaker Paul Ryan, who stressed the importance of compromise and listening to those who disagree with you: "Know that you can benefit from other people's views."

This is a great message for our boys to hear, which dovetails with our yearlong theme of Deliberate Moral Introspection, as that practice requires the ability to listen to different points of view and to analyze issues from a variety of perspectives.

What a remarkable experience our boys are having these days as they interact with leaders in the House and Senate, and visit the sites of DC!

Speaker of the House

Saint David's Sixth Grade boys are in the nation's Capitol at the nation's capital with Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House.

After a thorough study of the foundation of the Republic and its form of government, the boys are now experiencing much of it first hand and in person!