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, December 16, 2016

Christmas Gift


Yesterday evening, our Fifth and Sixth Grades gave us the gift of our Advent Service of Lessons and Carols. It was, as always, a beautiful evening at St. Thomas More, which warms hearts and prepares us for the Christmas holiday.


Gratitude to Music Chair Jeff Moore, Recorder Teacher Susan Iadone, Chorale Director Phyllis Clark and Religion Chair Jim Barbieri for bringing us this most special evening. A three-minute selection follows:

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Partnership with The Guggenheim Culminates in 2nd Grade Exhibit at the Museum


Saint David's special partnership with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and our second graders for a 10-week unit of art study and practice, culminated this week with the boys' exhibit at the museum.

In Look, Imagine, Create: Collages, Paintings, and Construction the boys took me, faculty, and their parents on their exciting adventures in art this fall.


First, in the museum's Thannhauser Collection gallery, the boys were our docents.  They took pride in sharing what they had learned about a particular piece of artwork, be it Picasso's Lobster & Cat, Mondrian's Dunes in Zeeland, or Chagall's Flying Carriage, to name a few.


How powerful for them to be in front of the actual work itself as they discussed abstraction, use of color, and shape, and their personal reactions to it! Not only did they answer our questions, but they asked some of us as well.


More powerful still was how, through the course of the unit, the boys drew inspiration from what they learned about the different artists' techniques and approaches to create their own original works. This they also shared with us in the Guggenheim's art studio, which was transformed into an exhibit hall of the boys' creations in painting, observational and ink drawings, construction, and collage. 


Their projects were all driven by motivating questions, related to the artwork that inspired them. When working on a project related to Flying Carriage they considered: "When was a time you had an adventure? How can you show it in a painting?"


The boys told us what inspired them, the techniques they used, what they found challenging and their favorite part about making the artwork.

Since September they have spent their 80-minute art sessions at the Guggenheim, studying the iconic architecture of the building as well as modern masterpieces from the Thannhauser Collection. In the museum's art studios they participated in hands-on activities under the guidance of Art Curriculum Chair Jenna Boccella, their art teachers Melanie Fidler and Hannah Frassinelli, and museum educator Hollie Ecker. 

For our young boys to begin to develop a strong vocabulary about art, and to have access to experts from a museum like the Guggenheim in addition to the expertise of their Saint David's teachers, provides them with a unique opportunity to dive into their curiosity about art and realize new depths of understanding and creativity.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Gathering for Christmas


Yesterday evening against the glowing lights of our Christmas tree in a newly appointed Room 22 (our former small gym), the alumni and alumni parent community gathered for a Christmas celebration, which honored Arthur (Sam) Samuels '84 as Alumnus of the Year for his dedicated service as Chair of the Alumni Council. Greg Landegger '85, our new Alumni Council Chair, presented Sam with the award.

In his acceptance, Sam mentioned his appreciation for former faculty member Dick Dryzga, and thanked the school for all that it has done for him and his family.
 

What I love about Saint David's is how we are a community about faith and family, all sharing what it means to be a part of something bigger than oneself. The magic and light of the Christmas Season make that even more apparent.



2016 NBS Lectures

He promised to provide the lowdown on The Lowdown, and he certainly did!

Eighth grader John C. was the winner of the twenty-fourth annual NBS Lectures on Art for his formal analysis of the painting by Elizabeth Murray.

Congratulations to John and to finalists William D. (Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater), William R. (Frank Gehry's Fondation Louis Vuitton), Will M. (Emanuel Leutze's Washington Crossing the Delaware), and Dylan C. (Vasily Kandinsky's Panel for Edwin R. Campbell No. 4) for the insightful, in-depth analyses they provided of various notable works of art and architecture.

The boys spoke with confidence about their selections to an audience of fellow classmates, their peers from Nightingale-Bamford School, and a panel of expert judges from the art world. The finalists were selected after last week's preliminaries in which all eighth graders participated. 


The NBS Lectures competition is the first of four summary projects that our eighth graders complete as part of their interdisciplinary humanities course. The course, taught by teacher and art historian Nancy Iannicelli, is a signature one at Saint David's in which boys refine the art of clear, concise, cogent writing and speaking, in a program that blends art, analysis, rhetoric, history, and writing.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Curious About the Universe


Sixth graders have begun their exciting interdisciplinary unit through Saint David's ongoing one-of-a-kind partnership with the American Museum of Natural History - Hayden Planetarium.


The Digital Universe takes our boys on a scientific exploration of the cosmos, with the museum's educators and astronomers leading several sessions at the AMNH, while Saint David's teachers create related rigorous engaging learning assignments and activities in science and English classes.


This partnership is unique in the depth of its integration and collaboration, with our boys granted private ongoing access to the Hayden Planetarium and it proprietary UniView software. The boys master the data-visualization software as they research, write, and prepare for a multimedia planetarium show that poses a space-related (astronomy) research question of their choice.


For example, some will explore the Big Bang Theory. Others, may investigate which planets might support life. The boys will present their final shows in the dome of the Planetarium for their parents and classmates in March.

Curiosity about the universe runs deep; this partnership harnesses that inquisitiveness to produce a singular, spectacular learning experience for our boys.




Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Grandparents and Special Friends Tradition


It is a most special Christmas tradition at Saint David's for our youngest boys and their grandparents: our Grandparents and Special Friends Day.


Last Friday morning Pre-K, K, and Omega boys sang their hearts out for their grandparents and special friends, having mastered a range of traditional Christmas Carols during their music classes with Music Chair Jeff Moore. 


The performances delighted the audience as well as the boys, who were thrilled when Santa and a group of his elves stopped in! Later, grandparents spent time in their grandsons' classrooms, reading and engaging in a variety of activities.

It's wonderful to have the grandparents of our boys at Saint David's, especially during this "Most Wonderful Time of the Year!"


Friday, December 2, 2016

Fascinating Art Talk by Michelle Marder Kamhi at Grandparents Event

Yesterday evening, independent scholar and critic Michelle Marder Kamhi (www.mmkamhi.com), co-editor with husband Louis Torres of Aristos, an online review of arts; author of Who Says That's Art? A Commonsense View of the Visual Arts; and grandmother of two Saint David's boys, gave a thought provoking talk on art for our grandparent community.

An advocate of objective standards in arts scholarship and criticism, Ms. Kamhi focused her talk on the ways in which art critics such as Clement Greenberg promoted the shift from representational art to abstraction. Kamhi argues that the abstract and post-modern art prevalent today, which often requires explanation by docents in order to be understood, goes against art's purpose. Taking issue with Greenberg's contention that representation is an expendable convention of painting, she quoted the late art critic John Canaday: "Art is the tangible expression of the intangible values that men live by."

"Good art," Ms. Kamhi said, "deals with the fundamental human experience, it is transcendent." She also noted recent findings in neuroscience that indicate the connection between art and emotion.

Ms. Kamhi's discussion offered a fascinating perspective that challenges the status quo in the contemporary art world; her talk provided an opportunity for all present to think about their views on art.

The event was a perfect example of the intellectual curiosity we cherish at Saint David's, where different perspectives are considered and pondered in a marketplace of ideas.

Our appreciation to Ms. Kamhi for providing such an intellectually stimulating evening. Thanks also to parents Fabiana Ramirez and Bernadine Gilfond for organizing this special Grandparents event, and to the Kamhi family.

Partnership with New-York Historical Society Expands to Grade Three


We have expanded our educational partnership with the New-York Historical Society to include our third graders' study of westward migration and the Oregon Trail.


Yesterday an art historian from the N-YHS joined homeroom teachers for sessions in each Third Grade classroom, introducing the boys to the ways in which the Hudson River School painters were commissioned to paint idealized paintings of the west in order to encourage westward migration.


Boys analyzed the paintings for both their historical context and artistic techniques. They were quick to point out that these beautiful works omitted some real life problematic issues of western settlement, such as cholera and flipped over wagons. They also discussed and practiced techniques to draw their own landscapes, including use of perspective, lines and shapes.


The boys are charged with creating a realistic water color landscape to show New York City dwellers what the west was truly like.

This partnership joins the ones in Grades One and Two, each related to a different aspect of American history. The sessions make history come alive both through access to N-YHS resources and the boys' making of art related to their learning.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Partnership With Daniel's Music Foundation


In a new partnership between Saint David's School and Daniel's Music Foundation (www.danielsmusic.org), sixth grade members of Saint David's Headmaster's Community Club now join members of DMF for a series of shared music classes at the DMF facility on Lexington Ave. DMF, founded in 2005 by Daniel Trush (shown in photo above) and his family, runs recreational music programs in a group setting for individuals with different abilities, using the power of music to create community.


Yesterday, the boys and I went to DMF after school for our second session. The boys were split into three small groups, each in a different studio engaging in a musical activity with the boys and girls of DMF.


Some learned a new song, others played the drums, or participated in a fun dance activity. Smiles were aplenty, and we had a wonderful afternoon.


This new partnership between our school and DMF promotes awareness of difference through the common bond of music, an essential facet of Saint David's program. It is an example of the many ways that Saint David's reaches out, beyond the walls of our school to other cultural institutions, exposing our boys to difference and others.

Young children come to appreciate that despite the variety of challenges other children may face, inside everyone is very much the same.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Young Alumni Chapel and Dinner - A Thanksgiving Tradition


Yesterday evening, William Fitzgerald '08 returned to school to give the Young Alumni Chapel talk, a pre-Thanksgiving tradition, for which we had a record turnout!  William focused on the unique values that Saint David's instills in its students, its commitment to balance and producing "men of integrity," and he noted how rare it will be to find a similarly structured environment so supportive going forward.


He urged the boys present -- our current eighth graders (younger brother Laird '17 among them) and alumni in high school -- to be ambassadors for Saint David's as they journey through their lives, offering the following five traits as those that will enable them to carry on the tradition of Saint David's: having a strong work ethic, being versatile and open-minded, exhibiting leadership, being humble, and demonstrating kindness.

"Be that good man that Saint David's strives for you to be," he said,
"Remember where you came from, and preserve the legacy of your school." William closed saying that the young alumni present, those soon-to-be, and all of the alumni that preceded them form a "proud family of brothers" that look out for each other.  How perfect a sentiment during a time of year that celebrates family!


Following the talk, the Class of 2016 posed for a photo with a plaque of their Class Legacy Gift, which supports the Eighth Grade tour of the Sistine Chapel.  We then all enjoyed a wonderful dinner, during which last year's Student Council President James K '16 presented his class's check for the more than $11,000 raised in support of Saint David's Kalina School in Tigray, Ethiopia.

The Young Alumni Chapel and Dinner event is always one of my favorite; it is gratifying to see so many young alumni return to school -- taller, stronger, older, but eminently recognizable as Saint David's boys. 




Happy Thanksgiving



Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Partnership


One of our school's longstanding partnerships is with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

During their week-long interdisciplinary study on Cape Cod last month, our seventh graders investigated marine conservation and sustainability issues through sessions led by WHOI scientists.


Dr. Heather Benway, research specialist in marine chemistry and geochemistry, guided the boys in hands-on, site-specific investigations into the physical properties of the ocean. The boys explored the various mechanisms by which water separates into different layered habitats, the impact that ocean acidification has on marine life, and troubles animals face from non-degradable plastics.


What a fantastic opportunity for our boys to learn about the ocean by exploring its properties first-hand under the guidance of experts in the field!

Buddies!

We look to enhance community and fortify the bonds among our boys in many ways at Saint David's.

One that stands out is the pairing of seventh graders with a second grader buddy. As both classes prepare to be leaders in their respective schools, they meet several times to participate in a school activity, and exchange thoughts and ideas.

At their initial meeting last week, the boys shared snacks and played Thanksgiving-related word games, getting to know one another and establishing rapport.

This Wednesday, the second graders will be accompanied by their "big brothers" to Saint Thomas More for our annual Thanksgiving Mass. It will be the younger boys' first mass at Saint David's. The second graders look up to the older boys, and the older boys relish the opportunity to guide and encourage the younger.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Third Grade Designers and Engineers

Our Third Grade engineers are putting their recent learning about circuits to the test, creating electronic games and devices.
Working in small groups, the boys have decided upon the "product" to make, and developed a design. Now, through trial and error, they are testing their creations.

The boys are having so much fun getting their race cars, DJ boxes, robots and security systems to work, and are thrilled when parts move and lights flash as intended.

This project is a perfect example of the way STEAM projects thoroughly engage our boys in the engineering and design process, as they come to appreciate the iterative nature of the discipline. 

(Video shows a security alarm that will go off if someone tries to remove a pencil from a desk).



One Day, Two Great Traditions


Yesterday saw two great Saint David's "competition" traditions: The Math Bowl and Turkey Run.


The Math Bowl challenges four teams of our boys in Grades Five through Eight to solve a series of problems with a wide range in difficulty. The Archimedeans, Newtonians, and Euclideans all did well--they know their math! However, the Pythagoreans emerged as the winners.


At around the same time, in Riverside Park, our second graders were running in the 450-meter race that marks the arrival of the season at Saint David's, our annual Turkey Run. Cheered on by their families, coaches, and teachers, the boys flew through the park, all smiles and speed. They had prepared hard in sports classes for this race and were ready.

It was a fun and challenging morning for the boys!



Friday, November 11, 2016

"Drawing Bootcamp" at the Guggenheim

Our eighth graders are honing their observational drawing skills in 12 sessions of "Advanced Drawing Bootcamp" through our new partnership with the Guggenheim.  On a recent visit, the boys delved into their preliminary investigations of the Guggenheim's interior, executing a series of pencil drawings on site.

The boys learned about the museum's history: how architect Frank Lloyd Wright employed organic architecture (his philosophy that a building should develop out of its natural surroundings) and drew inspiration from the museum's proximity to Central Park. 

Boys toured the museum rotunda, looking carefully for potential drawing subjects, and then made drawings on the theme of organic architecture in the museum. 

Throughout this unit, they are being inspired by the architecture of the museum itself, discovering how to create interesting compositions in their own artwork by choosing exciting views of the museum to draw.

Our school's proximity to the Guggenheim provides our boys and their teachers with a unique opportunity to extend their art studio learning on-site at this architectural wonder.