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Showing posts from October, 2015

Coding and "The Second Grade Arcade"

Welcome to the Second Grade Arcade--the culmination of an exciting robotics engineering unit on coding for our second graders.

This fall, the boys have been learning a developmentally appropriate visual programming language called Scratch, developed for young learners by researchers at MIT.

The program enabled them to build games by arranging and combining commands and controls to make their animated characters, called Sprites, move and interact.  The boys learned the logical thinking behind programming while having a great time building their games. The animated end products were creative, colorful, and cute.

Yesterday, while at the "Arcade," they had the chance to play each others' games and explore the logic behind their classmates' creations.

In the clip below, a boy demonstrates a fellow second grader's project.

Learning More than the Ropes at Ramapo

Our sixth graders had a wonderful experience last week at Camp Ramapo where, over two days, they met a series of outdoor challenges in a beautiful setting.

Low ropes, high ropes, survival challenges, and hikes through the woods. You name it, the boys were there to encourage each other to reach new heights.

Team work and trust were the keys to success.

During a day in the woods, each group successfully problem solved to create a shelter and boil water. On the high ropes course they depended upon a belay system connected to their friends and teachers who supported, encouraged, and protected them during their climb.  In the tire challenge, they collaborated with each other to reach the top of a vertical play pen. Then, when evening arrived, they hiked and enjoyed S'Mores and stories by the campfire.

Two days spent in the woods taught so many lessons in tangible ways: that each boy has different and important strengths to contribute to a given task; that facing a fear and overcomin…

The Boys are Out and About: N-Y Historical Society Partnership - Year Five

Today our Sixth Grade boys left for a two day overnight trip to Ramapo for high and low ropes outdoor leadership and team building experiences.  Our Seventh Grade boys return tomorrow from a week-long experience in marine biology and ecology on the Cape and last week, Second Grade boys had their first in a series of sessions with an educator from the New-York Historical Society.

The boys are learning about life in early New York City. For the next couple of weeks, their teachers and the N-YHS expert will lead them in hands-on learning  activities related to the Lenape tribe of early Manhattan--or Mannahatta--"the land of many hills."

In the first session, they were given samples of Lenape artifacts and then worked together in small groups to try to determine their artifact's purpose through careful examination and observation.

Guided by their teachers and the N-YHS educator, the boys are now creating seasonal models of Lenape communities complete with longhouses a…

Interdisciplinary Study and Bonding on Cape Cod

The Class of 2017 and their teachers are on Cape Cod, where they are spending this week in rich interdisciplinary study of marine ecology.  During these days, the boys will explore the marine environment, participate in observational drawing sessions, and engage in a STEAM project in which they construct a critter, using what they have learned about the environment, adaptation, evolution, art, and design.

Introduced two years ago, the critter project is a big hit with the boys, who eagerly rise to its creative design, mathematical, and scientific challenges.

A decades' long tradition at Saint David's, the Cape Cod trip is ever evolving in alignment with our program of studies.  Just as important is the opportunity it affords our seventh graders to expand and deepen friendships, so vital to the emotional development of boys.

Hotchkiss and Millbrook

Oliver and Mac, both '15 dropped by to say hello.  Hailing from Hotchkiss and Millbrook respectively, they are enjoying the last day of parents' weekend by visiting alma mater.  It was so fun to see them and catch up.

Gilder Lehrman Institute Partnership in Third Year

A first draft of the Constitution compared with the final...Frederick Douglass's letter to his former master...the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery. 

These were some of the documents that our sixth graders analyzed this morning as James Basker, President of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, led a workshop for the boys and their parents in the Hume Library on "Why Documents Matter.'"

Today the boys got a taste of what they will experience when they and their teachers visit the actual GLI vault at the New-York Historical Society that houses the original documents. This is the third year of our school's partnership with this prestigious institution, which through the Gilder Lehrman Collection holds a vast archive of more than 60,000 primary source documents and artifacts.

In today's session boys learned that having access to original documents, complete with scratch-out edits, enables a researcher to look beyond the words to the strategy…

Yale's "Baker's Dozen" Performs and Teaches at Saint David's

On Friday morning, the Baker's Dozen, an a cappella singing group from Yale University, visited Saint David's.

The group engaged our Chamber Singers in a Master Class that included several new vocal warm-ups and also discussed their interest in singing with the boys. Afterward, they separated into four vocal groups--soprano, alto, tenor, and bass--and taught the boys a song in four-part harmony (see video clip, below).

The performance for the Upper School was fantastic, and included a rendition of "Hey Bulldog" with fourth grader Casimir M. in a featured role. The Baker's Dozen visit was a sweet treat for us at Saint David's, and a great start to the day.

Interdisciplinary Unit Hones Research Skills

Our sixth grade boys have been honing their research skills in a new technology-based interdisciplinary studies class that is team-taught by teachers Karen Davis (English), Emily Einhorn (science), Joe Shapiro (history), and Gwen Kaplan (library).

The class is loosely based on the educational idea of “20% Time,”  which promotes students selecting a topic in their own area of interest to research while still hitting all core skills and content.

After choosing a subject they are interested in or passionate about to study--as it relates to their English, history, and science classes--our boys then research their question or topic using selected databases-- gathering information, creating citations, and compiling their findings--with Noodletools.

The wide range of topics selected by the boys have included how climate change is affecting Snow Leopards, bone marrow stem cells, pirate lore, and theBattle of Bunker Hill.

At the end of the trimester each boy presents the results of his resea…

Comet Lander Project Deepens Understanding

The following article by Lower School Mathematics Coordinator Jennifer Horton appears in the summer 2015 issue of Saint David's Magazine.

One of the most powerful approaches an educator can take is a form of trans-disciplinary learning that builds on students’ ideas and interests, called project-based learning (PBL). PBL is defined as having three components: 1. an essential question which establishes a real-world meaningful context and becomes the drive of student engagement; 2. standards-based STEAM (integrating Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) learning objectives, which provide the road map or direction; and 3. students’ previous experiences that act as the guideposts through the learning experience. Other common characteristics of project-based lessons are that they often take place over a longer period than most lessons, involve the creative solution to a problem, and usually result in a tangible product. (1)

This fall in math and science classes, second…

Alum Visits

Several alums have returned to visit old friends and teachers over the last few weeks.  It's so much fun to catch up with them and hear their stories.

Connor '13 (Bronxville), George '13 (Riverdale) and Thomas (Riverdale) '13 dropped by last week, and today Danny '15 (Trinity) and Oliver '15 (St. Georges).

They are all enjoying high school and the new independence it affords.

Osgood Misses Well Played Games

Yesterday's White and Red team matches against St. Bernard's in the North Meadow of New York's famed Central Park were a spectacle to behold.

Both matches were highly competitive, with our boys exhibiting impressive skills.

White's game ended in a 1-1 tie with one of the highlights being the impenetrable back line.  St. Bernard's keep pounding away at the White defense, but it held strong.

For Red, the game ended in a 3-1 score in St. Bernard's favor.  Here, the aggressive front line repeatedly penetrated the St. B's defense throughout the game, pushing right up to the goal on numerous occasions.  The ball just wouldn't go in.  The slope of the field, against us in the second half, also provided St. B's a slight advantage.  Pushing upgrade, especially in the second part of a game is never fun!  The boys fought hard though, never losing hope.  It was impressive soccer.

I was proud of the way Saint David's boys, guided by their expert coaches, h…

Partnerships in Learning--Digital Universe: A Groundbreaking Partnership Takes Flight

The following overview by Science Chair Nora Sundar appeared in the article Digital Universe: A Groundbreaking Partnership Takes Flight in the summer 2015 issue of Saint David's Magazine.

Is there life on other planets? How many stars are out there? What does it mean that the universe is expanding? Throughout human history, we have gazed into the sky asking questions, looking for patterns, struggling to understand what we see and what it means.

It’s no wonder we are compelled to investigate the universe. As famed astrophysicist and Director of the Hayden Planetarium, Neil deGrasse Tyson, reminds us, in our very essence, we ARE the universe:

“Recognize that the very molecules that make up your body, the atoms that construct the molecules, are traceable to the crucibles that were once the centers of high mass stars that exploded their chemically rich guts into the galaxy, enriching pristine gas clouds with the chemistry of life. So that we are all connected to each other biologicall…

More than a littleBit of Fun

Robert the Robot with eyes that light up and an arm that moves, a fire-breathing dragon, an electronic piano that soon may play a tune.

Our third graders are having a blast designing and building these and other of their own original creations with littleBits electronics.
The boys are using the electronics pieces to make circuits that combine input pieces with output pieces.

They work in teams in a process focused on the trial and error strategy for problem solving; this is how they figure out the best way to assemble parts to successfully create a circuit and learn the importance of proper sequencing.

Asked what challenges they encountered along the way, their answers included "when the fan broke," "building the actual body," and "having to keep trying over and over."

But it's precisely these struggles that lead to light bulb moments of understanding on the road to success, and excited exclamations like "Mr. Donnelly, Mr. Donnelly, look! I mad…