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.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Saint David's Musicians - All That They Can Be

The First Orchestra and Philharmonic Ensemble kicked off Saint David's Winter Festival of Art and Music on Tuesday with an early morning concert for our Lower School Boys. The First Orchestra are our youngest musicians (Grades 1-3). The boys, under the direction of Mrs. Francis, have been rehearsing every week, and learning the skills of playing in a group.

The Philharmonic Ensemble, conducted by Phil Hough features our older boys. On Tuesday, they played pieces by Mozart and Bach. This time next year, the orchestras will be playing in our brand new Performing Arts Center with concert hall acoustics and seating for 300!

The Winter Festival is a special tradition at Saint David's, which celebrates our boys' creativity and the school's focus on the aesthetic as part of a balanced pedagogy. During the next two weeks there will be many events showcasing our boys' work in the arts.


Friday, January 12, 2018

Honoring Dr. King and the Power of Words to Do Good

Yesterday and today, boys in Grades Three through Eight participated in special Chapels in honor of the great civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr.

In each session, after discussing how words are powerful instruments that can be rightly used to effect positive change, the boys listened to Dr. King's monumental "I Have a Dream" speech in its entirety, read by one of their classmates.

In the 7th and 8th Grade Chapel I took my thoughts a little further, sharing excerpts from Adam Grant's Book Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World regarding the process King undertook in preparing for the speech and how, even though he winged the entire second half, he had been preparing for it, like the young biblical David, our patron, his entire life. When history begged for a moral leader to be chosen, King was prepared to step up and step forward.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's assassination; a loss of life that he recognized as a probability, but which did not deter him from using his powerful words and voice to advocate for peaceful change that would bring "liberty and justice for all."

Each Chapel closed with William Best leading us in "Take My Hand Precious Lord, Lead Me Home," Dr. King's favorite hymn, which was sung at his funeral.

Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, with Grades 6 and 7

This week, Liberian peace activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Leymah Gbowee returned to Saint David's to present to our sixth and seventh graders about our boys' participation in the Gbowee Peace Foundation's backpack initiative. The initiative provides book bags and supplies to Liberian children in grades One through Six who excel academically.

Last year, Saint David's Class of 2019 supported the initiative as their Confirmation service project, hosting a bake sale that raised enough funds for 48 book bags, which they filled with school supplies, and $1,000 for school uniforms. The Class of 2020 will also support the backpack initiative this year for their Confirmation project.

On Wednesday, Ms. Gbowee read letters that were written by some of the children who received the book bags last year. (As part of last year's project, our boys also wrote letters to the recipients that were sent with the book bags). The children all have worked hard to reach academic excellence against tremendous odds, including extreme poverty and having been orphaned during the Ebola outbreak. The backpacks and uniforms are a source of pride for these children and help build self-esteem.

Our boys were inspired to hear Ms. Gbowee speak about how important it is to her to do what she can to improve the lives of others. She urged the boys to use their talents and gifts as well--their lights within--to "light the world" and make it a better place, and to consider what they will do to leave their mark on history.

We encourage our boys to do good in the world in ways that connect them with the people they are helping.  Interacting with Ms. Gbowee and communicating through letters with the children who received the book bags strengthen our boys' commitment to service and to their development into concerned and caring citizens of the world.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Study of Civilization

Before the break, our fourth graders completed their study of ancient Egypt with research-based group and individual presentations to classmates on various aspects of the civilization including, belief systems, architecture, art, entertainment, cities, government and writing systems. 

For their individual presentations, the boys were encouraged to display not only their knowledge but also their creativity. Some dressed as pharaohs or sphinx; others made models of pyramids, the Nile, and other topics of interest. The boys were assessed not only on mastery of content, but also on their oral presentation skills.

Our fourth grade history program delves deeply into what makes a civilization, with the boys studying ancient Egypt, China, and Greece. They hone their research skills as they use a common framework to analyze and discuss the concept of civilization across these different cultures, drawing comparisons and contrasts among them and making connections to their own country.

This close study of civilization serves our boys well. It is a valuable entry point for their roles as citizens of an increasingly connected and interdependent world.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Christmas Tradition

Yesterday began and ended with two of our community's cherished Christmas traditions.

The morning's First Grade Pageant featured our young boys re-enacting the Nativity through dialogue and song. They sang each classic carol, including the Spanish Pastores y Reyes, with feeling and confidence, and concluded with a rousing Joy to the World.

The evening brought us to St. Thomas More for the Advent Service of Lessons and Carols, beginning with a Recorder Consort, directed by Susan Iadone and featuring several of our alumni recorder players. During Lessons and Carols, scripture readings and carols beautifully rendered by Phyllis Clark's fifth and sixth grade chamber singers, filled the church with warmth and meaning.

These are such meaningful ways to celebrate our community and what we most value during this festive time of year.

As always, gratitude to Music Chair Jeff Moore, Choral Director Phyllis Clark, Religion Chair Jim Barbieri, and Recorder Teacher Susan Iadone for bringing us this meaningful event.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Author William Meyer Visits with Fourth Graders

Author and Educator William Meyer visited our fourth graders last week to talk to them about his Horace j. Edwards and the Time Keepers series. The first book, The Secret of the Scarab Beetle was inspired by his interest in Ancient Egypt and the mystery surrounding King Tut's tomb. His recently published second book, The Search for the Lost Prophecy, continues the adventure of the protagonist, but is set in 1920s Detroit.

The boys have been learning about Ancient Egypt in history, and were captivated by Mr. Meyer's presentation, especially when he talked about curses and ghost stories! The PA Author series provides our boys with the invaluable opportunity to interact with and be inspired by a published author.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Year 25 for NBS Lectures on Art

For his in-depth analysis and compelling presentation of The Army of the Potomac by Winslow Homer, Nicholas R. was named the winner of the 2017 Nightingale-Bamford Lectures on Art.

Friday marked the 25th anniversary of the competition, originated by Fourth Headmaster Dr. Donald T. Maiocco. It is one of four major summary projects that the Eighth Grade boys complete in their humanities course. Each eighth grader researches a notable work by a renowned artist, then delivers a lecture and PowerPoint presentation on the artwork.  The lectures are judged, by a panel of educators and experts in art, on the depth of the boys' analysis and research, their oral presentation skills, and the visual design of their slides.

Congratulations to Nicholas and finalists Charlie C. (Self Portrait by Vincent van Gogh), Harlan S. (Panel for Edwin R. Campbell No. 4 by Vassily Kandinsky), Matthew S. (The School of Athens by Raphael Sanzio), Declan O. (The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo Buonarroti), and Pierce E. (Several Circles, No. 323 by Vassily Kandinsky). Each boy delivered an outstanding lecture that demonstrated mastery of the work studied and oratory skills honed under the guidance of their teacher and Art Historian Nancy Iannicelli.

This interdisciplinary project is representative of the classical ideal of balance at the heart of a Saint David's education; and is a lasting legacy of Dr. Maiocco's vision. 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Our Second Grade Boys Present "Look, Imagine, Create" at the Guggenheim

Look, Imagine, Create: Collages, Painting, Drawings, and Constructions was the hottest ticket at the Solomon R. Guggenheim last week; and it featured our second graders.

Under the guidance of art teachers Melanie Fidler and Hannah Frassinelli and museum educator Hollie Ecker, the boys spent their fall art sessions at the Guggenheim where they studied the iconic architecture of the building as well as several modern masterpieces from the Thannhauser Collection. In the art studios, they created works in various media, including collage, painting, drawing and construction, inspired by the masterworks they had studied. 

During the student-led gallery tours for their parents, teachers, and first graders, the boys confidently delivered their talks, sharing what they had learned about artists' use of line, shape, color and texture, abstraction, attachment techniques, and materials. Afterward, all were invited to an exhibit of the boys' own artwork on display in the museum's art studios, where the boys revealed their motivations and the artistic processes they used.

This is the second year of our partnership with the Guggenheim. The collaboration provides the second graders with access to the expertise of museum educators who work closely with the boys' art teachers to create a dynamic learning experience. Throughout our program, we are strategically leveraging New York City's world renowned scientific and cultural institutions as an extension of our campus.

The video clip below features a boy discussing Franz Marc's use of color in Yellow Cow:

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Christmas Gathering

Christmas is made most special when members of a tight knit community come together to celebrate their history, shared values and friendship, and to wish one another well. Yesterday evening our alumni and alumni parent community and many of our faculty and staff gathered to celebrate the Christmas Season with each other.

The evening included presentation of the Alumnus of the Year Award to Miguel Sanchez, Class of 1997. Miguel has been a dedicated member of the alumni community and an integral participant in the school's annual Prep for Prep Alumni Panel, having served as a panelist more than any other alumnus. The panel meets with sixth graders in the spring, in advance of their welcoming a Prep for Prep classmate in the fall of seventh grade. Miguel is an alumnus of Prep for Prep, a Gates Millennium Scholar, and a Robert Toigo Fellow. He earned an MBA from Harvard Business School and an A.B. in Government from Harvard College.

In accepting the award, Miguel spoke of his fondness for Saint David's and his desire to give back to the school in appreciation of his teachers. He also thanked his parents for directing him to Saint David's School in the first place, noting, "My mother knew what I needed in order to grow into the good man my parents hoped I would become."

It was so good to see Miguel and his family and to have the opportunity to thank him for him for his continued commitment to this school. In all of our conversations, it is always clear that he cares deeply about Saint David's and our mission.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Cocoa Concert - Our Youngest Musicians Perform for Parents

Yesterday morning, our First Orchestra musicians treated their parents to a before school cocoa concert, an open rehearsal led by director Carla Francis.

Saint David's First Orchestra program, now in its fifth year, provides an opportunity for violin and cello students in Grades One through Three to experience playing together in an orchestra setting. They perform twice during the year in concerts for their fellow classmates.

First Orchestra is a prime example of the school's commitment to the arts and aesthetics, one of the four pillars of a Saint David's education, and it also builds the confidence of our younger boys as they gain comfort performing and speaking in front of an audience of parents and peers.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Blast Off! Year 4 of Digital Universe Field Study

Our school's remarkable, unique partnership with the American Museum of Natural History - Hayden Planetarium kicked off its fourth year last Friday, when our sixth graders spent the morning at the museum for the first session of the Digital Universe Field Study unit. The interdisciplinary study blends English, science and technology curricula, and is conducted both at the museum and in the boys' science and English classes at school.

Boys explore distance and size of planets in our solar system, using clay.

Over the next three months, the class will regularly visit the AMNH, working with the museum's astro-visualization team to master proprietary Digital Universe software that will enable them to  simulate "flying through" the universe, using real-time astronomical data. Working in pairs, they will take this knowledge, as well as their learning about space in science class, and narratives in English, to explore an astronomy-related research question of interest and create a space show presentation that they will present to parents in the dome of the Hayden Planetarium.

This is truly a one-of-a-kind partnership with the AMNH; unique in its ongoing collaboration with the museum's experts and in our boys' private, continuing access to the planetarium and the Digital Universe software.

Boys learn best when they can benefit from the expertise of industry experts as well as their Saint David's teachers, and when their learning in and out of the classroom enables them to pose questions that require critical thinking and analysis. Our DUFS partnership does this, all while allowing our boys to take flight through our solar system and beyond.  Who could ask for more?

Monday, December 4, 2017

"Grandparents Day" for the Holidays

Christmas Carols sung by our Pre-K, Kindergarten and Omega boys filled St. Thomas More on Friday, where we held this year's Grandparents and Special Friends Day program.

Our youngest boys have been practicing hard for weeks with Music Chair Jeffrey Moore to nail the melody and rhythms of classics that included I Saw Three Ships and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Their repertoire also featured a traditional Spanish Carol, and the opportunity for all of us to sing along to some favorites.

Experiencing the holidays through the eyes and voices of our youngest boys was a joy for us all. It was so good to see so many of our boys' grandparents present. Our school's mission celebrates family; and the impact of grandparents on our lives is extremely special, a loving bridge to our past and our future.