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.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Saint David's Boys Program Mars Rovers

Sixth graders recently honed their coding and engineering skills using LEGO Mindstorms as they built, programmed, and operated model Mars rovers. Working with partners, they completed a series of challenges that rovers would have to perform on Mars: collect rock samples, launch a satellite, and gather astronauts from one base to transport them to another.

This project harnesses boys' natural intellectual curiosity in active, collaborative, and creative ways. They are free to take risks as they test and revise their designs through the iterative engineering design process. It is challenging and the boys love it!

Here are excerpts from some of their robotics journals:

"I learned how to make the robot follow a line and stop at certain colors. This was very challenging at points, but my partner and I persevered through all of the challenges."

"You have to trust your partner; you can't be afraid to ask for help. Once we asked for help, we were able to fix our problem and keep on going."

"The coding for our rovers is getting more complex, harder to figure out, and more fun!"

"This week was a very difficult week in way of coding. All of the new learning missions were much harder than the ones preceding them. It was very challenging, but it was worth it."

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Navy SEAL Bill Berrien '82 Gives Chapel on Service to Saint David's Boys

Former Navy SEAL and Saint David's Alumnus Bill Berrien '82 fascinated all during his Chapel Talk Tuesday morning to our seventh and eighth graders.

A SEAL for nine years, Bill was a member of two platoons in South America as well as part of a Joint Special Operations unit. He shared his SEAL Trident with the boys, talked about the intensity of training, and noted he remains close to many with whom he served.

Connecting his service to the values that Saint David's espouses, he encouraged the boys to always be students--curious throughout their lives, to find the best in everyone, appreciate setbacks, and to learn from failures. In the video above, he addresses the first.

He closed by planting these "seeds" for our boys to consider: that life is a journey to be embraced broadly with openness to a variety of opportunities; being a service leader is of utmost importance; the unknown should be embraced; and, finally, that the boys be their own best friend, compassionate and not overly self critical.

It was great to welcome Bill and his father back to our school. For our boys to hear from an alumnus who has bravely served his country and embraces the service value that Saint David's holds so important, is both powerful and inspiring. Today, that is especially resonant as we remember the bravery and sacrifices made 75 years ago on the coast of Normandy.

Thank you to Bill and his friends, the Moran family, for giving us this special morning.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

NY Giant Justin Tuck Inspires at Saint David's Networking Event

New York Giant, philanthropist, financier and author Justin Tuck was the guest speaker for Saint David's Networking Event, held last week in our Otto-Bernstein Performing Arts Theatre.

Justin shared with us the story of his recruitment to Notre Dame and credited his success and fortune to having been prepared to take advantage of an opportunity when it presented, and even moreso to having had the support of "the right people in my life who steered me the right way. The only reason I am the man I am is that I had the fortune of having other men and women who could guide me." These included a father who impressed upon him that the only value in being powerful or successful is the good that you can effect with it.

Motivated throughout his life by his faith, family, a thirst for knowledge and love for athletics, Justin noted that the values of Saint David's resonated deeply with him and that our school is "making the ball more in the right direction early" for our boys. He encouraged the young alumni present to be patient, take time to learn the basics of a sport or wherever their passions and interest may lie, and to pay their successes forward. 

It was an honor to have this humble Giant, a person who embodies what it means to be a good man, speak to our community. Our appreciation to him and to alumni parent Greg Hoogkamp and John C. Dearie '95 for making this evening possible.

This was the first time that the annual Networking Event was held at our school, in our beautiful new theatre. The evening provides an opportunity for alumni, alumni parents, and current parents to listen to a renowned speaker and to catch up and network together.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Saint David's Seventh Graders See "To Kill a Mockingbird" on Broadway

Our seventh graders, having recently studied Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird in English class, were thrilled to see the new stage version live on Broadway last week with their teachers. The boys were captivated by the show, which prompted thoughtful questions and comments afterward.

Post show, they were treated to a special talk-back led by cast members. The discussion explored the ways in which the play differs from the novel and how Aaron Sorkin's writing addresses important current-day issues and dynamics. The school is grateful to current parent Tom Kitt and To Kill A Mockingbird company manager Megan Curren for arranging the talk-back.

Taking advantage of New York City's cultural institutions enhances the learning that occurs within the classroom. Undoubtedly, yesterday's show enabled characters from the book to come alive in new and possibly unexpected ways for our boys. All of this deepens thinking and critical analysis of ideas and issues.

Spring Concert

Our boys in the Philharmonic Ensemble, Percussion Ensemble, and Chamber Singers performed at this year's spring concert with talent, exuberance, and passion. With our new theater's acoustics allowing notes and voices to soar, the program featured a diversity of works from composers such as Bizet, Rachmaninoff, Journey, Vivaldi, and Woody Guthrie (and a couple of fun sing-alongs, too)!

What a joy to begin a beautiful spring day experiencing the fruits of our boys' many hours of practice, their dedication to their music, to their fellow musicians, and to their school. We embrace the ideal of balance at Saint David's and believe a boy should fully express and realize his potential for good in several facets of life: as a scholar, artist, athlete, and moral person. Our strong music program is a prime example of that conviction.

The Capstone Arco Project in Eighth Grade Humanities

ARCO is the final summary project in our eighth graders' humanities class; a signature learning experience that infuses scholarship with history, art, analysis and rhetoric. For this competition, boys create an original piece of art that is inspired by a famous artist's work. They write a brief biography of the artist and a reflection on the process they used to create their piece.

Last Monday, the boys presented their projects to a panel of judges consisting of teachers and art professionals. That evening, the boys' families attended a reception, the Salon de diplomes, in which the boys commented on their work. The winners will be announced prior to graduation.

I am always impressed by the maturity of our boys as  I listen to each speak with confidence about his project--explaining why he selected a certain artist or work, analyzing the approach he took, the problems he encountered along the way, and the lessons he learned. Soon these young men will be Saint David's grads. They are ready.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Pre-K Boys at Saint David's Experience the Journey of Food from Farm to Table

“From Seeds to Supper” is Pre-Kindergarten's yearlong study about where food comes from and the journey it takes from farm to table. Through dramatic play and hands-on activities, our boys learn and experience all aspects of this process.

This study is active and multi-faceted. After planting seeds in their own classroom garden, the boys carefully observe as the roots take hold and the sprouts shoot upward. They come to appreciate the time and care needed for fruits and vegetables to grow, while dramatic play offers the ideal conduit to highlight their understanding of the farm-to-table process. They "harvest" vegetables from their  “garden farm” and shuttle them to their classroom store where they are purchased for the Pre-K pizzeria. All of this also allows for vocabulary and social connections to shine.

The “From Seeds Supper” movie, see clip above, captures these moments in a medium that the boys delight in as they display all that they have learned.


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Horizons at Saint David's Celebrates!

I would like to share this update from Meg Sheridan, Executive Director of Horizons at Saint David's, about Horizons' recent anniversary celebration:

Close to 200 people gathered to celebrate Horizons at Saint David’s at our third annual Cinco de Mayo event, held May 8th at the Museum of the City of New York. Current Saint David's parents, past Saint David's parents, and Horizons parents all came out to show their support. It was a great night for Horizons!

Two of our rising 7th graders shared their experiences at Horizons. Both joined Horizons right after kindergarten. The boys attend different schools and they see each other every summer at Horizons. Their fast friendship is a good illustration of our Horizons community. Horizons is a tight family of teachers, students and their families.

The evening raised important funds for Horizons. Bidders won a coveted Horizons cap. The bidding was so spirited we ran out of caps! Thank you one and all for your support of Horizons, a true extension of Saint David's mission.

To learn more about Horizons at Saint David's, visit this link.

On the Run for Ethiopia School Project!

Saint David's seventh and eighth graders bounded out of 12 East 89th Street today to cheers and high-fives by our youngest, as they kicked off our series of Dollars for Ethiopian Scholars walkathons.

Each year, eighth graders spearhead a school-wide effort to provide educational resources to Ethiopian boys and girls. The initiative began in 2011 with the building of the Saint David's Kalina School in Tigray through Saint David's partnership with Save the Children.

This year, the boys are raising money for a new Saint David's addition to a school in Ala'sa. The project involves construction of a two-room block addition to the current school there, which, when completed, will serve 188 boys and girls in Grades Five and Six. Without the addition, the children would need to travel five miles by foot to get to the next nearest school.

Eighth graders, with Mr. Ryan guiding them, are in charge of organizing and running all of the fundraisers: the basketball and soccer games, tee shirt and ice cream sales, walkathons, and quiz show.

The boys, enthusiastic and deeply invested in this project, recognize the good they are doing by bringing desperately needed educational resources to children who may live far away, but share similar hopes and dreams.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A Record Year for Saint David's Boys' Pennies for Puppies Project

Initiated in 2005 by parents Connie Hays (R.I.P.) and Sally Connolly, Saint David's fourth graders work each year on behalf of The Seeing Eye Foundation through the Pennies for Puppies project. The Seeing Eye's mission is to enhance the independence, dignity, and self-confidence of people who are blind, through the use of trained guide dogs.

This multifaceted project begins with a visit to The Seeing Eye Foundation's headquarters in Morristown, New Jersey, where the boys tour the facility, visit with people and their guide dogs, and learn about all that goes into the dogs' training.

They then collect donations and execute a bake sale in our lobby, for which they do all the work: the baking, advertising, pricing, and selling. This year's bake sale, held last week, raised a record $3,106.

In yesterday's special Assembly, fourth graders presented a check to Mr. Don MacGowan, Volunteer Coordinator for The Seeing Eye. Mr. MacGowan engaged the boys in a discussion about what they had learned during their visit to Seeing Eye and thanked them for efforts in support of the organization.

Our mission inspires boys to be good by doing good. Not only does this project provide our boys with an opportunity to contribute to the greater good, it also enables them to appreciate and learn from people who experience the world differently than they do.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Solar System Model and Rocket Launch in Pre-K STEAM Unit

Our Pre-K STEAM boys recently completed an exploration of the solar system through a hands-on, multi-faceted unit that integrates art and science and is a perfect example of the ways boys learn best.

The unit's purpose is to elicit the boys' knowledge about planets and the sun while dispelling common misconceptions, and to have the boys come to understand how humans are able to learn about objects that are so far away.

Once facts about the solar system were discussed and understood through teacher-led readings and viewing of NASA video footage and images, the boys put their new knowledge about the sun and planets to work, using tissue paper and decoupage to build a model of the sun in its three-dimensional fiery form. They later created a paper-mache solar system that featured details in colors and texture to match those of NASA images. As an example, the boys cut and hand colored chunks of "rocky and icy debris" to simulate the rings of Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Then, after seeing that humans were able to learn about the universe by launching spacecraft into space, the boys built and decorated their own paper rockets.

On launch day--as you can imagine, a most anticipated day--with their paper mache solar system hanging in the nearby distance, the boys stomp-launched their rockets to see how far into space they could travel.

Active, creative, engaging, harnessing their intellectual curiosity, teacher-guided yet student-directed, and grounded in science--these are some of the ways that boys learn best and which we employ at Saint David's from the youngest grades.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Broadway Bound - Saint David's Boys and Marymount Girls

The musical, about dreams, was a dream come true for us at Saint David's: the first production done in collaboration with Marymount School on the stage of our new Otto-Bernstein Performing Arts Theatre.

Last night, Saint David's After School Broadway Bound class performed Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for the Saint David's and Marymount communities. The production was, well, Amazing, in all respects: the lighting, costumes, set design, staging, and, of course, the performances by the cast of talented Saint David's boys and Marymount girls who participated in our new Broadway Bound After School program this spring.

The shared experience not only resulted in a Tony-worthy show, but the opportunity for our boys to collaborate with girls from Marymount and to benefit from the personal growth the comes from working hard on a production, and stretching beyond one's comfort zone.

Kudos to the cast members and creative team for putting on a spectacular show.  Special thanks to Director of After School and Summer Programs Irene Byun, Director of Music Jeff Moore, Upper School faculty member Shane Meals, Marymount Drama Chair and Saint David's current parent Rita Kitt and Marymount Head of School Concepcion Alvar for making this production possible.

Saint David's has a great tradition in the theater arts, dating back to the years of the Faculty plays and all of the performances associated with our program of studies. In the past, these productions had to be performed on makeshift stages, with little in the way of production design possible. All that has now changed! We look forward to more productions and collaborations.

Photography: Melanie Fidler and Tobias Everke