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.



Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Boys as Forensic Detectives

Yesterday, after lunch, a group of Saint David's boys came upon yellow crime scene tape and the outline of a body in the art room.

They weren't shocked. 

Earlier in the day the boys had assumed their roles as forensic detectives for a week-long summer camp offered by our school in partnership with the DNA Learning Center of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

In this hands-on program, the boys are using techniques that real CSI experts employ to investigate a "crime scene." They are collecting and analyzing evidence such as fibers, fingerprints, hair, and blood, and learning about pathology, fire science, and forensic psychology through engaging investigations and activities.

I am looking forward to the end of the week, when the boys will explain what they've learned to visiting parents and family members!

Next week, a cohort of boys will explore the issues of slavery and abolition through another camp we are providing at the N-Y Historical Society, in collaboration with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Both camps were launched last year to provide our boys with engaging summer camp enrichment learning experiences.




Spain Study Tour

A group of our rising eighth graders and their teachers are currently in Salamanca, Spain, for Saint David's fifth Spain Summer Study Tour.

The two-week trip provides our boys the opportunity to partake in a Spanish language immersion experience that augments what they have learned in Spanish classes at Saint David's through our school-wide Spanish language program, which commences in Pre-K.

Saint David's works in partnership with the University of Salamanca, the provincial government and local schools to offer a customized program for our boys. Their days include a mix of classroom studies in Spanish language and culture, cultural experiences, and the opportunity to play sports with students from local schools.

The boys have a wonderful time honing and improving their Spanish, and as important, participating in cultural exchange with the students and people they encounter in Spain.

The Salamanca trip is an example of how learning at Saint David's extends beyond the walls of our school building; the world, indeed, is our campus.

Graduation Day

Last week we held Commencement exercises for Saint David's Class of 2015 at the Church of St. Thomas More. It was an exciting and moving day, full of pride and promise. Congratulations to all of our boys who were graduated from their first alma mater.

As I said in my address to the graduates, I have witnessed the growth of these boys from their earliest days: I watched them play in our Kindergarten courtyard, dubbed them knights in the Third Grade, and walked the streets of Italy with them this spring on the Eighth Grade Italian Study Tour.

Guided always by our mission, Saint David's teachers have taught these boys throughout their years here to have the courage to listen to their inner voices and to be led by the power of their intellect to assess situations clearly, always with a moral compass. Nothing is as important as good character, it is all that endures, and it is at the heart of our founders' aspiration for our graduates.

Commencement is less about endings and more about beginnings. As our graduates assume their new identities as Saint David's alumni, we wish them well, and forever hold them near.  I hope they will visit often to participate in the life of the school, for Saint David's will always be their second home. Ut Viri Boni Sint.

A Special Spring Gathering

On Thursday evening, June 4, hundreds in our community came together for a truly special spring gathering, one that welcomed back former Headmaster Don Maiocco and bid adieu to our long-time Upper School Head Sara Peavy upon her retirement from Saint David's.

The night began with Dr. Maiocco's Chapel talk, given for our reunion classes and faculty and staff. Don lauded Ms. Peavy for the work she has done with the faculty over the years. Dr. Maiocco also spoke of the school's longtime second headmaster, David Hume, who passed away in February, noting that it was Mr. Hume who penned our alma mater's mission: "that they be good men." He closed by calling those present to "pray to honor David and all who have shaped our past."

Festivities honoring Ms. Peavy followed. Our Alumni Council Chair Sam Samuels '84 presented Ms. Peavy with a gift on behalf of the alumni body. Coach Will Arias then provided a warm and humorous tribute in which he admired her honesty and forthrightness and, on behalf of the faculty, noted of Sara: "Caring and compassionate, she is there for us in the most challenging of times."

Because Ms. Peavy loves words and wordplay, my tribute took the form of a poem that I wrote, influenced by the ancient Greek poet Pindar.
All told, it was a wonderful evening that reinforced the strong ties among members of Saint David's community near and far, from years ago to today, all bound together by the ideas and ideals that guide us each day in the education of our boys.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Networking Event Features Richard Coraine

On Tuesday, current parent Richard Coraine, the Chief Development Officer of Union Square Hospitality Group, was the featured speaker for Saint David's Networking Event, which was held at a local club in midtown.

Richard's talk focused on how to manage people and the importance of viewing your client with knowledge and respect. "Hospitality is a dialogue," he noted, and relayed the story of how the Union Square Cafe, rated as a good restaurant with good food and good service in 1985, rose to the status of the most popular restaurant in 1997, according to Zagat.

Richard attributed this to the customers' experience. "The rating came about because people felt known and well regarded," he said, stressing the important role that superior staff members play.

This important advice is summed up in his quote from Maya Angelou, which emphasizes how vital it is for a business to build positive relationships with its customers: "People will forget what you said, what you did, but never forget how you made them feel."

The dynamic and engaging presentation left all present with much to think about vis a vis the importance of this aspect of the business-client relationship, as people make decisions based on how they feel. We thank Richard for his generosity in sharing his wisdom with us.

Richard's talk was followed by a reception featuring professional affinity groups led by Ted Casey '83 (technology and digital entertainment), Mauro Maccioni '87 (hospitality), Richard Petrocelli (finance), and Kenneth M. Wolff '86 (law).

The Saint David's School Networking Event, organized by the Alumni Council led by Arthur (Sam) Samuels '84, provides the opportunity for all in our community to network together and support each other.



Tuesday, June 2, 2015

An Expo of Cultures

The vivacious energy in the Hume Library last week might be expected more at a pep rally than at a research exhibition.

But research expo it was, and it was a fantastic display of the third graders' culminating project on their study of culture.

Working in teams, the boys selected a culture they wanted to research, with each boy responsible for two aspects (for example, food and education). Assisted by our school librarians Gwen Kaplan and Gretchen King, the boys learned the process of conducting research on their topics. They worked on their projects, which also involved expository writing, creative crafts, poster design, and public speaking, under the guidance of teachers Claire Lescop, Jennifer Kim, Liza Helwig, and Amanda Rathbun.

Boys were given significant freedom in how they would finally present their project, and they had to include a creative component brought from home. These delighted visitors, and ranged from boys playing a Bach minuet on the cello and violin (Germany), the distribution of vanilla and chocolate gelato (Italy), a Japanese pop song video displayed on an iPad, and a diorama reflecting the dry landscape of South Africa.

Beyond the obvious efforts the boys had made to make their presentations stand out, what struck me most was their level of engagement. When asked a question about why they selected a particular topic or what surprised them about their selected culture, or what was most challenging about the project, the boys' eyes would light up and they were eager to share their learning and their thoughts.  Their classmates were equally excited to share with each other. 

This is the type of active, creative, project-based learning that we incorporate throughout the school program at Saint David's.



Friday, May 29, 2015

Ideas and Ideals at the Roosevelt House

Wednesday evening, the Saint David's community had the rare opportunity to participate in a special event at the Roosevelt House about the recent PBS Documentary and book The Roosevelts: An Intimate History.

The evening took the form of a lively, erudite conversation between two Roosevelt experts: Ambassador William vanden Heuvel who is Founder and Chair Emeritus of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute and of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island, and Mr. Geoffrey Ward, award-winning historical author and writer of the highly acclaimed Ken Burns' documentary about Teddy, Franklin, and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Their discussion painted fascinating portraits of all three Roosevelts, and ranged from their personal struggles: FDR's with polio, Eleanor's with an unloving childhood and depression, and Teddy's with asthma and depression; to their courage in fighting for the ideals in which they believed, embodied by their efforts in conservation and in the New Deal social programs proposed by Teddy which were brought into fruition under FDR, and in Eleanor's success with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN in 1948.

To be sitting in the Roosevelt House, with FDR's Four Freedoms etched into the wall behind us, while benefiting from the knowledge and insights of the speakers in front of us, was to be literally enveloped in the ideas and ideals that guided the Roosevelts decades ago, and which remain ever more relevant and vital today.

My appreciation on behalf of Saint David's to the Alumni Parents Council led by Dorothy Faux and Linda Foran, and to the Ambassador and Mr. Ward, for providing our community with an evening to remember and long ponder. It was a phenomenal night.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Making Thinking Visible at Saint David's

Making thinking more visible to promote increased engagement, understanding, and independence in our boys' learning has been a focus of the curriculum this year.

Last week, small groups of Saint David's faculty members met with leading neural development and learning specialist Mark Church for follow-up workshops on strategies they are implementing in their classes to make their students'  thinking more visible.

Mark, author of "Making Thinking Visible," and part of the team at Harvard University's Project Zero, began working with Saint David's a year ago and has made periodic visits to the school throughout the year.

During last week's session, he led the faculty members in discussion and analysis of their use of various routines that help boys to develop thinking habits, to be "reasoners with evidence" and "connection makers," rather than information absorbers.

These range from simply changing the question "Why,"to "What made you say that?" when seeking to reveal a boy's reasoning about a topic, to having the boys document their thinking in a visual manner.

It is essential for true scholars to go beyond acquisition of knowledge to experience more generative learning that leads to development of new ideas and solutions to novel problems.

As a school, we implement many ways for our boys to engage in deeper level thinking, whether in the classroom, the science lab, through our several learning partnerships with prestigious educational, cultural, and scientific organizations, or on the many class field experiences the boys partake of during the year.

The art, craft, and science of teaching is a principal focus of our professional development at Saint David's.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Art on Display

Saint David's annual Spring Art Show is bringing additional color and beauty to our school. The show is rich with work the boys have accomplished in art, which involves acquiring artistic skills as well as studying the ouevre of famous artists and art from various cultures.  

Matisse-Inspired Collage,  Kindergarten


A few examples: Kindergartners were inspired by Matisse's cut-out collages; second graders created tribal masks after viewing masks of non-Western cultures and learning about symmetry, exaggeration, pattern, contrast, and color mixing.

First graders looked at patterns in the world and reproductions of the tribal art of Ghana and Australian aboriginals to create patterned animals with patterned backgrounds; fifth graders studied anthropomorphic and zoomorphic pots from Latin and South America before creating vessels that combined form and function, and eighth graders created "animools," inspired by surrealism, for which the boys used observational drawing skills to combine an image of a tool and an animal.

Tribal Masks, Grade 2
These and all the other fine examples of our boys' understanding, talent, and creativity in woodworking, art, and pottery are on display through May 29.

Thank you to Ms. Boccella, Ms. Fidler, Ms. Frassinelli, and Mr. Sunderwirth for their phenomenal work with our boys throughout the year, and for mounting this wonderful show.

Stop by and enjoy.

Patterned Animals/Background, Grade 1






Zoomorphic Pots, Grade 5

"Animools,"  Grade 8

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Exchanging Ideas at the Frick

Today, on the quick bus ride back to school after a morning session at the Frick Collection, the sixth graders expressed how much they had enjoyed their visit.

 "I loved it! I wish that we could have stayed longer," said more than a few.

As many a parent who has visited a fine art museum with their children can attest, this is a response one can only dream of.

However, taking the boys out of the classroom and into a place where they are free to express and exchange their views and insights with peers, and then having them go back, take what they learn and create something, is a game changer.

This morning I accompanied art teachers Jenna Boccella and Hannah Frassinelli and their sixth grade students on a session at the Frick Collection. In this new collaboration between Saint David's and the Frick, the boys participate in a guided tour provided by museum docent and current Saint David's parent Olivia Birkelund Gerard, of portraits that relate to the boys' portraiture unit in art class.

The works we viewed included Bellini's St. Francis in the Desert, Holbein's portraits of St. Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell, and Lawrence's Lady Peel, and we ended with an arresting self portrait of Rembrandt. As we gathered in front of each painting, Mrs. Gerard elicited impressions and observations from the boys, who eagerly participated, offering their ideas about symbolism, use of  light and color, and the intent of the artist.  When the boys were prompted to compare and contrast the two Thomases painted by Holbein, which flank the fireplace in one room, a boy opined of the Cromwell: "This guy looks fake, so evil, like he wants to kill the other guy."

The session also included discussion surrounding the significance of certain elements of portraiture painting, including props, setting, expression, angle and placement, and how the boys might incorporate these in the self portraits they are currently creating in art class.

I was impressed with the depth of the boys' engagement throughout the session and their animated discussion. It was refreshing to see how each idea or thought expressed by one boy could spark the engine of ideas in another boy, and how a painting, such as Lady Peel that at first glance might seem "happy," after a generative exchange of observations reveals a more nuanced and somber character.

I believe that in order for our boys to appreciate art they have to both see the original in person as well as create art of their own. Exposure and communication with the work in situ is vital, as are partnerships between and among cultural institutions that provide experiences with experts in a field.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Spring Music

This morning's spring concert filled a packed Hyman Hall with music performed by our Philharmonic Ensemble, Percussion Ensemble and Chamber Singers. The boys in the Ensemble, conducted by Philip Hough, were up first with renditions of "The Entrance of the Queen of Sheba" (Handel) and the second movement from "Symphony No. 1 in D Major "(Mahler). Their performance was skillful, assured, and energetic.

The Percussion Ensemble, with John Francis as Director, took the stage next. Their first piece, the  contemplative  "Um Tom" (Caetano Veloso) was performed in conjunction with the Chamber Singers. This was followed by "Stew for Three" (Barnett), featuring three Eighth Grade soloists, and "Technology" (Casella), a rousing mix of sound and rhythms.

The concert closed with the beautiful singing of our Chamber Singers, directed by Phyllis Clarke. They performed their first number, "I am Singing" by Stevie Wonder, with lyrics in Swahili, Spanish and English (see video clip below). The boys then sang "Raging Fire" (Phillips) and ended the concert with  "i thank You God " from e.e. Cummings' poem (Levine).

Each year I look forward to attending the spring concert. It is the opportunity for our young musicians, who have diligently practiced all year, to showcase their accomplishments to the delight and appreciation of their teachers, classmates, and parents.

MPMSL Champs Again!

Saint David's Varsity Lacrosse team players are MPMSL Champs again!

Coached by Bernie Evangelista and Anthony Russo, the team won the Manhattan Private Middle School League title again this year, finishing the season with an overall 9-1 record, and an undefeated 5-0 within the league. Theirs was the seventh MPMSL Lacrosse title in the school's history.

The coaches and I are proud of the boys.  Not only did they successfully defend their title, more importantly, they did so as skilled players and good teammates who embrace the ideal of honoring the game.