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Showing posts from September, 2015

Fifth Grade Explores Native American Cultures at Downtown Museum

Earlier this week our fifth graders and their teachers visited the National Museum of the American Indian here in downtown New York, where the boys participated in a self-guided tour of the Infinity of Nations exhibit.  Arranged in a series of display cases--each representing a Native American culture region--the exhibit presents a diverse array of artifacts including, musical instruments, weapons, ceremonial objects, and clothing.

In line with our school's focus on Making Thinking Visible (see an earlier post on this topic) the boys used "the Explanation Game," a thinking routine in which they recorded observations and drew inferences about the different cultures presented in the exhibit.  This routine will help lead the boys toward understanding the many ways that Native American tribes adapted and modified their environments.

The boys' visit to the museum marks the beginning of a new unit in fifth grade history that centers on the effects of the encounters betwe…

Fun in Spanish

Walk by a Spanish immersion class on our first floor, and you are in for a treat: boys may be singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in Spanish, or playing a variety of games, including "Memory."

Teachers are often dressed up in fun colorful costumes, using props to drive home a topic, using playful visual and musical activities to engage our young learners in ways that help them to retain content.

We rolled out our Spanish immersion program at Saint David's several years ago. Our current sixth graders, who were the first class to study Spanish beginning in Pre-K, now have seven years under their belts!

Because our program is aligned with topics the boys are studying in other classes, the concepts introduced in Spanish are familiar to the boys and extend their understanding of multiple disciplines.

Research shows that elementary school study of a second language, in addition to laying a foundation for fluency, results in cognitive benefits, academic …

DNALC Partnership With Eighth Grade

The following article by Upper School Science Teacher Anna Liebowitz appears in the summer 2015 issue of Saint David's Magazine.

When I was a sophomore at Princeton, I took a course required for my major, the Molecular Biology Core Lab, an intense, semester-long lab course in which we learned all the major tools and tricks of Mol Bio, as we called it. We learned to isolate, sequence, and copy DNA, and to manipulate DNA in living bacteria. By the end of the course, we were all well prepared to join academic research labs to investigate and complete our senior theses.

This spring, we transformed Eighth Grade science class into a course remarkably similar to Core Lab. In February, we inaugurated the Eighth Grade partnership with the Cold Spring Harbor DNA Learning Center. Educators from the Learning Center led students through a series of ever-more complex labs, culminating in a multi-week DNA Barcoding research project, in which students chose topics of investigation, gathered sampl…

Music at Saint David's

Saint David's boys in our Philharmonic Ensemble already are rehearsing for one of the four performances they will give this year.

Before school began this morning, they were in the music suite working on Wagner's March of the Meistersingers (see video clip).

Under the direction of conductor Phil Hough, this dedicated group of boys in Grades Three through Eight rehearses twice a week before school throughout the school-year. In addition, members commit to significant practice time at home.

The Ensemble, along with the school's First Orchestra, which is open to our younger boys, the Chamber Singers, Recorder Consort, Percussion Ensemble, and the many music classes our boys take during the year, provide our boys with an amazing array of opportunities to explore and engage with music.

Music has always played a strong role at Saint David's, a manifestation of our mission's commitment to the aesthetic and the classical ideal of balance.

Thinking Made Visible

The following article by Assistant Headmaster Alexis Aoyama appears in the summer 2015 issue of Saint David's Magazine:

The formation of thoughts and ideas is often an invisible process, yet it is the basis for learning. Remembering, reflecting, reasoning, analyzing, and synthesizing are complex internal processes that shape the way a person makes sense of the world. Providing opportunities for a student to share his thinking gives the educator a window into his mind and allows the educator to tailor instruction to meet the student’s needs. As boys are asked to explain their thinking, they develop language for talking about thinking and gain a sense of ownership in the process. Explicitly teaching students thinking moves they can use to understand a wide range of topics helps them become empowered as learners. Making boys’ thinking visible promotes student engagement, understanding, and independence.

At Saint David’s, we aim to immerse students in rich learning experiences that en…

DNALC: Looking at Liver

In their first session with an educator from the DNA Learning Center of Cold Spring Harbor, eighth graders participated in an observational lab about catalase, an enzyme found in many plants and animals that digests poisonous hydrogen peroxide into harmless water and oxygen molecules.

To test if the enzyme really does produce oxygen molecules, boys took a sample of calf's liver (which contains catalase) placed it into a cup of hydrogen peroxide, and observed the change in temperature and bubbling that occurred, noting that these indicated the possible release of oxygen. To further test, they took a small lit match and placed it in the bubbles, observing that the larger flames that resulted also indicated the presence of oxygen (see video clip).

They then experimented and observed the deformation that occurred when the enzyme was heated or treated with acid (vinegar).

In this lesson the boys saw the importance of having a control in their experiment, of being precise, and thinking…

Deliberate Moral Introspection: Opening Letter

“To live in the presence of great truths and eternal laws, to be led by permanent ideals, that is what keeps a man patient when the world ignores him and calm and unspoiled when the world praises him.” (1)

Dear Saint David’s School Community,

Sitting atop the highest peak in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, just outside Charlottesville, Virginia, I opened my summer; the season closed with me sitting cross-legged on the floor of a Buddhist Temple in the Hudson Highlands of New York.  It was a summer of profound contrast, setting the stage for Saint David’s 65th year.

Experiencing the architectural beauty of Monticello for the first time, one can’t help but admire the genius of Jefferson—a founding father of a nation and a university.  One also can’t help being struck by the incredible paradox Jefferson’s Monticello represents.  The very ideals of the Enlightenment that informed his authorship of a Declaration stand in stark contrast to the policies and practices of his day.  …

Saint David's Opens its 65th Year

I love the first day of school: greeting the boys as they return, the flurry of excitement, some nerves but mostly eager anticipation.

After a long and spectacular summer, we are back and excited to get down to the business of teaching and learning.

The spirit of Saint David's is epitomized by one of its most treasured first day of school traditions: our youngest boys being greeted and welcomed to their first day of school by our oldest boys.

The smiles on little boys' faces when they take the hand of an older boy are priceless.  The bond between younger and older boy is one of many ways we create a culture of caring and connection.