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.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Exploring the Cape

Our seventh graders are away this week on Cape Cod with their classmates and teachers.

This Saint David's tradition is aligned with the seventh grade curriculum, bringing to life what the boys study in class. Their days are full and the program interdisciplinary: a marine life cruise, the challenging Great Island Hike, exploration of the marsh, sessions on marine chemistry through our partnership with research scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, observational drawing, STEAM activities, journaling, and, of course, a long bike ride, clam bake and sports.

The Cape Cod experience exemplifies our commitment to learning that occurs outside of school, in this case in the sea and on the sands of the beautiful natural environment of the Cape. It also importantly provides our boys with a special opportunity to connect with each other and their teachers, building the bonds of a strong community.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

New Partnership with Manhattan Children's Center

In an effort to help boys develop empathy and compassion for children with special needs, Saint David's has partnered with Manhattan Children's Center, a school on the Upper West Side that provides treatment and education to children with autism. This fall and winter each second grade class will visit MCC six times, where our boys will have the opportunity to engage in activities with MCC students. 

This week, educators from MCC are visiting Saint David's to help us prepare for our visits. Yesterday, the outreach director led a one-hour professional development workshop for teachers. She will return on Thursday to meet with each of the second grade homerooms, leading the boys in a discussion about ways we are all the same and ways we are different. Our boys will then engage in a partner activity in which they need to "turn their voices off" to communicate an idea to one of their classmates; this experience will help them to better understand helpful strategies for communicating with their buddies at MCC - such as repeating directions, being patient, or giving a high-five. 

This new partnership with MCC provides our boys with an authentic opportunity to engage with children in our community who experience the world differently than they do. Instead of being wary of difference, our boys will learn to embrace it.

Monday, October 16, 2017

"All That They Can Be" at Frost Valley

Sixth grade boys and their teachers are back from their two days at Frost Valley, YMCA in Claryville, New York.

While there, the boys participated in a hike to a 40-foot waterfall and a variety of team-based and individual challenges, including a high-ropes course that encouraged them to step out of their comfort zones. They also took advantage of the on-site observatory on a clear night to view Saturn and Andromeda--an experience that was a perfect introduction to the boys' extensive astronomy unit.

This two-day experience provides the boys with the opportunity to strengthen ties with their classmates as they participate in various team-building challenges. They come to realize how important it is to rely upon others, as well as to employ one's ingenuity in order to meet with success.

In order to be all that they can be, our boys have the support of a caring cohesive community that begins with their peers.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Up and Out in Grade 2

Our second graders are "up and out"-- engaging in active learning experiences that deepen understanding across disciplines.

The boys are in the midst of their art unit conducted through the school's partnership with the Guggenheim, studying the works of abstract masters in the museum's collection before applying principles and techniques learned to their own creations.

This week, they drew inspiration from the rotunda of the iconic museum itself.

They also have begun their unit of history on early Manhattan with the New-York Historical Society. N-YHS Educators work with our second grade teachers as the boys explore artifacts, and use hands-on experiences and activities to understand the life of the Lenape people. 

Yesterday, as part of this study, the grade went on a field trip to Inwood Park to further explore Lenape culture.

Throughout our program and in all grades, we take advantage of the phenomenal resources of our great city to provide learning experiences that occur beyond the school's walls.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

All That We Can Be: New Visual Arts Spaces Expand Creativity

The following article by Art Chair Jenna Boccella appears in the current issue of Saint David's Magazine.

New Art Room, rendering courtesy of Platt, Byard, Dovell, White

Boys thrive when they have plenty of room to move, grow, learn, and express themselves physically, intellectually, spiritually and artistically. The new visual arts spaces at Saint David’s will allow students to more freely expand the boundaries of their creative experiences while remaining firmly grounded in the school’s commitment to the aesthetic, one of the four pillars of the school’s education. Visual arts faculty are eagerly anticipating the opening of these new spaces in the fall of 2018 with an eye to maximizing their design in order to support, broaden, and enrich our already strong curriculum.

Two large multi-media studios will be located on the third floor of the new building facing south and east. Large windows, already part of 22 East 89th Street, line the eastern wall allowing for abundant morning light. Glass doors on the southern side of the studio will lead to a terrace, where students will be able to work outdoors and where plants can grow to be used as subjects for projects.

A moveable frosted glass wall in between the two spaces will allow for greater flexibility of scheduling, and the option to teach whole homerooms or divide classes into small groups. Art shows will also be held in this large, open area. Large, deep utility sinks will allow for quick cleanup for wet media. Custom made modular tables on wheels will allow teachers a broad range of options for arranging ideal movement and flow of work and demonstration areas.

New Pottery Room, rendering courtesy of Platt, Byard, Dovell, White

The pottery room, much larger than the current space, will be adjacent and include prep and kiln rooms as well as an upgraded ventilation system to keep the environment dust-free. The large, new woodworking studio will be located on the sixth floor. It will comfortably hold twelve students and be outfitted with high quality tools and equipment.

These new spaces will allow the department to reach curricular goals that have been germinating for over twenty years, but that were not previously feasible due to space limitations. For example, fourth, fifth, and sixth graders will now be able to attend art, woodworking, and pottery classes in half homeroom groups for a full semester, rather than in trimesters, affording boys time to more deeply explore each discipline, hone skills, realize projects, and learn through trial and error. Also, all grades in Pre-K through Eight will come to dedicated art spaces rather than having teachers visit classrooms as they currently do.

Ms. Boccella with eighth grade observational drawing class

The art and pottery studios’ proximity to the new STEAM spaces and a shared Commons area will foster collaboration between visual arts, science, technology, and math programs, and create an environment in which these departments share equipment, ideas, and philosophies.

Displaying their work for the community to enjoy viewing is a key part of the students’ art experiences at Saint David’s. In our current, compressed building, there are very few places to show the fruits of our boys’ creative efforts. The new building will boast many large, light-filled areas to highlight student art, both in the planned art suite as well as in other areas around the new building. 

There will be magnetized whiteboard walls lining the studios as well as the Commons area, where there will also be one large wall of self-healing material on which to display two-dimensional pieces. Hannah Frassinelli, art teacher in Omega and Grades Two through Six, mentioned how much she is looking forward to holding student critiques in the comfortable and casual Commons area with the boys’ works in progress hanging on the magnetized walls.

New Woodshop, rendering courtesy of Platt, Byard, Dovell, White

Mr. Gary Kessler, who has been teaching woodworking at Saint David’s since 1985, looks forward to teaching in a state-of-the-art woodshop with dedicated areas for certain tasks such as sanding, construction, power tools, and detail work, as well as space for two lathes which are currently in storage. Boys will be able to return to wood turning projects in the expanded shop.

Throughout the school’s history, Saint David’s boys have benefited from rich art making experiences that deepen their appreciation of the aesthetic. Our new art rooms will broaden, enhance, and expand these experiences.

The new building at the corner of 89th and Madison and the visual arts spaces that it will house will be a tremendous boon for the boys and faculty of Saint David’s. It will allow our excellent faculty to reach curricular goals that we have hoped to reach for many years while practicing their craft in beautifully designed, commodious spaces. These spaces will optimize the potential for boys to learn good studio habits, experience a large range of media and techniques, and to practice “thinking and doing like artists.”

The skills, routines, and habits of mind that boys will acquire in these special rooms will be an integral part of the careful observers, balanced thinkers, creative problem solvers, and “good men” that they will become. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Cup Stays Up!

Saint David's Red Team made Charles Osgood and our entire school proud yesterday.

With a final score of 1-0 White (loss) and 2-2 Red (tie), The Cup remains in its rightful position!

While Mr. Osgood was unable to attend yesterday's match against St. Bernard's, there were, as one might expect given the clandestine nature of his work, several reported sightings--a cloaked figure by the big maple, a tall man with an uncanny resemblance to Dr. King, only older, standing by the Bernard's goal late during the second half, and off course, the infamous distinguished gentleman sporting long-range binoculars spotted atop the small hillock located to the north east of our field. Unfortunately, none of these sightings could be independently confirmed by this author. Every time I looked in the direction of the call, I saw nothing.

Mr. Osgood had earlier urged the boys to "Play strong, play smart, and play fair! Our Cup hangs in the balance!"

The boys on both the Red and White teams played strong, smart and fair yesterday, demonstrating their notable skills in the sport as well as their good sportsmanship.

Well done, boys. Well done coaches. Well done, Saint David's!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Advisory Teams in Grades 7 and 8

At a special lunch on Friday, Saint David's kicked off a new advisory program for our seventh and eighth graders, in conjunction with the school's Sophrosyne unit. Sophrosyne, an ancient Greek virtue, denotes excellence of character and a healthy state of mind and is characterized by self control, moderation, and awareness of one's true self. The unit seeks to help our older boys handle complex issues around health, wellness, and sense of self in adolescence.

The advisory program provides each seventh and eighth grade boy with another "go to" faculty member, as well as a small and supportive group of peers. On Friday, the groups met for the first of several Advisor Meeting lunches that will be held throughout the year.  The boys and their advisors began to get to know each other, discussed goals for this year and foreseeable challenges, as well as  topics and themes that the boys are discussing in Sophrosyne.

Advisors don't replace the homeroom teacher as a boy's primary adult in his daily life at school, but they are an additional faculty member a boy can turn to when faced with academic or social challenges.

Our world continues to change at a rapid pace, as have the trials that our students will face within and outside of school.  As a caring community, we are committed to providing our boys with as much support and guidance as possible as they navigate the sometimes turbulent waters of adolescence.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Omega Self-Portraits

Our Omega boys have applied their learning about shapes and patterns to create water color self-portraits. The boys used mirrors to inform their drawings, which will hang in their classroom in the upcoming days.

Each year, the boys engage in this activity as a way to foster community, review shapes and practice with a variety of art materials. They discuss with each other observations about their features, the shapes they notice and colors that stand out, and create a special frame for their artwork that incorporates their knowledge about patterns.

This activity engages our young boys' creativity, artistry and analytical minds. The results are expressive and delightful!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Flexible Design Optimizes Homerooms and Libraries

The new facilities that will open in September 2018 will enable our Saint David’s faculty to be all they can be. It will expand and enhance what and how they teach throughout the school program.
The following article, by Assistant Headmaster Ali Aoyama, appears in the current issue of Saint David's Magazine. It addresses how homerooms and libraries will be optimized. 

Cut-away of Saint David’s new spaces, from 89th Street perspective, courtesy of Platt Byard Dovell White, June 2017
To be leaders in today’s world, our boys will need to be able to listen to the perspectives of others, clearly articulate their own ideas, and collaborate with teams to achieve a common goal. For years, we have cultivated these skills in cramped quarters. The new facility will afford us many more opportunities to nourish critical thinking and communication skills by engaging boys in discussion groups, debates, collaborative learning, and problem solving experiences.

Larger, Contiguous Homerooms

The new homerooms will be larger and more square in shape, providing teachers with more options for how they are able to arrange the desks, optimizing the learning experience for boys. For a class discussion or debate, the teacher may decide to configure the desks in a circle or u-shape. When boys are working in teams, the desks may be set up in pairs or in small groups. The larger spaces will afford teachers the ability to tailor the layout to the learning experience.

Fifth Grade Commons, courtesy of Platt Byard Dovell White, June 2017
The addition of the Graham House will also allow us to strategically group homerooms together by grade level, allowing for easy movement between classrooms and cross-grade level connections. Beginning in Fourth Grade, each homeroom suite will include a Commons where boys can come together to collaborate.

The Commons will be outfitted with tables, chairs, and soft seating. It will extend the size of the homerooms and allow boys to spread out when working in research groups or problem solving in teams. Boys will be able to huddle around a table as they share their ideas and document their thinking. The Commons will provide boys with the space they need to work together.

Lower School Library, courtesy of Platt Byard Dovell White, June 2017
New Suite of Libraries
The new Upper and Lower School Library Suite will be connected by a common space, which will integrate the library experience for the boys. With shared office space, Upper School Librarian Gwen Kaplan, Lower School Librarian Gretchen King, and Upper School Assistant Librarian Winnie Feng will more easily be able to collaborate, increasing the opportunities for cross fertilization in the library program.

The new Lower School Library, designed specifically for the needs of younger boys, will feature a designated story time space and a variety of seating options. The open layout will allow the boys to easily move around and browse the collection independently, with books located on low shelves. Because the boys will have been exposed to the Upper School Library throughout their younger years, the transition from Third to Fourth Grade will be eased.

 Upper School Library, courtesy of Platt Byard Dovell White, June 2017.
The Upper School Library will feature cozy nooks, window seats, and private spaces where small groups of students will be able to collaborate on research projects. Boys will also come together in the common space, where they may settle in to read, or share thoughts about a book or project.

In addition, the school will feature a Humanities Reading Room, stocked with the Maiocco Collection, where some of the Eighth Grade boys’ Humanities classes will be taught. Teachers will have access to a Faculty Reading Room, containing collections on pedagogy as well as higher level non-fiction and fiction in the academic areas in which they teach.

The flexible design of the new homerooms and libraries will allow the educational program at Saint David’s School to realize its full potential. The size, placement, and configuration of homerooms will greatly enhance the exchange of ideas across each grade, and our libraries will be true centers for collaborative research and scholarship. The optimized learning experiences will ensure that Saint David’s boys will go on to be good men who are equipped to lead.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Machine or Robot?

What makes a machine a machine and what makes a robot a robot? 

In a new Fifth Grade interdisciplinary STEAM unit, our fifth graders will dig into this question as they build, test, and revise simple and compound machines and robots using LEGO technic parts and the LEGO Mindstorms EV3 robotics system.

The boys are currently in the first stages of this unit, and are learning about simple and compound machines. They are using LEGOs to explore how potential energy can be converted into kinetic energy, and the relationship between these two forms of energy.

They are only just beginning. The unit will build to their designing and building clocks, cranes, windmills, hydro turbines and solar powered lawn mowers. They will then add sensors, motors and a processor to their machines and build code sequences. Working in small teams, they will come to see how engineers and scientists work with each other.

Rich interdisciplinary study like this inspires our boys to think critically, take risks and enjoy creative problem solving.

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.