Welcome

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.



Monday, July 14, 2014

Year Three of Horizons

Two of the boys at Swimming (Asphalt Green)
Horizons at Saint David's is part way through its third summer.  We have 50 rising First, Second, and Third Grade boys from four schools in Harlem participating in the program this year.  Two thirds of the boys are here for their second or third summer, with one third here for their first.  Following are some highlights to date:

The third graders are now receiving two hours of swim instruction per week (first and second continue to receive 1 hour).

Horizons has developed a strong STEM strand in the curriculum this year with first graders studying the weather and water cycle; second graders learning about computer programing through “Bee Bots"; and third graders constructing their own rockets with stomp launchers.  Through this process the boys are becoming familiar with the design cycle and how mistakes provide the perfect opportunity to redesign and adjust.

Horizons' boys reentering Saint David's
after a fire drill this morning.
Long-time Saint David's teacher and Horizons music teacher, David Bell, has written a new Horizons song to unite and celebrate the program.  The boys have been singing it with gusto.

This year, the program introduced a new morning meeting on Fridays where boys from each class receive the “Horizons All Star” Award.  The award recognizes and celebrates a specific contribution made by a few of the boys each week.

There are several field trips planned, including the Guggenheim, Met, Jewish Museum, and Museum of the City of New York.  The boys will also be visiting Marymount for their production of Peter Pan and Mulan, and to visit their “Fab Lab.”

A highlight of the program this summer includes the participation of six young alum volunteers, up from four last year.  One of the aims of the program is to bring young alums back to Saint David's in the summers to contribute to the greater common good by volunteering their services.  Nicholas, Justin, Cooper, James, Colin, and John are representing with distinction.

In addition to our great staff of teachers from the Saint David’s faculty, Horizons is pleased to welcome its first  teacher from PS112.  The program is also proud to welcome its first set of siblings, a first and second grader.

Saint David's is fully alive, even in the summer.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Secrets of the Civil War


In partnership with The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, Saint David’s School offered a one-week summer camp at the New-York Historical Society for rising Sixth and Seventh Grade boys.

Secrets of the Civil War is another of Saint David's new programs that expand and extend history and research skill exploration beyond the walls of the classroom through close partnerships with leading cultural and scientific institutions.

Through a wide range of activities, participants in the camp expanded their background knowledge of the Civil War. They observed and sketched Civil War objects and textiles on display at the New-York Historical Society. 

The boys learned how to carefully handle authentic Civil War objects from the Gilder Lehrman Collection, including daguerreotypes printed during the 1860s and the contents of a soldier’s footlocker, featuring a 150-year-old biscuit. 

Boys listened to a live presentation of music played during the Civil War, and they met with a re-enactor representing a Civil War soldier from the New York Colored Troops.
 
Boys read collections of letters that were written during the Civil War but never published. Before working with the originals, boys learned about the conservation and handling of documents.

Working in teams of two or three, boys decided on a Civil War topic or theme they wanted to explore. They learned to transcribe the Civil War letters, which involved decoding unfamiliar symbols and deciphering multiple pages of handwritten letters. 

Boys quickly became adept at skimming the letters for information related to their themes.

Acting as curators, boys decided on which excerpts of the letters to feature in the iBook stories they created. They included pictures of sketches and cartoons from original Harper's Weekly issues printed during the Civil War era as well as images of the objects and artifacts they observed from the collections of the Gilder Lehrman Institute and New-York Historical Society.

Throughout the process, boys worked closely with the Chief Curator of the Gilder Lehrman Collection and a Saint David’s teacher to grapple with questions historians ask: Whose voice? How does the source affect your understanding? Why do documents matter?

During the last day of the camp, boys presented the findings of their research to their parents, siblings, faculty and visitors from the Gilder Lehrman Institute and New-York Historical Society. Their presentations on Civil War camp life, prison camps, the leadership of General McClellan, and important battles were impressive.


World of Enzymes


As part of the school's partnership with The DNA Learning Center of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Saint David’s offered a one-week summer camp, World of Enzymes, for boys entering Grades Six and Seven.
 
During the third week of June, boys were immersed in an environment of hands on activities and laboratory experiments designed to increase genetic literacy, encourage critical and creative thinking and spark interest in the field of biotechnology. 

Working with a geneticist from the DNALC, boys learned basic concepts of biochemistry and molecular biology and utilized advanced techniques to manipulate DNA. Through direct observation and manipulation of enzymes, boys developed an understanding of the importance of proteins, not only in living things, but also in recombinant DNA technology, cloning, and industry.

World of Enzymes is another of Saint David's new programs that expand and extend math and science exploration beyond the walls of the classroom through close partnerships with leading cultural and scientific institutions.

 Boys built molecular models; observed enzymatic reactions that are used for food production and healthcare; used enzymes to cut and splice DNA; analyzed DNA with gel electrophoresis; and prepared a personal DNA fingerprint.
During one of their favorite activities “Bubbling Liver,” boys placed a piece of calf’s liver, which contains the enzyme catalase, into a cup of hydrogen peroxide. Boys observed the enzyme at work as it digested poisonous hydrogen peroxide molecules into simple, harmless molecules, causing the liquid in the cup to bubble over and the temperature to increase.

Boys combined the enzyme emporase with milk to observe how enzymes are used in cheese production. Boys also learned how to reduce the lactose in milk by filtering the milk through beads created by combing a lactase/alginate mixture with a calcium chloride solution.

Following a series of extended protocols, boys practiced using restriction enzymes, the molecular “scissors,” and ligase enzymes, the molecular “glue,” to cut and paste DNA fragments. Boys analyzed the DNA using gel electrophoresis.

On the final day of the camp, boys became teachers and explained the week’s activities to visiting parents, siblings, and members of the faculty and administration. As the boys discussed their work, their enthusiasm for the subject matter was palpable.  




Monday, June 23, 2014

Expedition Ethiopia: A School Built

On our last day in Ethiopia, the contingent from Saint David's School, New York City arrived at the Saint David's Kalina School.  Led by the three Student Council Presidents Colin '11, Jack '12 and Skakel '13, the contingent was met by an excited mass of children, family members and teachers.

It was a hot and dusty day, but none of it tempered the spirits of those visiting or those being visited.  This first clip is upon arrival:

video


At Kalina today and at Mimi's school yesterday we were greeted with traditional dance and song.  A few short clips follow to illustrate.  Ethiopian dance is all about the shoulders, neck and head:

video


Between the two visits, Colin, Jack, Skakel and I managed to catch lunch in Mek'ele where we reflected on the trip to date.

The boys each expressed feeling moved by the impact of their hard work and the work of their respective classes and the Saint David's students.

They were proud of their efforts and the obvious impact their efforts have had on the education of children in another part of the world--a part of the world that could not have achieved their dreams without the help of others.

At the schools, the boys took every opportunity to spend time interacting with the children.  Colin took some shots on goal with some of the boys.



Skakel drew a crowd that tried its best to share names.

Jack wrote with chalk on the board, showing a small group of 2nd graders just how it's done.

This last short chip shows the boys being introduced in the classroom.




video




Sunday, June 22, 2014

One Down, One to Go: The 7th in Salamanca,

This blog entry is adapted from a letter I just received from Tour Leader Dr. Gilbert:

The boys had a tremendous first week, capped off by a wonderful weekend. On Friday, the 7th graders played indoor soccer, or "futsal" with a group of local students and really enjoyed seeing how their skills compared to the faster paced play of the local Spaniards. One of their baseball catchers even volunteered to cover the net and made 2 out of 4 possible saves!

Yesterday and today were special days as the group traveled to Segovia, Avila, Ledesma, and Arribes del Duero in Portugal.

Early Saturday morning, some of the boys joined in for the classic churros & chocolate treat from Graci's around the corner from the residence. They then headed off to see the aqueduct and the Alcazar (castle) of Segovia. Their guide was so entranced by the boys' curiosity and great listening skills that she accompanied them into the castle to continue sharing her expertise on her own time.  


The group then split up in cohort groups to enjoy a Segovian lunch at different points in the city. This combined with some souvenir shopping made it possible for the boys to practice their burgeoning language skills with the locals. 

They capped off the end of the day with a walk around the town of Avila, visiting the reliquary of St. Teresa (boys especially enjoyed seeing her finger complete with ring). They finished by marching along a kilometer of the medieval wall that still surrounds the city. The boys imagined hot oil and archers beside them as the enemy approached and just what it would take to want to mount an attack on such a structure. 

By evening, the group had tasted cinnamon almond cookies typical of the area and stopped for their group photo at the four posts where it is said that St. Teresa kicked the dust of Avila off her sandals as she was leaving town, in disgust, because the locals refused to support her work in founding a new order.

Today, the group began its day with a tour of the medieval city of Ledesma, where tragic histories & black legends abound. It was fascinating for the boys to see the whole town on the outskirts celebrating the running of the bulls (many towns celebrate their own version of Pamplona's more well known one on the feast of their patron saint). 


After a tour of the different Christian, Jewish, and Muslim quarters, the boys paused for a classic "tortilla de patata" made by the local restaurant freshly for them!  Many of the boys are now converts to this delicious, ubiquitous Spanish food. 

The afternoon was spent picnicking in Miranda do Douro, Portugal which gave us a wonderful view of the gorge canyon we were about to travel on a boat. With a sports break and a newly discovered water ball game, the boys ended up having lots of fun. After their tour on the ferryboat, the boys were treated to a showcase of birds of prey including 3 different types of owls, a gyrfalcon, a bald eagle, a royal eagle, and 2 types of vultures. Many were able to hold the creatures and have their picture taken.
 

Some of the boys have been heard speaking to each other in Spanish in the dormitory and the teachers rejoice in how eagerly they share what they have learned in our ticket game--the group plays cultural Q & A with raffle tickets for a souvenir raffle on the last day. 

Tomorrow, the 7th graders will visit the market where they will be in charge of purchasing the ingredients for a paella we make at the school on Tuesday night.
 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Kalina, Day 6


The group woke early this morning for its 2 1/2 hour drive south from Mek'ele to Kalina. A beautiful, clear sky morning greeted us. The rainy season, it would appear, remains late. It was a fresh 16 degrees Celsius. 


Save the Children in their 4X4 led the way as we moved in convoy up and over the Gira Castle Mountains and through several small villages. Children frequently ran onto the road calling "Chinese, Chinese".  

To many of the locals in this remote region of Tigray, the only foreigners they see are the Chinese whose government is working on rebuilding old roads (ones built by the Italians during their occupation), and building new roads. 

The smell of Acacia wood (introduced from Australia in the late 1800s) burning in breakfast fires filled the valleys and plains as we moved through the canyons. 

Unlike Bahri Dar, Addis, Condar, and Lulibela, most of the dwellings in this region are made of stone, chiseled and laid to form houses where it's found. 

Christian farmers dominate the highlands in the center north, while Muslim herders and traders occupy the lowlands in the east, where we are now. 

We saw herds of camel and cattle and many small markets at crossroads all along our route. 


Our convoy pulled off the main road around 8 am and drove the last part of our journey to Kalina on unpaved road. 


The approach to the school was surrounded by large cacti 8 to 10 feet high on both sides of the road. 


A light, grey dust billowed around and behind the cars as they made their way toward the school's main entrance. 


As we approached children singing and chanting "welcome guests" streamed out of the school's front gate--the movement of their feet added to the clouds of dust already hanging in the air from our vehicles. 

Popcorn was thrown in the air like confetti at a wedding. The boys carried long wooden rods as they marched and chanted; the girls danced, clapped and sang. 



After the initial welcome and presentations the children lined up and filed into their classrooms. 





We were then greeted by the village elders and parents. With the help of our translator we exchanged formal welcomes, introductions, and gifts.  We explained the course of events over the past 6 years that led to this day and expressed our profound gratitude for such a warm welcome. 


To conclude opening remarks and on behalf of the faculty and the school, I presented the Principal with a pair of books, both Saint David's publications that chronicle the history of Saint David's and the hymns and prayers important to the school. He was thrilled. 



The Student Council presidents presented Saint David's hats and t-shirts to the Principal. He then put the hat on his head, with pride. 


Saint David's parents presented sweets to the Kalina parents. 


Our Save the Children rep Cheryl Anderson also presented a gift to the head of the PTA. 


After the formal ceremonies, we moved into the classrooms for a tour and interactions with the children. 








Saint David's Kalina School consists of a main classroom building, an admin block, and latrines. 




To conclude our visit, the Kalina teachers invited us in for a traditional coffee ceremony complete with incense.  It was delicious. Best coffee ever. I was asked to cut the freshly made bread to begin the ceremony and we also all enjoyed popcorn and fresh goat's milk. 


The Principal came to say a final goodbye and expressed his gratitude. 



A teacher. 


Herding by our cars. 

More to come when I get home. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Mek'ele, Day 5

Colin '11 is leading us in a game of Spades at our Mek'ele hotel while we wait for the rest of our party.  It's been a long, complicated, but productive day.

Ethiopian Air, using their infinite wisdom, decided to cancel our early morning flight.  We had to unexpectedly revert to plan B.  I took the three presidents and Mr. Dearie with me on the next available flight out of Addis, while the remainder of our contingent did their best to make the most of an extended stay in the nation's capital. They'll be arriving late this afternoon. 


In the meantime, the boys and I, after arriving in Mek'ele in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, visited Dagia Reinhold School, about 5 miles outside Mek'ele. 


The trip though took some time. Our van couldn't quite make it all the way to the school due to crater like ruts in the earthen road. We got out and did the last stretch on foot. 


It was all worth it. Our welcome was spirited and warm. The children were excited. They ran from their classrooms to greet us with traditional greetings in song, chanting, and dance. We then visited their classrooms and shared time together. 







It's hot and very dry. Vegetation is sparse, topography mountainous, and the predominant lifestyle is centered on subsistence farming. 





Mimi O'Hagan, a wonderful friend of Saint David's, helped build this school. Tomorrow, we will visit Saint David's Kalina School.  The purpose of our trip.