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, August 21, 2013

Saint David's and Cold Spring Harbor

Today a small team of Saint David's teachers and administrators visited the DNA Learning Center (DNALC) of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory - the world's first science center devoted entirely to genetics education. 

The team met with two of the DNALC's instructors to plan opportunities for our fifth graders to extract and analyze DNA at the DNALC labs and Saint David's science lab during the winter and spring trimesters.

In addition to visits to the laboratories on Long Island to examine and conduct observations of mutations in Drosophilafruit flies and C. elegans nematodes, the boys will also visit the center's DNA Laboratory for investigations and experimentations with DNA Fingerprinting - and an introduction to gel electrophoresis."

Cold Spring Harbor staff will also be working with the boys at Saint David's science labs during the winter and spring semesters. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

DNA and DIY at Saint David's STE(A)M

Our technology faculty have been busy at work this summer immersing themselves in exciting projects that they will bring back to our STE(A)M classes.

During a week-long course on DNA bar-coding, conducted by a partnership between Rockefeller University and the Cold Spring Harbor DNA Learning Center, they practiced extracting DNA from a variety of plant and animal samples, selecting a single gene, amplifying that DNA using PCR protocol, and performing gel electrophoresis to verify the success of the PCR amplification. Each DNA sample was sequenced in a New Jersey facility, and then provided to workshop participants as a digital file.

Our teachers then worked with online databases of genetic information to compare their samples' gene sequences to those of hundreds of thousands of other species. They were able to identify the species of their sample organisms, and create  genetic "family trees" that show which species are most genetically similar to the organisms whose DNA they sequenced. During this school year, Saint David's is partnering with the Cold Spring Harbor DNA Learning Center to bring a new DNA unit to our science classes.

Embracing the DIY approach to learning, our teachers also experimented with Arduino microprocessors, breadboards, temperature sensors and LED lights (see photos). These inexpensive electronics/processing components, combined with programming (using the C language) open up wonderful possibilities for open-ended design and engineering projects that explore electronics, processing, programming, and physical computing.

These kinds of projects will be incorporated into the Seventh Grade technology curriculum, and the First and Second Grade STE(A)M program, using developmentally appropriate materials. 

Research indicates that when boys are empowered to create and build something of interest to them, they understand and learn more deeply. We look forward to implementing more of these types of "do it yourself"  learning-by-making opportunities into our curriculum.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Horizons at Saint David's Summer II--Freaky Pets!

Freaky Pets perform at Horizon's
The school's strategic commitment to reaching out and contributing to the greater good took another huge step forward this summer with the second season of Horizons at Saint David's.  Directed by Julie Sykes and her team of exceptional teachers, Courtney Hopkins, Meghan Patterson, Melissa Ferrer, Lindsay Buhr, and Leah Kaplan, and accompanied by a host of volunteers, Horizons at Saint David's has delivered a program specifically aimed at preventing academic slide in children from low-income families.

This summer, a second cohort of seventeen boys from Harlem public schools were added to the first cohort of seventeen, making total enrollment 34.  Rising First and rising Second graders have been at Saint David's for the past 5 weeks participating in a full academic enrichment program. 
In addition to its heavy emphasis on academic skill maintenance, the program has also provided daily sports and swimming instruction at Asphalt Green, art and music classes, and specialized field trips.

Yesterday, the boys were treated to a performance by Freaky Pets Live--a live show of fun, singing, dancing, juggling, hoola hooping, cycling, and a heart warming story about being separated from loved ones.  The boys just ate it up. Kevin Wulf, Charity Farrell, and Jennifer Machen were exceptional on the stage and the production crew could not have been more talented.