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, April 27, 2018

Morning Concert for the Lower School

Lower School boys were treated to a morning concert yesterday by Saint David's First Orchestra, Percussion Ensemble, and Philharmonic Ensemble.

Directed by Mrs. Francis, our young musicians of the First Orchestra played "I Saw Three Ships" and an arrangement of Vivaldi's "Spring" Concerto. 

The Percussion Ensemble, under the direction of Mr. Francis, followed with "Spanish Dance No. 5" by Enrique Granados; the Philharmonic Ensemble, conducted by Mr. Hough, closed with "The Pink Panther" by Henry Mancini and "In the Hall of the Mountain King" by Edvard Grieg. 

The musicians also spoke to the audience about the works they were playing, and taught the boys in the audience a bit about each group and its instruments.

Music is integral to Saint David's program and our embrace of the classical ideal of balance in all things. Our boys are fortunate to be able to participate in a strong music program, and will be even more fortunate to play from the stage of our new performing arts center come September.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

In D.C.

Last week, our sixth graders were in Washington, D.C., the culminating experience in their year-long study of American history.

The three-day trip included a tour of the Capitol; a Supreme Court docent lecture; viewing the Gallery of the House Chamber; visits to Arlington National Cemetery, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the Museum of American History, and Mount Vernon; and an evening tour of the national monuments.

This signature sixth grade experience provides our boys the opportunity to observe institutions of our democracy in action, and deepens understanding of topics they have studied in both history and science. 

Monday, April 23, 2018

Study of DNA with the DNALC

Eighth graders began their study of DNA last week through our partnership with the Cold Spring Harbor DNA Learning Center, the world's first science center devoted to genetics education.

DNA educators work with our teachers to lead this unit, which builds on the boys' introduction to DNA in the fifth grade. This spring they are carrying out original research using DNA barcoding and gel electrophoresis, following the lab protocol that molecular biologists employ to extract and analyze DNA. They also learn how to use the actual equipment that DNA researchers use.

This inquiry-based unit builds on our boys' curiosity about genetics and is part of a year-long study of the science of the human body. Our school's partnership with DNALC, now in its fifth year, provides them the opportunity to benefit from the expertise of the DNALC as well as their exceptional science teachers.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Steinway Hall Concert

This past Tuesday, Saint David's advanced piano students joined with several piano students from the Marymount School to perform in a piano recital at Steinway Hall. In this elegant setting, our boys showcased their talents on a nine-foot concert grand piano. The students played works by composers that included Pachelbel, Mozart, Bach, Einaudi, and John Legend, among others. The program also featured a world premiere written and performed by Julian S. '18.  The boys enjoyed listening to each other and their colleagues from Marymount, and the concert was a rousing success.

Congratulations to Saint David's and Marymount's accomplished pianists for providing a beautiful evening of music.


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Fossil Friends

Twenty young paleontologists shared their vast knowledge about dinosaurs in a presentation this past Friday to a delighted audience of parents and teachers.

During the Omega Dinosaur Presentation the boys sang dinosaur related songs (one with special verses the boys wrote themselves) and shared research facts that they had discovered about the Tyrannosaurus, Stegosaurus, Triceratops, and Brachiosaurus.  The boys delivered their lines with assurance and sang with zest.

Our Omega boys' study of dinosaurs is an interdisciplinary integration of art, music, and science. The boys read books featuring the prehistoric reptiles, learn about fossils when they visit the Dinosaur Hall at the American Museum of Natural History, create dinosaur-related art, and master songs about dinosaurs for their presentation.

Congratulations to all of our Omega dinosaur scientists on their fine performances, and to Mr. Moore, Ms. Clark, Mrs. Birnbaum and Mrs. Cawley.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Author Karina Yan Glaser Meets With Fifth Graders

Karina Yan Glaser, author of her highly acclaimed debut novel, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, met with our fifth graders this morning during their Language Arts classes for a writer's workshop.

Ms. Glaser engaged the boys in discussions about character development, in particular how to write authentic characters that defy stereotypes, are diverse, and multi-dimensional. The boys discussed how characters in some of their favorite books, such as the Harry Potter series, are well rounded,with hero and antihero characters not fitting stereotypes.  They also played games in which they had to identify a book based on descriptions of a character.

Ms. Glaser's visit was made possible by our Parents Association Author Series, which provides our boys the invaluable opportunity to interact with published authors.

Berkshire and Millbrook

Visited alums Jeremy '14, Austin '15, and John '17 at Berkshire in Sheffield, Massachusetts and Will '14, Mac '15 and Luke '17 at Millbrook in Millbrook New York this past Thursday.

The boys looked and sounded great.

Jeremy and Will are both graduating this year.  They are excited for their next steps.

Friday, April 13, 2018

History of The Graham

As we are in the midst of a series of tours of our expansion into Graham House, I thought I would share some of the building's interesting history:

Built in 1891 by Thomas Graham, The Graham was the first residential apartment hotel built on the East Side. Considered at the time to be a massive building, its seven stories were made of Indiana limestone and Pompeian brick. It sat on the crest of Prospect Hill surrounded by trees and open farmland, some 30 blocks north of the last cluster of large buildings at the southern edge of Central Park. The hotel boasted views of the “Hudson Valley to the North with Washington Heights beyond.”(1)

Its location in the middle of nowhere, hard to imagine today, wasn’t its only problem.

“Georgian lintels and Romanesque details here and there” define the building’s architecture, said a critic at the time, “but it comes at the expense of real Romanesque details. Graham seemed to want to do everything, all at once, and he had none of the gift of gracious and subtle synthesis … What Graham did have was a vulgar energy and it shows everywhere in this building.”(2)  It was a nice way to express how much this critic disliked it. And he wasn’t the only one: “There is nothing right about this building except its earnestness, and after a while you think of it in terms of sincerity instead of audacity.”(3)

Well, Graham’s sincere attempt to establish a market for residential hotels on the East Side saw about as much success as his architectural vision. Thomas Graham endured multiple bankruptcy proceedings ending in the building being taken away from him in 1898. The new owner renamed it the Brunswick Hotel, a regular commercial hotel, and it became known for housing one of the finest ‘uptown’ restaurants of “marble and brass … with a coach light … to signal the carriage drivers. All the horses used to line up outside the hotel with their shiny carriages.”(4)

It was also around this time that Thomas’ father and old building partner Charles Graham died. “Like most men of intelligence and resolution, Mr. Charles Graham had strong convictions on political matters, and during the early days of the Civil War he devoted himself earnestly to the cause of the slaves, many of whom he secretly assisted to freedom, while he defended them in public through the columns of the Tribune.”(5)

I can imagine many of the properties Thomas’ father built serving as weigh stations on the Underground Railroad. In keeping with classic Graham tradition, during WWI the Brunswick served as a Veterans hospital, taking care of the wounds of war. Right around the time of the Great Depression, it made its transition to an apartment complex and became the Graham House we know today.

For over a decade Saint David’s School strategically prepared The Graham for its next phase. We are excited to finally be here!

1. The Real Estate Record and Builder’s Guide, May 30, 1891
2. Paul Goldberger, Architecture Critic of The New York Times
3. The American Architect and Building News, July 8, 1893
4. The Village Voice, pp. 34, October 19, 1972
5. The New York Times, Obituaries, June 24, 1893

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Spring Tours of Graham House

The new middle gym
Now that we are in the "sprint to the finish" phase of our school consolidation/expansion project, I have begun leading school-wide hard hat tours for all of our parents so they can see the amazing new spaces in which teaching and learning will soon take place.

The stage area of the new performing arts center
Saint David's School this September will feature three new gymnasiums, a new lunchroom, performing arts center and music suite, new Upper and Lower School libraries, a STE(A)M suite with terrace, and homeroom suites with common areas--all consolidated on 89th Street. Specials are situated in the central core of the school, making them easily accessible by all grades. These spaces are increasingly taking form, and it has grown easy to visualize them in use.

Doors to the STE(A)M Terrace
Art Faculty in one of the Art Suite rooms
As I take parents through these new rooms, they can envision how the additional space will allow our program to thrive: the increased collaborative learning opportunities, exciting STE(A)M interdisciplinary projects made possible, the ability to engage in stage production/tech work, to perform plays and concerts in a professional theater, and play basketball in a regulation size gym. All right here on 89th Street! 

It is exciting to lead these tours and share the progress made in a project that will truly enable Saint David's to be "all that we can be."

More information on the expansion can be found at http://www.saintdavids.org/2018expansion

I look forward also to hosting a special tour for our alumni community at the beginning of the Spring Gathering in May. 

Cheered On for Kalina School Fundraisers

The first of our school's three walk-a-thons for Saint David's Kalina School in Tigray, Ethiopia, took place yesterday afternoon.

Cheered on by the pre-primary boys, faculty and staff, our seventh and eighth graders bounded from 12 East 89th Street and headed over to Central Park where they walked or ran the oval to raise money in continuing support of the school that Saint David's built in 2013 with our partner, Save the Children.

Today and tomorrow boys in Grades Four through Six will also participate in walk-a-thons during their sports periods.

The series of fundraisers is one of several projects our eighth grade boys spearhead under the guidance of their teacher Tom Ryan. The boys are excited to be contributing to the greater good through their sustained commitment to the Kalina community.

Saint David's Magazine Interview on Expansion

Cover illustration by Art Chair Jenna Boccella

The following interview with me about our expansion project and its related campaign is featured in the current issue of Saint David's Magazine:

Q: What is the background to the school’s expansion project?
It all began with a planning cycle in 2006, when the school engaged an outside strategic consultant to help us organize our strategic thinking. Out of this process we identified three goals: the first was to attract and retain exceptional faculty. This, we believe, is the most important asset of a school—its intellectual, human capital; the second goal was to ensure we remain representative of a broad cross-section of New York City. We wanted to be much more representative of the socio and economic diversity of this great city, while maintaining true to our mission, educational philosophy, and classical underpinning; the third strategic goal was to evaluate whether the physical assets of the school were mission-focused and driven.

We decided to tackle these goals in that order. Schools are defined principally by the relationships between the teachers and the boys first and foremost, then among the boys, and then among the parents, teachers and boys. Great schools have exceptional teachers and boys who are driven by the mission, as well as families that embrace and support that mission.

The new facade of Saint David's School

Our first campaign, which addressed the first two goals, supported a faculty initiative focused on professional development, supervision, evaluation, and compensation. At the same time, the school embarked upon an extensive curriculum initiative that addressed the depth and breadth of our curriculum and included vertical and horizontal integration school-wide. This effort resulted in identifying where we could link and partner with scientific, historic, and cultural institutions in recognition that a school is not defined by its walls, but also by interactions with experts in the field, which inspire faculty and provide boys with valuable experiences both inside and outside of the classroom. The first campaign also raised funds in support of our socioeconomic initiative.
At the same time that these initiatives were public, behind the scenes we were working on the third.

Q: What drove the decision to consolidate and expand into Graham House?

This project really is the fulfillment of a 45-year dream. Our wise predecessors knew that Graham House could give our boys what the Delano and Aldrich townhouses could not—large space and volume. Throughout the school’s history, space has dictated program and schedule. We realized we couldn’t be all that we can be without maximizing the physical assets of the school. We looked at other properties in the vicinity of the campus, and also at our contiguous space, and determined that we could meet the needs of program with space that the school already owned. We could create larger assembly and lunch space, enlarge homerooms and create common spaces, reorganize the homerooms so that they could be grouped together by grade, and enable boys to move more efficiently and effectively through the building.

We realized we could re-imagine the 89th Street Campus from scratch and it would be the first time in the school’s history that program would be the driver of allocation and use of space, rather than space dictating program and schedule.

Preparing to Sketch and Write in D.C.

Sixth graders prepared for the monument sketching and related writing they will do while on their upcoming three-day study tour of Washington, D.C., with a recent activity in front of the American Museum of Natural History.

There, the boys sketched the Equestrian Statue of Theodore Roosevelt, and then brainstormed related poetic devices such as simile, metaphor, and personification that could be used in a poem about the statue.

When they return to class after the D.C. trip, they will use their brainstorming ideas and sketches of national monuments to create observational poetry for publication in our Upper School literary and art publication, OBELISK.

Observational drawing and related reflections are an emphasis of our program's aesthetic pillar.  Throughout their years at Saint David's our boys develop and hone these skills, cultivating an ability to express what they see and think through art and in writing.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Science: Space and Senses

Recently, fifth graders took advantage of our proximity to and partnership with the American Museum of Natural History to deepen and augment their learning in science.

The boys first sat in on the sixth graders' spectacular, research based Digital Universe space presentations, and left the Hayden Planetarium eager to "fly through space" next year.

They then explored the museum's "Our Senses" exhibit, to learn more about the human body and the brain, a topic connected to the boys' study of natural selection.

We are particularly fortunate to engage in partnerships with leading scientific institutions like AMNH and to be located in a city with such a wealth of opportunities for our boys to experience learning outside of the classroom.