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, July 14, 2014

Year Three of Horizons

Two of the boys at Swimming (Asphalt Green)
Horizons at Saint David's is part way through its third summer.  We have 50 rising First, Second, and Third Grade boys from four schools in Harlem participating in the program this year.  Two thirds of the boys are here for their second or third summer, with one third here for their first.  Following are some highlights to date:

The third graders are now receiving two hours of swim instruction per week (first and second continue to receive 1 hour).

Horizons has developed a strong STEM strand in the curriculum this year with first graders studying the weather and water cycle; second graders learning about computer programing through “Bee Bots"; and third graders constructing their own rockets with stomp launchers.  Through this process the boys are becoming familiar with the design cycle and how mistakes provide the perfect opportunity to redesign and adjust.

Horizons' boys reentering Saint David's
after a fire drill this morning.
Long-time Saint David's teacher and Horizons music teacher, David Bell, has written a new Horizons song to unite and celebrate the program.  The boys have been singing it with gusto.

This year, the program introduced a new morning meeting on Fridays where boys from each class receive the “Horizons All Star” Award.  The award recognizes and celebrates a specific contribution made by a few of the boys each week.

There are several field trips planned, including the Guggenheim, Met, Jewish Museum, and Museum of the City of New York.  The boys will also be visiting Marymount for their production of Peter Pan and Mulan, and to visit their “Fab Lab.”

A highlight of the program this summer includes the participation of six young alum volunteers, up from four last year.  One of the aims of the program is to bring young alums back to Saint David's in the summers to contribute to the greater common good by volunteering their services.  Nicholas, Justin, Cooper, James, Colin, and John are representing with distinction.

In addition to our great staff of teachers from the Saint David’s faculty, Horizons is pleased to welcome its first  teacher from PS112.  The program is also proud to welcome its first set of siblings, a first and second grader.

Saint David's is fully alive, even in the summer.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Secrets of the Civil War


In partnership with The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, Saint David’s School offered a one-week summer camp at the New-York Historical Society for rising Sixth and Seventh Grade boys.

Secrets of the Civil War is another of Saint David's new programs that expand and extend history and research skill exploration beyond the walls of the classroom through close partnerships with leading cultural and scientific institutions.

Through a wide range of activities, participants in the camp expanded their background knowledge of the Civil War. They observed and sketched Civil War objects and textiles on display at the New-York Historical Society. 

The boys learned how to carefully handle authentic Civil War objects from the Gilder Lehrman Collection, including daguerreotypes printed during the 1860s and the contents of a soldier’s footlocker, featuring a 150-year-old biscuit. 

Boys listened to a live presentation of music played during the Civil War, and they met with a re-enactor representing a Civil War soldier from the New York Colored Troops.
 
Boys read collections of letters that were written during the Civil War but never published. Before working with the originals, boys learned about the conservation and handling of documents.

Working in teams of two or three, boys decided on a Civil War topic or theme they wanted to explore. They learned to transcribe the Civil War letters, which involved decoding unfamiliar symbols and deciphering multiple pages of handwritten letters. 

Boys quickly became adept at skimming the letters for information related to their themes.

Acting as curators, boys decided on which excerpts of the letters to feature in the iBook stories they created. They included pictures of sketches and cartoons from original Harper's Weekly issues printed during the Civil War era as well as images of the objects and artifacts they observed from the collections of the Gilder Lehrman Institute and New-York Historical Society.

Throughout the process, boys worked closely with the Chief Curator of the Gilder Lehrman Collection and a Saint David’s teacher to grapple with questions historians ask: Whose voice? How does the source affect your understanding? Why do documents matter?

During the last day of the camp, boys presented the findings of their research to their parents, siblings, faculty and visitors from the Gilder Lehrman Institute and New-York Historical Society. Their presentations on Civil War camp life, prison camps, the leadership of General McClellan, and important battles were impressive.


World of Enzymes


As part of the school's partnership with The DNA Learning Center of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Saint David’s offered a one-week summer camp, World of Enzymes, for boys entering Grades Six and Seven.
 
During the third week of June, boys were immersed in an environment of hands on activities and laboratory experiments designed to increase genetic literacy, encourage critical and creative thinking and spark interest in the field of biotechnology. 

Working with a geneticist from the DNALC, boys learned basic concepts of biochemistry and molecular biology and utilized advanced techniques to manipulate DNA. Through direct observation and manipulation of enzymes, boys developed an understanding of the importance of proteins, not only in living things, but also in recombinant DNA technology, cloning, and industry.

World of Enzymes is another of Saint David's new programs that expand and extend math and science exploration beyond the walls of the classroom through close partnerships with leading cultural and scientific institutions.

 Boys 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.
During one of their favorite activities “Bubbling Liver,” boys placed a piece of calf’s liver, which contains the enzyme catalase, into a cup of hydrogen peroxide. Boys observed the enzyme at work as it digested poisonous hydrogen peroxide molecules into simple, harmless molecules, causing the liquid in the cup to bubble over and the temperature to increase.

Boys combined the enzyme emporase with milk to observe how enzymes are used in cheese production. Boys also learned how to reduce the lactose in milk by filtering the milk through beads created by combing a lactase/alginate mixture with a calcium chloride solution.

Following a series of extended protocols, boys practiced using restriction enzymes, the molecular “scissors,” and ligase enzymes, the molecular “glue,” to cut and paste DNA fragments. Boys analyzed the DNA using gel electrophoresis.

On the final day of the camp, boys became teachers and explained the week’s activities to visiting parents, siblings, and members of the faculty and administration. As the boys discussed their work, their enthusiasm for the subject matter was palpable.