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, November 21, 2014

Turkey Run

Thanksgiving must be close... Today was Saint David's annual Turkey Run, which takes our second graders to Riverside Park for a 450-meter run. They have been training for this run every day throughout the fall in their athletics classes, and they sure were ready.

Parents and siblings came out to cheer on our young runners.

This was the 17th running of the Turkey Run at Riverside Park and the 42nd Turkey Run since its inauguration.  Originally, it was run by the 8th grade who circumnavigated the Central Park Reservoir at great speed.  The winner received a frozen turkey that he then ceremoniously donated to the Annual Thanksgiving food drive.  It was in the 1970s that the responsibility of the tradition shifted to the 2nd Grade, where it continues to reside to this day.

A great time was time had by all! (And every boy enjoyed the chocolate turkey treat that followed at day's end.)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Boys Build Wind Turbines in STEAM Unit

Boys in fifth grade are building wind turbines in a series of STEAM classes. In a session earlier this week, they drew diagrams of wind turbines, identifying the key components needed in order to generate electricity.

This was followed by a discussion on kinetic energy, gears, and what is needed to move electrons at sufficient speed in a circuit.

For the remainder of the class period, they experimented in small groups, with various size gear combinations as a first step to building their own turbines.

Today, using a fan and a multimeter which measures voltage, they observed the amount of current generated by rotors (blades and hubs) that varied in five areas:  length, material, number of blades, tilt or pitch, and shape of the blades. (See photo, below, and video at bottom.) 

This involved some problem solving: For one of the rotors, the blades were too large and created friction, slowing down the spinning. To address this, one boy suggested moving the rod forward to increase space for the blades to spin in.

Next, they will move from observation to experimentation as they work in teams, picking one of the five variables to change and test, while controlling for the other variables.

They will report back on their team’s findings and the class will use the data to then build the best rotor for their wind turbines.

One boy in the team that will test the effect of the number of blades (6 being the maximum) hypothesized, “I think 6 will be the best rotor, because more blades will catch more wind.”

Each boy in the room was excited and thoroughly engaged, and it was clear they were enjoying their work. As one put it: “This is a really fun unit. I like doing experiments, trying things out, and finding what happens.” Another commented, “I like that we are actually making something.”

"Trying things out" via trial and error, and using the results of the scientific process to create something tangible and useful, is a focus of our STEAM program which stresses problem solving skills.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Art and Community

Fifteen faculty and staff members gathered in our 6th floor art studios last Friday afternoon for a “Make Your Own Mug Pottery Party.” Pottery teachers Mark Sunderwirth and Melanie Fidler taught the mostly neophyte potters to hand build a mug or other vessel with coil and pinch pot techniques, encouraging participants to add creative and personal elements to their work.

One teacher made a pot in the shape of a blueberry muffin as a holiday gift for her husband, and another made a free-form coil pot which was inspired by undersea life.

“It was truly a fun, creative, and relaxing way to end the week and spend time with colleagues,” said one modern language teacher, “and clay is such a soothing medium to work with!” A follow up glazing session will be held the first week in December so that the artists can add color and complete their creations.

True community is an ideal of our school, and the pottery party is a great example of the many ways that our faculty and staff come together, during their free time, to share their talents and knowledge, and to enjoy each others' company.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Author Thomas Nazario at Saint David's

This morning, Saint David’s was fortunate to welcome Thomas Nazario, founder and president of The Forgotten International, a nonprofit organization that works to alleviate poverty, to speak to our seventh and eighth graders about his new book Living on a Dollar a Day: The Lives and Faces of the World’s Poor (Quantuck Lane Press, 2014)

After being introduced by two of our seventh grade student council members, Mr. Nazario began by telling the boys about a seminal moment during his youth in Spanish Harlem;  how at 4 1/2 years of age he saw a mother and child going through the garbage for dinner on Thanksgiving Day, and how that experience left an imprint on him.

He told the boys “If you love writing and have something to offer the world, you should do it.”  His new book addresses his work’s passion: in more than 200 photos and text, it tells stories of the world’s poor, the one-sixth of the world’s population that lives on a dollar a day or less.

In preparation for the talk, the boys submitted to Mr. Nazario essays about the things for which they are grateful. Impressed with the boys’ thoughtful writings, he commented that the most common responses were gratitude for family, friends, school, and health.

He commended the boys for expressing the realization that they are fortunate and blessed to have so much good in their lives. 

A discussion about extreme poverty, and the social, economic, and political factors that contribute to issues like lack of access to education and basic health care ensued. 

This led to reflection on our school’s ultimate aspiration for our boys to “be good men.”  At Saint David’s this is made real by doing good, and by having our boys reach out to help communities both near and far, in ways both big and small.  

For the seventh and eighth grade boys, the discussion around qualities of a good man were particularly significant, as the seventh grade will explore examples of Agents for the Good this year, and the eighth grade will examine how thinkers of the Renaissance can inform our definition of what it means to be a good man today.

As Mr. Nazario put it: “ We all have the opportunity to do some good to leave this world better than when we arrived. That's what makes a meaningful life.” 

It was a moving and inspirational morning. I am certain our boys left the Hume Library with much to ponder.

This morning’s talk was made possible through our Parents Association Author Series, which annually brings noted authors to the school to talk to and inspire our boys.

Monday, November 17, 2014

6th Grade 3D Math

Two 7th Grade boys, George and Aidan, helped present a special project at last week's ParentsAssociation meeting. 

Both boys are presently members of 7 Theta, but the project, which was developed and taught by Brendan Hannon, was part of their 6th grade math class last spring. It was the culminating project of a geometry unit on calculating the volume and surface area of solids and a great example of innovative, integrated curriculum at Saint David's.

Mr. Hannon, 6th Grade math teacher, challenged his students to design a city block that had a minimum volume of 150 square cm. The block must have a 10x10 cm “footprint” and have at least four buildings. 

Buildings could be designed using any of the solids the boys had learned about in class. Boys then had to explain which solids they used, and show the calculations for each of their buildings.

The procedure employed by Mr. Hannon had each of the boys create an account on tinkercad.com.  Once created, they processed through several of the tutorials to learn the basic functionalities of the software. Boys then spent approximately four classes designing, building, and then 3D printing their city blocks and calculating their volume. 

Boys who met these requirements were then challenged to calculate how much glass it would take to cover their buildings, introducing surface area.

In the fall of last year, as part of a series of hands-on technology workshops during Friday faculty curriculum time, Tech Integrator, Nora Sundar, lead a workshop on 3D design and printing for math, science, and art teachers. 

Brendan Hannon was intrigued by the process and the possibilities, and began working on designing 3D printing projects on his own, to explore the technology and build his own skills. 

By the spring term, when Brendon was teaching a unit on calculating volume and surface area of solids in 6th grade, he was excited to share his enthusiasm for 3D design and printing with his students in a way that he knew would motivate them and (quite literally) give their work a new dimension.
At Saint David's, technology is thoughtfully integrated.  The way we choose to integrate technology makes learning more active, and our teachers are the ones leading the way.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Third Grade Citizens of the World

At Ellis Island
Throughout the fall, our third graders have been studying late 19th and early 20th century immigration to this country and its impact on their city, state, and nation.

This is an active unit involving extensive learning beyond the classroom, close examination of primary sources, and cultivation of creativity.

It began in October when, after studying immigration history, trends and reasons in class, the boys visited Ellis Island where they explored primary sources and artifacts.

Then just last week, the boys engaged in a Mock Ellis Island activity in which they assumed the identities of immigrants going through all the steps of immigration processing, from being interviewed by health, education, and character inspectors, to experiencing the thrill of being "admitted," to the disappointment of being "quarantined" or "deported."

Immigrant undergoing processing during Mock Ellis Island.
Next week, the boys will visit the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side and experience the way immigrants lived in New York after arrival.

Through all of these activities, our boys develop an appreciation for the immigrant experience and begin to examine the many aspects of how we define culture and the contribution of immigrants to it. The boys will then use this foundation during the winter term, as they study the cultures of Haiti and South Korea, and engage in a related research project.

Admitted immigrants take oath of loyalty.
This is a rich unit of study for boys of this age. The ideas and ideals that drove, and still drive, immigration to this country are important for all citizens to consider, explore, and reflect upon.

It is equally vital that our boys, as citizens of the world, begin to understand and appreciate the various, and at times complex, similarities and differences among cultures, countries and societies around the topic of immigration.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Coffee Concert

I started my day early today in Hyman Hall listening to beautiful music.  In keeping with tradition, our Philharmonic Ensemble held an open rehearsal this morning in the form of a 'Coffee Concert'.

Parents were invited to a "behind the scenes" experience to capture a glimpse of their son's work and learning as a member of this most special of "teams."

I am always struck by the incredible difficulty of the pieces our boys perform--especially when I think about their ages, 9 to 14--and the relative ease and confidence with which they play them.

This morning's program included: Haydn's "St. Anthony Chorale,"  Mozart's Overture to "Lucio Silla," and the "Dance of the Tumblers" from Rimsky-Korsakoff's "Snow Maiden".

Following is a short clip from Handl's piece:


At Loyola

Last week I had the great pleasure of spending time at Loyola with alums: Henry, '11, Nicholas '11, Tomaso '11, Luke '11, Henry '11, John '12, Peter '12, Jack '12, Jaime '12, Filipo '13, William '14, Michael '14, and Colin '14.  Joined by Mr. Imbelli, we sat for lunch in the conference room surrounded by impressive framed art pieces created by seniors.

Five Saint David's alums are graduating from Loyola this year. All the boys clearly enjoy their school and felt well prepared by Saint David's for high school. 

The boys also offered several suggestions for strengthening our program as well as several aspects of their experience at Saint David's they would never want to see change. It was an enjoyable, productive visit.

Seeing Saint David's boys thrive just never gets old.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

At Taft

At Taft visiting Alexander '11, Freddy '12, Henry '12, Graham '13, Conrad '13, John '13, Zach '14, Ben '14, and Frank '14 in the Faculty Room.  Great opportunity to catch up. Boys are spirited and happy.

At Salisbury

At Salisbury with Billy '11 and Bennett '14. Beautiful Day. Boys thriving.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Math as Game

On Monday the Pythagoreans won the school's  Math Bowl, achieving a final score of 200, with the other teams making strong showings.

The Math Bowl is an annual math department contest in which four teams of our boys in Grades Five through Eight solve a series of math problems, created by their teachers.

The problems present real-life scenarios and require the multi-step application of abstract mathematical concepts to tangible situations.

It is impressive to witness how comfortable, quick, and accurate the boys are with the problems posed.

All the Upper School boys attended the contest, and the cheering in the room was indicative of the fun that can be had at school, even when solving math problems! 

Father-Son Alums Give Chapel on Our Ethiopia School

Alums Skakel McCooey ’13 and his father John McCooey ’72 gave a joint Chapel talk to our seventh and eighth grades on the school our boys recently built in Ethiopia. Both Skakel and John were members of the Saint David’s contingent that traveled with me to the Saint David’s Kalina School this past June for its official opening ceremonies.

Skakel, who was one of the three Student Council Presidents who led the project, spoke about how the combined efforts of all of the boys of Saint David’s and their teachers, in particular Tom Ryan, over three years of fundraising, had resulted in the successful construction of the school.

“Through seemingly unrelated fundraisers, the bake sales, softball games, walk-a-thons, we built a school and we changed peoples’ lives,” he said. For Skakel, the moment that stood out most was when he was about to leave the school: “I saw on one side the old mud structure that used to serve as a school, and then on the other side, the cinder block building, the school that we built, which had separate bathrooms, even a garden, and which the parents voted unanimously to send their children to.”