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.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

An Ode

In the last week of October, 2013, an established fixture in the psyche of all Saint David's boys past and present, closed its doors.  The deli on the corner of 89th and Madison, not necessarily known for its Madison Avenue chic, but none-the-less a staple supplier of hearty food and other less healthy condiments, has become embedded over the decades, in the lore of the School.

As with any loss there is an intangible sense of sadness around its closure, and yet, it's no surprise that it has come to this.

In an effort to capture, reflect, celebrate, honor and maybe in a strange way glorify this fixture in the life of Saint David's boys, I penned a little ode in the style of the ancient poet Pindar.  He would often in his poems write of and honor youth and the things they valued.  I thought it fitting today to present this ode as my chapel talk for All-Saint's and Halloween.

An Ode to Our GTD

If ever a boy hungered or thirst
With all his wits aside, sparing himself
Neither expense nor culinary delight, to attain
A calming of his growling stomach
A quenching of his parched mouth
A sating of these essential desires
He would cross, the threshold of modern time
The great divide between now and then, and enter
Abandoning all hope, The Green Tree Deli.

Nothing wasted on the walls, nor even placed upon the shelves
Empty cigarette dispenser, crooked floor, cracked linoleum
Half-filled coolers, expired health certificate, affixed
With spit to the glass,
And grease laden, dust covered, fly infested ceiling
But ah, the food
The greasy, hot, no frills food.

Then must we give, to those
Who have satisfied these senses
For all these years, a proud tribute
Of lofty praise, and shun
All our feelings of profound melancholy, gone now
The four-ten rush, cheap soda, illegal candy, unhealthy chips
Gone, the curt, no-smile, New York mornings
Gone now ‘A TBB,’ gone
‘TBB … Bacon’

To a boy's mind the gift is slight, to speak
A kind word for unnumbered toils, and build
For all to share, a monument of glory
Our questionably clean, now abandoned, but immortal and glorious
Green Tree Deli, this ode’s
 For thee

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Critters at the Cape: Design Thinking in Action

This year, during the seventh grade's interdisciplinary week-long experience on Cape Cod, the boys participated in a STE(A)M related project.  The goal:  Construct a critter, using what they have learned about the environment, adaptation, evolution, art, and design.

For this new project, created by teacher Gary Kessler and based on work he had done over the summer on spherical shapes, the boys worked in teams of two or four using paper plate spheres and other materials to create their unique creatures that met the criteria outlined.

The boys discussed and proposed an appropriate environment for their creature and the special adaptations, or processes by which the critters would be fitted to that environment. As you can imagine the debates were quite spirited.

Once the projects were completed, the teams prepared a presentation of their critter and their rationale for its existence.  The presentations were then video recorded.

Boys were so engaged in this project that several stayed up past curfew to work on it! As we explore what it means to engage in critical analysis this year, it is clear that the very nature of such interdisciplinary STE(A)M projects, with their interplay between creativity, science, math and the all-important design element lend themselves to deep thinking and problem solving; and prove to be incredibly exciting for our boys!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

St. George's, Westminster, Millbrook, and Loomis

With a day off from school, George, Coop, Tau,  and Hayden dropped by to visit yesterday.  All freshmen at their respective high schools, they were in great spirits.

Hayden is making a name for himself running cross-country ... "raising more than a few marveling eyebrows at the season opening Choate Invitational ... turning heads ..." and Tau is busy working in Millbrook's zoo, George is enjoying activity on the lake, Coop is dealing with Loomis' recent "lesson" taught, according to Khalid, by Canterbury, with all the grace and humor of a true Saint David's boy!

It was great to see them.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Inwood: Caves and Wigwams

Second Graders at Inwood
Yesterday, the second grade took their first field trip for this school year!  The boys traveled to Inwood Park’s Natural Classroom to build on their knowledge of the Lenape tribe, indigenous peoples to this area.  

The boys have been studying the ways of the Lanape through our partnership with the New-York Historical Society for the past several weeks now. The trip was a planned chance to link their classroom studies to physically engaging experiences.

To prepare for this trip, in addition to critiquing artifacts with N-YHS curators and studying texts, second graders built their own longhouses and wigwams in class (photo below),  and explored the various ways the Lenape were a resourceful people.  

Making Wigwams Pre-trip
On the trip, New York State Park Rangers escorted the boys through the Inwood Park 'living exhibit.' Rangers further explored with the boys how the Lenape’s life was heavily influenced by geography and natural resources.

The day was a success: imagine the boys' delight when they saw an actual wigwam and were able to explore caves! 

NYS Ranger Prepares Boys for Cave Entry
One of our newer trips incorporated into the curriculum, this type of experiential learning enables the boys to more deeply think about, understand, and make connections to what they learn in class.  

Saint David's looks for every opportunity to connect boys' classroom learning with tangible experiences that reinforce, contextualize, and extend learning.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Cape Today

On the Cape today 7th grade boys explored the bay and coastal geography as part of their week-long trip to Cape Cod. Clearly the cooler, overcast day did not impede their efforts. 

A few photos below. They are having a blast.

Choate, Deerfield, Episcopal, Canterbury

Monday was an exciting day.  Several grads visited on their first day off from high school.  Lucas from Choate, Giacomo from Deerfield, Hutch from Episcopal, and Khalid from Canterbury.  It was fun catching up with them.  They all seem very happy.  Khalid, starting safety and JV Captain of the football team, expressed great pleasure at "teaching Westminster a lesson," in a recent game.   That passion and pride was evident in all the boys.

It doesn't surprise me that Khalid was wearing the shirt he was for the visit!

Monday, October 21, 2013

What are you Eating? Because First Graders Know What They're Eating

Boys Grouping Foods
Last week first grade boys learned about good nutrition in an engaging way during an interdisciplinary athletics class at the 94th Street Gym. The boys enjoyed playing a variety of active healthy-eating themed games with their coaches including "Food Tag Frenzy" where the goal was to create healthy, balanced meals.

The boys also participated in presentations about healthy eating by a registered dietician from Cater to You, which included discussion of the food groups, healthy eating habits, creating balanced "colorful" meals, and the importance of hydration.

A delicious themed lunch that focused on balanced, colorful foods followed the special workshop session.

Food Awaiting Grouping
This new interdisciplinary unit in the first grade combines nutrition, athletics, and health; it is one part of a larger curricular strand that also includes a new unit in the sixth grade that I blogged about last month. 

In line with our year-long theme "critical analysis," making healthy choices about what we put into our bodies involves a certain level of critical thinking and informed judgement about the foods we eat and our corresponding levels of physical activity.

The important roles that proper nutrition and physical activity play in fostering good health and enhanced physical and academic performance are well documented.  For our boys learning this early in life is a Saint David's goal.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Cardinal Cooke and the Greater Good

6th grade volunteers contributed to the greater good last night at Terence Cardinal Cooke.  After trekking up 5th Avenue, the boys spent an hour or so of their free time visiting with the residents.

Making Halloween decorations, the boys helped the residents prepare for their big Halloween bash later this month.  The boys were, as always, charismatic, leaving the residents asking for more!

I was proud of their efforts.  It's always gratifying to watch them interact with the residents, building relationships and experiences that transcend their "normal" day.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Why Documents Matter

Yesterday, James G. Basker, President of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, visited Saint David's to meet with our sixth graders and their parents to discuss the value of primary source documents.  Professor Basker explained that when people closely examine original documents, they become historians themselves rather than merely passive recipients of information. During the session the professor elicited observations and inferences from the boys as they closely studied reproductions of several documents in the Gilder Lehrman Collection including, a Boston Massacre print by Paul Revere, a version of the Declaration of Independence believed to be the sole survivor of a Charleston, South Carolina printing, a letter from George Washington in which he expresses his misgivings about slavery, and a letter by abolitionist Frederick Douglass to his former owners in which he forgivingly declares, "I love you but hate slavery."

In one activity, boys compared the Preamble in an early (confidential) draft of the U.S. Constitution with that of the final version, in which "We the People of the States of New Hampshire …" became "We the People of the United States …" Prof. Basker noted how that difference indicates the powerful change in thinking among our founding fathers in the few short weeks of the convention in the summer of 1776 : "They stopped thinking of themselves as separate, but instead as members of one country." Only close scrutiny of original source documents can teach you this.

Prof. Basker and the HM with Tad and Nicholas
Basker also touched on the value of preserving the personal documents of ordinary people, such as letters from soldiers during the Civil War, for the insights they offer into peoples' thoughts and emotional states at a particular time.  The boys examined several examples with the professor.

This year our sixth graders are studying American history in a course that underscores the value of documentary evidence in its original context. Through our new partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Institute, the boys will have access to their unique archive of primary source documents—more than 60,000 now housed at the New-York Historical Society—and they will critically analyze and interpret them to explore what it means to live in a democracy. In an era of digital communications, in which insights into the process of thinking can be difficult to discern, access to this extensive collection will reveal the important information that can be gleaned only from examining documents in their original forms.

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History was founded in 1994 by Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman, businessmen and philanthropists, whose love of history led them to compile the largest private collection of historical manuscripts. The purpose of the Institute is educational: "to promote the study and love of American history" by making their rare collection available to educators and students through various media.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

School-wide Theme in Action: Professional Growth and Development

Our school-wide theme, "Critical Analysis" in action!

An outgrowth of our multi-year Curriculum Initiative that concluded last year was the incorporation of more outside professional critiques of various aspects of our program.  Several years ago Saint David's Athletic Department partnered with the Positive Coaching Alliance to objectively provide on-going professional critique of our coaching practices and procedures; not to address any particular issue, rather to continually grow and improve professional practice.

After visits by the Alliance staff earlier in the season, Saint David's coaches this past Saturday gathered at school for a follow-up workshop.  The workshop began with the question,“What is my legacy?” This led to a lively discussion on the value of creating a positive athletic culture. It also led to the question: Are we making sure the boys know and understand “The Way We Do Things Here?”

The department then discussed the importance of creating an open mindset for our boys, which allows them to value practice, hard work, and effort and how it’s part of our coaching responsibility to ensure this mindset's cultivation is a part of our instruction. Preparing the body for sports and developing specific physical skills is only part of the coaches' role.  Equally important is the cultivation of a mindset that values commitment, perseverance, and effort.

The coaches also spent a considerable amount of time critically reflecting on the amount of time spent on Outcome Goals (winning) vs. Performance Goals (steady improvement).

The third component of the workshop focused on how we teach our boys to compete. The coaches explored the essence of a “Triple Impact Competitor,” our aim for the Saint David's athlete, who 1) Works to master his skills and understand the importance of steady improvement; 2) Shows team leadership by staying positive with all of his teammates; and 3) Remembers at all times that he must “Honor The Game.”

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Building Community From Within

An Introductory Activity at Community Club This Morning
Saint David's created a boys Community Club out of its strategic desire to build an even stronger, more supportive and inclusive community within the school.  As the program enters its second year, faculty and boys involved with the program are excited.  Their focus is to 'do,' engage in action that builds school community.

During the Community Club’s first few sessions, the boys have participated in greetings and activities that help them get to know one another reports Amanda Rathbun, one of the club's leading faculty members.

The Community Club’s first goal is to help build community within the club—help boys feel comfortable, confident, and included.  We have also had great conversations about how we can help make Saint David’s a stronger community.

The boys brainstormed ideas such as: bring people together to learn about them, share our different interests with older boys, help boys make new friends, teach people how to stay in good health.  The Community Club also had inspiring conversations about their different interests and their family differences.  Boys discussed how their different interests make them more special and unique, and that we should learn about people’s differences so we can get to know them better.   They also discussed family differences, and had a great discussion about how families are different.  Many of the boys in this conversation realized that their family’s differences are actually shared by many families!

This fall, the boys in the Community Club have decided to make a series of Public Service Announcements in order to share helpful reminders and teach valuable lessons.  These PSA’s will be scripted, performed, and filmed by boys in the Community Club and then shown in every homeroom at homeroom time.

Mannahatta: 2nd Grade Examines Old New York

N-YHS Curator with the boys and a Lenape artifact from their collection
Boys in Grade 2 began their year-long study of the evolution of New York City with an examination of artifacts used by the Lenape tribe of early Manhattan, or Mannahatta--"land of many hills. "

Today's lesson was the first in a series of sessions conducted through our partnership with the New-York Historical Society, now in its third year. It involved the boys observing and then making inferences based on those observations about the purpose and use of a variety of artifacts. Boys worked in groups to examine the artifacts and presented their findings and reasoning to the class.

Critical analysis, our school-wide theme this year, was in abundance as the boys thoughtfully and excitedly made connections about form, function, and what they have been learning about early Manhattan life.

Our boys will have educators and curators from the N-YHS continue to visit their classrooms at specific times throughout the year, and the boys will be making several special planned visits to the Society. 

This partnership with educators and curators from the N-YHS is one of several educational partnerships we have created with educational organizations, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History, and Cold Spring Harbor, to name a few.