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An Exhibition of Teaching and Learning

Friday afternoon, May 7, after the boys were dismissed to their weekends, the faculty of Saint David's School assembled in the upper gymnasium of our 94th Street Gym for TfU (Teaching for Understanding) Expo.  The culminating experience of a year's long work, the Expo was a celebration of teaching and learning by the faculty for the faculty. 

Arranged into 17 teams at the beginning of this school year, the entire faculty worked throughout the year to 'reversion' 17 units of study using a framework developed by Harvard University's Project Zero.  Friday, each team set up their "booth" and positioned their displays and presentations synthesizing a year's worth of work.  We then rotated, following a complex but effective system, though each of the booths to experience the work of our peers.  The atmosphere was electric and the camaraderie of the group unmatched.

I visited several presentations. My first stop was ANALYZE THIS: A DATE WITH DATA, GRADE 3 by Brendan Kinnell, Julie Kras, Anna-Bain Ladt, and Amanda Mattei.  In this unit, boys are asked to explore how they can make decisions based on hard data and probability. Through engaging projects, students learn to understand that data are collected, can be represented in various modes, and must then be interpreted. Boys use data they have collected, represented, and interpreted to make decisions and draw inferences. Fascinating!

My second stop was ORION’S TOOL BELT: A MAGICAL “MYTHTERY” TOUR, GRADE 4 developed by Lauren Franklin, Maria Katzman, Gary Kessler, and Mark Sunderwirth.  During this interdisciplinary unit, fourth graders are asked to create original Greek heroes, settings, or artifacts. In the Language Arts portion of the unit, students write myths incorporating their creations while utilizing the writing process and including characteristic key elements of myths. In art, pottery, and shop the boys then realize their heroes, settings, or artifacts using various mediums while taking into consideration concepts and ideas associated with scale and proportion. Incredibly creative!

Next, it was HIT THE SLOPES, developed by Charlie Goulding and senior master Joe Kilkeary. During this unit, seventh grade boys are asked to apply their knowledge of slope, intercept, and graphing to real world scenarios. Using a coordinate axis placed on the ground, the boys form actual human lines in accordance with a variety of linear equations. Assuming the roles of sportscasters, students then plot lines to predict future chances of records being broken. Engaging!

PRIMARY MEANING MAKERS, GRADES 1-3 by Katie Cunningham, Katie Ferrone, Kristen Healy, Kate Johnson, Kate McGovern, Sydney Orseck, and Andria Quintero was the next stop.  In this unit boys are asked to examine comprehension strategies for fiction and non-fiction as well as make connections within, beyond, and about text to deepen their understanding of a particular topic or theme. Boys read books at their instructional level, including one novel per unit supplemented by various non-fiction and fiction books. The emphasis is on making meaning with the text rather than focusing on the text holding the meaning.

FOCUS ON FITNESS, GRADES 1-8 by Will Arias, Bernie Evangelista, Nick Imbelli, Brian Kealy, Pedro L’Official, and Peter O’Connell, my next visit, was totally engaging. This was a fun stop.  I can see why the boys are so excited about the new fitness program. We had several faculty members competing against each other and the "computer." In this unit, boys learn about the fundamentals and lifelong advantages of physical fitness. Students of all abilities practice desired exercise methods. Boys record their progress as they strive to achieve personal fitness goals. At the end of the unit, boys demonstrate their ability to develop their own personal workout. As teachers being walked through this unit, was used all the equipment in the new fitness program – light boards, simulation balance apparatus, and light walls.  In the photographs we see teachers at the light wall (reflex and coordination) and on the light floor playing dodge ball!

SAINTS ALIVE! GRADE 7 by Jim Barbieri, Dan Barrett, Rovena Kilkeary, Thea Osborne, Gene Romanosky, Jorge Roman, and Tom Ryan is an interdisciplinary unit where seventh graders study the lives of “good” men and women. For the essay component, boys are asked to retell a particular scripture passage, research an individual who exemplifies its message, and reflect on the service projects in which they have participated and how those experiences connect to both the message of the scripture passage and to the life of the individual they researched. As a culminating performance, boys present their work in the form of a Chapel talk to faculty and boys. We all wait with baited breath to see this new program begin.  It shows incredible promise.

20th CENTURY KALEIDOSCOPE, GRADE 6 by David Davidson, Nancy Iannicelli, Peter King, Wil Lobko, Jeff Moore, and Nora Sundar is an interdisciplinary unit where sixth grade boys survey the twentieth century in several core classroom experiences. Boys use documentary evidence, in a complex array of forms, to examine the twentieth century in detail. The twentieth century has many songs, poems and historical documents with which students are already familiar, and historical documentation of the century abounds.  Students will examine these primary sources to derive meaning from "evidence" in its varied forms. The boys become more discerning consumers – and producers – of popular culture and more thoughtful observers of the world at large, and they see connections between their time and other eras.  In History, boys build an interpretive essay on the basis of documentary research; while in English, boys analyze the poems of twentieth-century authors and practice writing in their style. The music portion of the unit will require students to compose a song after a given twentieth-century genre. The technology component invites students to make a Wiki that illustrates the themes of their evidentiary research in the other disciplines.

I did not manage to visit all booths, but what an extraordinary afternoon! It was both professionally stimulating and thoroughly enjoyable.  Our boys are truly fortunate.  The teachers of Saint David's are second to none.  It is a talented and dedicated faculty. Kudos to Dean of Studies Ali Aoyama for an exceptional job guiding and organizing our work.

The professional work of the faculty this year constitutes the 5th phase of the multi-year Curriculum Initiative, began several years ago.  The ultimate goal of this work is to engage our boys more fully in the learning process, to improve our teaching, and to deepen the boys' understanding, while simultaneously advancing the quality of our program.

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