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.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Exploring a World of Enzymes

Last week, Saint David's offered a summer program for rising sixth and seventh graders conducted through the school's ongoing collaboration with the DNA Learning Center of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the world's first science center devoted to genetics education. 

Participants entered the World of Enzymes, where they 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. Quite a week!

On Friday, the boys shared their findings with parents and family members. It is clear that they learned a lot, including how to properly use sophisticated laboratory equipment for their experiments, and were able to put their natural curiosity to work in the DNA field. 

The World of Enzymes is one of two week-long summer academic camps offered by Saint David's. The other, Secrets of the Civil War, begins this week.  It is provided through our partnership with The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Construction Update

The demolition of Graham House is fully underway with interior demolition of buildings 18 and 20 taking precedence.

This week the arches in the Hume Library are being carefully removed and reinstalled in the small gym, which will become a swing classroom and meeting space.

Hume Library North and South will be Eighth Grade homerooms for the next two years.  At the end of the project, Hume South will be a reference library (one of three libraries that the school will ultimately house), and North will be part of a new suite of First Grade classrooms that will run the length of 89th Street, all with the high ceilings and beautiful light the northern exposures of the Delano and Aldrich townhouses are known for.

This photo depicts the construction work being done to transform the sixth floor into a middle school regulation size gymnasium.

The last shot is of the sixth floor of the Graham House Wing with a new metal floor.  This will ultimately be a 7th grade classroom suite with a commons.

It is very exciting to see the work on this transformative project moving along and the plans starting to take shape!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Spain Summer Study Tour

A cohort of our rising eighth graders and a group of their teachers arrived in Salamanca, Spain, yesterday for the Spain Summer Study Tour.

Their arrival coincided with the Feast of the city's patron saint, San Juan de Sagahun, so the boys enjoyed a dramatic fireworks display last night.

For the next two weeks they will spend their mornings immersed in customized Spanish language classes at Colegio Unamuno, and their afternoons and evenings engaging in a variety of cultural experiences.

Today, they are enjoying a tour of the city, a visit to the bullfighting ring, and a tour of the bullfighting museum before a welcome dinner out at a restaurant.

This rich educational and cultural experience is available through Saint David's partnership with the University of Salamanca, the provincial government, and the local schools, which created a program that is customized for our boys.

It is a powerful way for the boys to augment and deepen what they have learned in their Spanish immersion classes at Saint David's over several years.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

37 New Alumni

These 37 incredible boys are our newest cohort of alumni.

I and their teachers congratulate and wish them a relaxing, well-deserved summer and all our best wishes as they set off in September to secondary schools near and far.

As I mentioned in my Commencement Remarks on Friday, I have seen them grow from their Pre-K days, developing into well mannered, confident young men who are ready for their next step. Like the David of our school's name, I am confident that they will step forward and lead with conviction and character whenever called upon. 

Return to Saint David's often, boys! Exciting things are happening at your alma mater, and you will always have a home here.

Friday, June 3, 2016

A Monumental Groundbreaking Moment

Thursday was a monumental day in the history of Saint David's School as we celebrated the groundbreaking for the school's consolidation, renovation, and expansion project in the lobby of Graham House. 

In his opening remarks, our Board President Dan Connolly '77 observed that the purchase of that building by Saint David's in 1972 was an "act of extraordinary courage and wisdom and vision that set us on a course 44 years long to this very moment...we stand on the precipice of the future of Saint David's, a wonderful moment."

Then came the big moment:  Our four student council officers broke through the wall that separates Graham House from the current school, repeating the action taken by our student council officers way back in 1953, when Saint David's School first expanded from 12 E 89th to the building immediately to its east.

We now officially begin this project, which will maximize the potential of our program in alignment with our mission, fulfilling a dream of our Founders.

Saint David's has been fortunate to have been served extremely well by bold leaders, stewards, professionals and benefactors in her past,  and her stewards, leaders, benefactors and professionals today are no exception.  Their remarkable vision, hard work, and dedication to the mission of this great school is an inspiration to us all.

The Founders would be proud.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016


This morning our fifth graders continued a great year-end tradition at Saint David's, The Fifth Grade Musical.

The boys performed Oliver! and they were fantastic, providing impressive performances and demonstrating great vocal ability.

They have been mastering the dialogue and musical numbers for weeks, and clearly gave it their all.

Congratulations to the cast on a job well done, and to their Producers/Teachers James Hubbard and Jamie MacNeille, Director Phyllis Clark, Musical Conductor Jeff Moore, and the Parent Committee of Cynthia Chapman, Susan Kissane, Tara Neumann, Joyce Restituto, and Ann Roberts.

Musical theater is alive and well at Saint David's!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Math With a Dash of Sports

Talking about math might not be so exciting for a fifth grader, but discussing baseball stats, that's something else!

Our fifth graders have participated in an interdisciplinary Math/Sports Week related to how statistics are used in baseball.

The boys learned how to calculate some statistics such as ERA and AVG, gained experience using a scorecard during their sports periods, and received an introduction on how to use an application called Game Changer to collect and analyze data. The unit is team taught, led by math teacher Bridget Gallagher and coach Craig Learn.

In their initial sessions, boys completed a visual about statistics and were introduced to three main baseball stats (AVG, OBS, and ERA).  They then used data from last year's 7th and 8th grade baseball team to calculate these stats.

By the end of the week, they assumed the role of baseball team manager of either the Yankees or Oakland A's looking at and analyzing player stats, and using their analysis to determine who should be in the starting lineup.

This is a great example of active, interdisciplinary learning that makes math engaging to our boys by demonstrating its practical application.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


The spirits of Chuck Close, Andy Warhol, Andrew Wyeth, William Wegman and Jeanne Claud and Christo, among others, were present in the Hume Library this Monday for the annual ARCO exhibit competition.

ARCO is the final project of the Eighth Grade Humanities Class, in which each boy is challenged to create a piece of work in the style of a famous modern artist, but with his own interpretation and analysis so that the pieces are homages, not imitations.

The boys also write a biography of their selected artist and reflect on the process they used to create the work, including what they found most challenging.

They presented their artwork and rationale to judges during the day on Monday, and in the evening their families attended a reception, the Salon de diplomes, in which the boys commented on their work.

This is such a grand finale in an interdisciplinary course that has become one of the cornerstones of Saint David's program of studies.

The humanities class deepens our boys' history and art history knowledge and understanding, while honing their research and public speaking skills.

I am always so impressed by the boys' maturation in these areas, as reflected by their ARCO projects.

Often, as I listen to a boy speak so expertly of his artwork--the approach he took, the problems he encountered along the way, the lessons he learned--I no longer see him as an eighth grade student, but rather, as a soon-to-be graduate.

More photos from the ARCO exhibit can be viewed at:

Saint David's In-House Bands at Rockwood Music Center

Cascade and Two Fifths Red, Saint David's two in-house bands, performed over the weekend at Rockwood Music Center, with Cascade featuring Mr. William Best in a rousing version of “My Girl.”

For a grand finale, both bands came on stage and played the first song they learned, “Rolling on the River.” 

As reported by our Music Chair Jeff Moore, "It was a spectacular show by these two very talented bands, and sadly, a farewell performance as the boys will all be attending new schools next year."

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Morning Music

This morning's spring concert was a celebration of the comprehensive music program at Saint David's. The Philharmonic Ensemble, Percussion Ensemble, and Chamber Singers all provided heartfelt, accomplished performances of diverse musical selections under the direction of Phil Hough, John Francis, and Phyllis Clark, and the overall leadership of Department Chair Jeff Moore.

Congratulations to all of the boys who performed this morning. It was an unparalleled display of talent and determination. The boys helped everyone in the audience start the day with a smile.

The clip below features highlights of the concert, and concludes with the Chamber Singers' rendition of "All Good Men," a song composed especially for Saint David's by parent Tom Kitt.


Monday, May 16, 2016

In Gratitude to U.S. Soldiers

In preparation for their Confirmation ceremony, our sixth graders made care packages to send to soldiers overseas in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Each boy wrote letters expressing their gratitude to our armed forces. They also participated in a Facetime call with a recent veteran, Captain Jonathan Anderson, who talked about his two tours of service and his experiences as a field artillery officer. 

They learned about the best items to send to soldiers and prepared a list, which included card games, spices/hot sauce, powder to enhance water, oatmeal and ramen noodles.

They then went home and collected supplies.

In total the boys made 22 care packages, which are being sent this week to bases around the world, expressing our thanks for protecting our country.

Friday, May 13, 2016

On Top of the World

They were on the "Top of the Rock" but may as well have been at the top of the world.

All of New York--an amalgam of steel, glass, river, sky, and concrete-- stretched out ahead of their gazes.

The clouds may have tried to obscure Lady Liberty, but the boys knew she was there, and where.

This year, first graders have been learning all about mapping and the geography and landmarks of their city. Today's field trip was an opportunity for them to apply their understanding.

They had a terrific time!