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, October 21, 2016


Today we hit an exciting milestone in our construction project: the beginning of work to erect the superstructure over our foundation.

Following successful Department of Buildings inspections yesterday, concrete for the first of 6 main footings along the north wall of the superstructure was poured.

During the next two weeks, construction activity will focus on pouring concrete for the remaining footings, excavation of additional footings to the south, starting the installation of reinforcement steel, and beginning to underpin the foundation.

Active Learning in Partnerships with Gilder Lehrman Institute and N-Y Historical Society

Saint David's boys are active historians. This is evident through our longstanding signature partnerships with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the New-York Historical Society.

Today, GLI President James Basker led a workshop for sixth graders and their parents on "Why Documents Matter." During their study of American history, our boys have access to the treasure trove in the GLI vault where they will analyze and interpret primary source documents, such as Paul Revere's engraving of the Boston Massacre.

In Second Grade a historian from the N-Y Historical Society joins homeroom teachers for a series of sessions on the Lenape indigenous people of Manhattan. The boys examine artifacts and through observance and inference, determine their use.  This week they observed and interpreted the homes of the Lenape.

Using glue, and construction paper, they then constructed structures that reflected their understanding of the resourcefulness of the Lenape people.

Active learning is a hallmark of our program. It engages boys more fully, encourages curiosity, and enhances understanding.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Curious on the Cape

Where better to ignite intellectual and creative curiosity than on Cape Cod with its rich ecology and natural beauty!

Our seventh graders and teachers are there now, engaging in a week of science, art, activity, and writing.

Their days are full: a marine life cruise, the famous and challenging Great Island Hike--certain to take the boys to exciting discoveries along the beach--exploration of the marsh, sessions on marine chemistry with research scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, architectural observational drawing, and journaling.

As our boys enjoy the sessions and activities of these days, they also expand and deepen their friendships, strengthening their bond as a class.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Demolition Complete in Buildings 18, 20 and 22 (Entire Rear Portion)

Looking north west at rear portion
Just this morning we completed demolition of the southern section of Graham House and we have started on the footings by placing steel rebar.  It's another milestone for the school as we take the first steps in erecting the new superstructure.

Excavation complete

Once the footings, underpinning and foundational supports are fully in place for the rear portion, we will begin to erect the new steel frame.

Demolition will then continue on the north (89th Street) section of Graham House right behind the facade of the old building.  In effect, the new superstructure of the rear section will help brace and support the facade of Graham.

The first of the footings
Looking straight down at the site of the rear portion.
Notice the pure volume of space we are about to fill

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Two Days in Ramapo for Grade 6

Our sixth graders and their teachers are having a great time at Camp Ramapo in Rhinebeck, NY, where today they participated in fun games, low ropes activities, and a beautiful hike.

During their overnight stay, the boys work together to accomplish the Camp's physically oriented challenges and strengthen ties with their classmates through team- and trust-building activities.

They experience in a tangible way the value of cooperation, trust, and collaboration.


Happy Birthday to Bob McLaughlin!

More than 50 years of service to Saint David's, a master teacher and editor, mentor and friend to decades of our boys and fellow faculty:

Bob McLaughlin celebrates his 80th birthday today and the boys just feted him with song and cake!

We are so fortunate that he is a member of the Saint David's family.

On behalf of his Saint David's friends and colleagues, I handed Bob--an avid reader and lover of words--a special edition publication engraved with his name, of the October 13th front page of The New York Times for every year since the year of his birth--that'll keep him busy for a while!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Extreme Weather

Sixth graders recently studied weather, extreme weather, and weather patterns.

During this unit, the boys learned about hurricanes and tornadoes, how and where they form, and the damage they can cause.

In class, they created tornado tubes to better examine the vortex and eye of these types of storms. This allowed the boys to get a better sense of the destruction caused by extreme weather and to see, first-hand, what is happening in the weather phenomenon.

In these labs, and throughout our STEAM program, our boys practice science as they observe, infer, and predict.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Cup Is Up!

You may have heard the cheering from anywhere on the Upper East Side yesterday afternoon, around 5:00.

It started with White's victory over St. Bernard's 1-0. 

Then came the match for the Osgood Cup and Saint David's Red took it with an amazing 6-1 win.

Our Red and White teams played with great skill, determination, and sportsmanship. Their coaches and I are proud of them all.

Earlier in the day Mr. Osgood wrote the boys, "My Cup, has been down for too long, and this does not sit well with me. I’m sure that this year’s squad is ready to “right the ship.”

And so they did!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Second Graders Inspired by Kandinsky and Braque at the Guggenheim

Saint David's new partnership with the Guggenheim for a Second Grade art unit is in full swing.

This week the boys started painting, after being inspired by Kandinsky and Braque artwork they viewed in the galleries.

Their teachers report that the boys are having a wonderful time viewing the art, asking questions about what they see, and then applying their learning in the art studio under the guidance of their Saint David's art teachers and a museum curator.

Our boys are so fortunate to be able to benefit from the expertise of their Saint David's art teachers, while taking advantage of enhanced learning opportunities offered by a world class cultural institution that is just down the block!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Author Steve Sheinkin Fascinates Boys with Stories from History

On Monday, our seventh and eighth graders were treated to a visit by Steve Sheinkin, the author of several award-winning historical nonfiction books for young adults, including Bomb, Lincoln’s Grave Robbers, Most Dangerous, and The Port Chicago 50, which was on the boys' recent summer reading selection list.

Mr. Sheinkin spoke of his early efforts to forge a career as a filmmaker and, after that, how his tenure as a textbook writer piqued his interest in writing nonfiction about little known stories from American History.  The boys were fascinated by the subjects of his books, and his writing and research process, particularly how he organizes all of his research.

As Upper School Librarian Gwen Kaplan noted, "We were all sad when his time with us came to an end!" I am sure that this session with Mr. Sheinkin has sparked the curiosity of several of our boys into exploring compelling true stories of history, and perhaps even writing some of their own.

Our appreciation to the Saint David's Parents Association Author Series Committee for organizing these invaluable opportunities for our boys to interact with notable authors. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

We are Sub Grade

Excavation of Graham House has moved sub grade with a full court press now on the removal of the old 1890 foundation walls.  The setting of new footings for the rear of the new superstructure is planned to begin next week.

Following the setting of new footings, the rear superstructure will begin to take shape and the demolition will move to the 89th Street (north) portion of Graham House.

Looking north, you can see demolition
 is now below grade on the rear (south) portion.

Foundation wall removal.  Pictured: south foundation wall.

Project looking north.  School townhouses to the left, Graham to the right.
All that's left of Graham House is the 89th Street (north) portion along the front.
The entire rear (south) portion is gone.

Second Graders Build Mascots for NASA in STEAM Unit

In the spirit of scientists and engineers our boys in the second grade have been active in a STEAM unit designed to help NASA.

First as scientists, the boys explored objects and substances, making observations and asking questions that get at the essence of what makes these items unique. They learned to use scientific measurement tools to measure properties and to record their data.

Next, the boys were engineers tasked with designing and building mascots for NASA that will keep astronauts company during (hypothetical) extended space travel. The mascot must have a mass of exactly 173 grams to ensure optimal balance of the spacecraft during launch.

Boys were given an assortment of materials. They worked with triple-bean balances to measure and record the mass of each component, employing mathematical reasoning to add, subtract, and combine components to meet the mass specification while using their aesthetic sense to optimize their mascot’s ability to warm hearts in deep space.

This open-ended problem invites a variety of different solutions and  strategies. Here are some examples of the ways the boys articulated their thinking:

"The mass of each thing adds up to 141 grams, so we will have to use more than one of each object."

"Our clay is 110 grams. A washer is about 30 grams. If we use clay and two washers we'll be close to the  goal."

"Tooth picks are very light, but they are also very stiff and strong. I can use a lot of them to make strong legs that will support my mascot."

"Before we started to design our mascot, we put all of the materials on the scale and added pieces until the total mass was 173 grams. We know that if we use all of those things, our mascot will be 173 grams total."

This unit is a great example of the interdisciplinary nature of STEAM projects, and the ways they engage our boys curiosity and imagination to meet challenges.