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, September 21, 2017

STEAM Inspiration

The following article on our new STEAM suite by Director of Curriculum Integration and Science Chair Nora Sundar appears in the current issue of Saint David's Magazine:

Upper School Science Lab rendering courtesy of Platt Byard Dovell White
Science faculty are eagerly planning new units and prototyping new tools that will inspire boys to take full advantage of the new science, technology, engineering, artistic design, and math (STEAM) spaces in the expanded Saint David’s. When feeling squeezed during the “Great Compression,” we imagine working with students in our three new sunny and spacious science labs, brainstorming in the STEAM Commons, or tinkering with an invention in the specialized INNOVATION workshop, outfitted with sophisticated technology and fabrication tools. We are keenly anticipating the opening of the newly expanded school in the fall of 2018!

Sharing classrooms, offices, and prep space this unusual year has not always been easy. However, one of the great joys has been the hundreds of serendipitous conversations that have bubbled up in and around the interfaces and intersections between art and science as faculty of both departments work side by side in these cozy conditions. The new STEAM suite places science labs adjacent to the art studios, around a STEAM Commons, and art and science faculty will share office space. This will further foster the exciting cross-pollination of ideas, and provide spaces to include students in our lively conversations and collaborations!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Human Graph in Algebra

y = x/2
Eighth graders in Mark Doocey's math class recently used our backyard as a giant co-ordinate plane when they were introduced to graphing linear and quadratic functions. The boys were assigned a value for x and had to move to the correct position on the plane when shown each linear and quadratic function.

By doing so, the boys formed a line or parabola, part of the solution set of the function.

y = (x/2)^2
This exercise allowed the boys to experience how their positions and the shape of the graph changed for different functions, and when each variable of a particular function was altered.

y = 16/x
Giving the boys a way to learn kinesthetically helps them conceptualize the algebra underpinning the concepts that they learn later in the classroom.

Another great aspect to an activity like this is that when the boys realize they aren't "in line" with the group and have to self correct, it provides an opportunity for co-operative learning. Each member of the group is responsible not only for learning what is taught, but also for helping his classmates learn, creating an atmosphere of supportive, collaborative achievement.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Learning About and Creating Art at the Guggenheim

A visit to the rotunda to observe the organic forms in Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece, followed by close study of Braque's use of color with a museum educator in the Tannhauser Gallery, and the opportunity to put brush to canvas in the on-site Sackler Center for Arts Education.

This is a typical session of our second graders' series of art classes conducted at the Guggenheim, through our partnership with the iconic museum, now in its second year.

Working with Guggenheim educator Ms. Hollie Ecker and their Saint David's art teachers Melanie Fidler and Hannah Frassinelli, our boys have the opportunity over several weeks to view in person and discuss world class pieces of abstract art, and to let that discussion inform their own artistic creations.

Through this process, the boys develop an increased vocabulary around art, explore color theory, and engage in active problem solving in the studio, while drawing inspiration from renowned artists. These skills increase their appreciation of the aesthetic and also translate to other disciplines. A solid foundation in art that begins when our boys are young helps them as they begin to work to their potential.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

STEAM with a Cardboard Box

Second graders began their STEAM learning this year with a cardboard building challenge. Collaborating in teams, the boys used corrugated cardboard boxes to build a structure that one or more of the boys could fit into.

For this project, which took place over four sessions, the boys first reflected on themes from a book "Iggy Peck, Architect" read aloud to them by their teacher, Mrs. Sundar.

They then practiced using tools and techniques for "Cardboard Carpentry" at a variety of work stations, sketched designs for their structures, combined best ideas into their "Team Plan," and finally built and tested their structures.

Young boys engaged in active learning--engineers at work!

A New Music Suite

The new issue of Saint David's Magazine features several articles related to the exciting ways our school's new spaces will be used, allowing us to be "All That We Can Be."  Below, Music Department Chair Jeffrey Moore "daydreams" about the project's impact on our music and performing arts program.

Rendering courtesy of Platt Byard Dovell White Architects
I was daydreaming the other day. It was a quiet Sunday morning, and as I rode my bike along the Hudson River, I was imagining what the new Saint David’s School will be like in one more year.
I envisioned our spacious new music rooms being utilized by every boy in the school, in use throughout the school day. Boys in Pre-K and Kindergarten exploring different instruments during their classes, listening to music of the great composers, and exploring movement and song. First, second, and third graders working together in small groups with iPads and laptops, learning to read music, to see and hear it in a completely different way.

Fourth and Fifth Grade instrumental classes in close proximity, able to perform for each other at any time. Teachers relieved of the extra time needed for moving instruments and setting up for classes. Sixth, seventh, and eighth graders finding a moment during a study hall or lunch to sit in the beautiful hallways or open spaces, working on compositions or playing music together. And boys taking private instrumental lessons in several sound-proofed practice rooms designed just for that purpose. Music instruction in rooms dedicated to helping our boys do their very best learning.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Welcome, and Welcome Back!

There's always a flurry of excitement on "opening day" that jolts us out of the summer into the promise and potential of fall. Yesterday was no exception. The boys and their teachers are ready for a year of engaging learning experiences.

Our school-wide theme this year, Omnium nobis ("all that we can be"), is drawn from the first line of Saint David's Alma Mater. It speaks to the fulfillment of our boys' potential and our mission's ultimate aspiration for them, "that they be good men."

In my opening letter to our community, I note that it has been said there are only two important days in life: the day we are born and the day we figure out why. It is not possible to answer the why without discovering who we are and what we are capable of achieving.

As we begin Saint David's 67th year, we are eager, as a supportive and caring community, to guide our boys on their unique journeys of self discovery.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Standing in New Space

Faculty standing in space of new Performing Arts Center stage.
During yesterday's faculty meeting, I took all faculty and staff on a hard hat tour of several new spaces in our soon-to-be expanded Saint David's School. They visited the new lobby, performing arts center, fourth floor gymnasium and 8th Grade commons, and enjoyed a view from above of the new middle school regulation size gymnasium.

Our new middle school regulation size gymnasium space.
The two beams signed by donors, faculty and boys, installed in the ceiling of the new large gym.
Being able to stand in spaces that are still taking shape, but are increasingly coming into focus, provided the opportunity to imagine more concretely their powerful, positive impact on program and our community.

Faculty taking in our new lobby area.
These are such exciting days at Saint David's. We look forward to school starting next week as we continue to envision all that we can be--all that we will be!

Painting in a Performing Arts Center

Each August, just prior to the beginning of school, I host a theme-related retreat for the Saint David's leadership team. Usually, we travel off campus to participate in a shared experience that is connected to the school's mission. We have hiked, cooked, raced, meditated, sailed, flown.

This year was different.

Instead of leaving 89th Street, Cabinet members spent Monday morning in the space where our amazing new performing arts center will stand. Our theme this year is "Omnium Nobis--All that we can be."  I wanted the team to explore that theme with paint.

After participating in an art lesson by Art Studio New York, each team member was charged with creating a painting and envisioning the school experience and "all that we can be" as we begin a year-long countdown to the opening of our new facilities. They were inspired by iconic images of Saint David's representing our four foundational pillars, one of which is, aptly, the arts.

I wanted the leadership team to spend a chunk of time "in the belly of the beast," surrounded by its bones, enjoying the opportunity to get acquainted with the "new school" and to experience the construction going on literally around them.  All buildings have character, a feel, getting to "know" a new building as it begins to take shape is an important part of accepting the change it will inevitably bring.

This undoubtedly will be an exciting, action packed school-year at 12 East 89th Street. Monday provided Cabinet members the opportunity to inhabit soon-to-be new space, and to quietly reflect on what is and what is to be.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Summer '17 Construction On Schedule

Summer construction remains on schedule and the school is abuzz with activity.

Much of the work this summer is focused on the Basement level of Buildings 12, 14 and 16 (the original Schoolhouse).  Work includes the complete renovation of the kitchen along with the expansion of the Small Dining Room and the addition of new Life Safety Systems, HVAC equipment (the entire new and old school will be air conditioned), structural support, and data and telecommunications drops.

New Kitchen Framing
New Kitchen Storage Room Framing
Installation of FRP Panels on the Exterior Wall
New Life Safety System Installation
New Sprinkler Systems Throughout the Original Schoolhouse
(Buildings 12-16)
Sprinkler Install Outside PreK

Following the completion of shear wall construction, exterior brick installation is now underway along the west wall and will continue along the south, then east walls of Graham House.  Glazing will follow in the fall with the aim of complete enclosing and sealing of the entire superstructure before the winter.

New Shear Wall and Exterior Wall at First Floor (New Omega Classroom)
Newly Poured Slab and Waiting Steel at 3rd Floor
West Wall Exterior Brick Installation

Facade work and brick cutouts at the fire escapes of Graham House, along with pointing, continue on the north and east walls.

Facade Work North Wall

Within Graham House the stair and elevator core of Building 18 is being demolished and new steel added at each floor.  This is the most complex part of this summer's work, requiring incredible coordination of trades, materials and personnel. Demo began at the top and is working its way down through new and old construction.  All the steel for this section was successfully delivered to the site several weeks ago and placed out on each floor.

Facade water proofing continues on the southern and western walls.  Fireproofing also continues on floor undersides.

5th Floor Stair D (Building 18) Demo

New Steel 5th Floor Building 18.
This will be repeated for each floor all the way down Bldg 18.

After the steel goes in, steel decking follows.  Here's a shot of the 6th floor completed with decking before the concrete floor is poured.

6th Floor Building 18 Decking

6th Floor Decking Going Down
New Upper Gym Looking SE

New Upper Gym Looking SW

Finally, this is a shot of roof abatement and bulkhead removal.

Roof Bulkhead and Abatement

Monday, July 17, 2017

Year Six of Horizons Program

The 100 boys participating in Horizons at Saint David's are well into the six-week program, enjoying the hot days of summer immersing themselves in reading, music, art, writing, math, STEM projects, swimming lessons, field trips to local museums, and sports. 

Our program, now in its sixth year, includes students from four elementary schools in Harlem, who will enter Grades One through Six come September, and aims to prevent the common problem of academic summer learning loss among children in lower-income families. Social-emotional learning is also infused throughout each day.

New this year is the addition of full time athletic director Keith Williams and our partnership with Ramapo for Children, an organization that provides training programs to educators working with children who may face obstacles to learning. Ramapo works with our teachers and volunteers, providing practical strategies on how to best address the students' needs.

Horizons at Saint David's began in 2012, when Saint David's became an affiliate of Horizons National through an initiative to contribute to the greater good beyond our immediate community. 

On average, Horizons' students move ahead two - three months in reading and math skills after participating in the program.  Horizons at Saint David's has an impressive retention rate of 91% and an attendance rate of 95%. It's a robust program, led by Director Meg Sheridan and Co-Program Directors Meghan Patterson and Courtney Sanchez, supported by Saint David's faculty members who teach the boys, and a dozen of our Saint David's alumni volunteers who are in high school.

This year, as in last, The Nightingale Bamford School has allowed us to hold the program on their campus because of the ongoing construction here at Saint David's. We very much appreciate the generosity and support from our friends at NBS.

For more information on Horizons at Saint David's, please visit http://www.saintdavids.org/horizons