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.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Young Alumni Chapel and Thanksgiving

Last night the Chapel overflowed with our boys and several of their teachers for the Young Alumni Chapel and Dinner,  a Thanksgiving tradition that has grown tremendously each year since its inception in 2006.

Alum Chris Landry '06 delivered the Chapel talk to the gathering of our eighth graders,  alumni who are currently in high school, and faculty and staff. Chris, a graduate of Regis and currently a first-year medical student at Columbia, focused his talk on the uniqueness of a Saint David's education. 

Recalling a favorite Latin class he took while at Saint David's, he recounted an exam in which the teacher asked the boys not only the expected questions related to vocabulary or the readings of ancient philosophers, but to write an essay that would,  "relate the Latin we learned to the six virtues of Saint Davids: scholarship, spirituality, balance, action, order, and aesthetics."

He noted the value in such an exam question, which asks the student to really think and connect what he is learning in a discipline to bigger issues or values.  He also observed how rare it is for schools and other institutions to place such values at their core; and that our school-wide theme for this year deliberate moral introspection is a call "to look inward and also outward." This entails reflection on "the aspects of ourselves that are good and what's not so good, what could be made better," so that "ultimately we make ourselves and others better." For as Chris observed, what is of most importance is not the major goals achieved in a life, but how we live our daily lives: "Every moment of your life matters."

These wise words from our alumnus speaker provided much fodder for all to ponder as we later headed down to Hyman Hall to share in a delicious pre-Thanksgiving meal. During dinner, last year's Student Council President Kevin K. '15 presented a check to Save the Children's Cheryl Anderson for the fundraising work his class led in support of the Saint David's School in Kalina, Ethiopia.

To top off a wonderful evening, Teacher Tom Ryan announced that this year our boys collected enough food during our Thanksgiving Food Drive to pack a record 252 boxes for delivery this morning.

As we enter this Holiday Season, and with each successive year, I find myself growing ever more grateful and appreciative of our collective blessings.

We are fortunate to be surrounded by boys who thirst to learn, moms and dads who strive to nurture, teachers who yearn to inspire, a community that commits to those in need, and a mission that encourages boys to aspire to be good men.

I have come to realize that life is a gift.  It’s important to live it, enjoy it, celebrate it, and fulfill it and most important of all, we are to be thankful for it.

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Mailbox in the Palm of Your Hand

In math, sixth graders learn about proportion by creating a mailbox model to scale.

The goal is for each of them to build, from a single sheet of paper, a three-dimensional model that can stand upright in the palm of the boy’s hand.

The project involves extensive sketching and multiple iterations of design, as the boys use their math knowledge to determine what will and won’t work, and they learn much by sharing and critiquing their various approaches with each other.

In this challenging STEAM project, our boys "learn by hands-on doing," sharing, and problem solving.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Omega's Farmer's Market Soup

Today's lunch featured a delicious vegetable soup (also known as Omega Farmer's Market Soup), courtesy of the Omega boys' field trip yesterday to the Farmer's Market in Union Square.

There, the boys and their teachers learned from a representative of our food service provider, Cater to You, about the characteristics of different types of vegetables.

Afterward, the boys were separated into 8 different groups, each representing a category of vegetables, e.g. stems, leaves, or roots, and set to the task of purchasing vegetables from their group.

Happily, they returned to school and delivered their edible purchases to our own Chef Elda, whose team turned them into today's healthy and tasty soup.

The session at the farmer's market is part of the Omega class's study of careers, and the impact of different jobs in a community. The trip to the market and the process of doing the shopping for today's lunch helped make the concept "from farm to table" more tangible for our young boys.

Grades 2 and 7 "Buddies"

Seventh and Second Grade "buddies” met yesterday for an enjoyable session in which the younger boys played computer games designed and created this fall by the older boys during a new Upper School STEAM coding unit.

The second graders loved playing the computer games, and their older buddies enjoyed teaching them the rules.  Both grades have been learning coding through Scratch, an MIT visual programming language that is developmentally appropriate for each grade.

The boys had a wonderful time together, enjoying the exchange, the play, and the snacks!

On several occasions throughout the year, second and seventh grade buddies get together to share in a Saint David's experience, building community among the younger and older boys.

Next week, Seventh Grade boys will escort their Second Grade buddy to the school's Thanksgiving Mass.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Fun Turkey Run

It was a beautiful, mild, picture perfect fall morning on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  First came the warm-up.  Then all was a blur of red and grey.

Coaches, teachers, siblings, Omega boys, and parents cheered as our forty-six second graders dashed by in the annual Turkey Run.

Omega boys cheering on the 2nd Grade
The boys trained hard during their athletics classes this fall for the 450-meter race held yesterday in Riverside Park, the 43rd Turkey Run in the school's history.

All were excited when the big day arrived, spirits were high.

This is such a fun Saint David's tradition.  It celebrates through action the camaraderie of our community and signals the arrival of the season of Thanksgiving at Saint David's.

The beginning of the best time of year!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Music Lesson to Start the Day

On occasion, the parents of members of Saint David's Philharmonic Ensemble are invited to early morning coffee concerts, unique opportunities to observe the Ensemble in practice. Yesterday was one of these sessions.

The boys were hard at work preparing for the January winter concert as Ensemble Director Phil Hough led us through two selections: one from Haydn's Surprise Symphony; the other, Wagner's March of the Meistersingers.

Along the way, Mr. Hough periodically stopped the boys to note a correction, or to provide interesting information about the composer or a particular bowing technique.

We all walked away learning something, and happy to have begun the day with a little music. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Regis, Riverdale, Fordham

Riverdale with freshmen and sophomores
It's been so much fun catching up with alums. Yesterday I visited alums at Riverdale from the Class of 2012: Robert B, Robert C., Alexander H., and James; from 2013: George, Thomas, and Axel; from 2014: Alexander K., Nicholas, and Luke; and from 2015: Matthew, Kevin and Henry.

We caught up on all the goings on, including the second Saint David's boy in a row to win the prestigious Humanitarian Essay Award at Riverdale, George.

The boys were in high spirits.

Riverdale with juniors and seniors
When I returned to school, two from Fordham, Sam '15 and Nathaniel '15, dropped by to say hello and one from Regis, Skakel '13.  They too were full of stories and exciting experiences to share.

It was great to see them.

El Barrio Visit by Fifth Grade

Last week fifth grade Spanish classes toured the Day of the Dead exhibit at El Museo del Barrio, New York City's Latino museum dedicated to Puerto Rican, Caribbean, and Latin American art.

The exhibit consisted of several traditional Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) altars, a Mexican tradition representing the fusion of the Catholic celebration of Christian triduum of Hallowmas: All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day and All Souls Day with indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years. They were also introduced to La Catrina, a grandly dressed skeleton that symbolizes Día de los Muertos and the cycles of life and death.

During Día de los Muertos, families and friends gather to pray for and remember loved ones who have died. The celebration takes place on October 31, November 1, and November 2 each year.

Through this afternoon visit to the Museo the boys were able to expand upon what they have learned in Spanish language classes.

As part of an enrichment project, they made their own altars in memory of loved ones lost, using traditional Día de los Muertos decorations as well as their own decorations to make each altar unique.

The study of Spanish culture is woven into all of our Spanish immersion classes at Saint David's. Understanding the culture behind a given language is vital to mastery of the language itself and is also one way we prepare our boys to be global citizens.

Proximity to cultural institutions such as Museo del Barrio enables us to enhance and deepen our boys' learning through interactions with experts in the field.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Friends Seminary

Tremendous visit with Reid C. '12 yesterday at Friends Seminary.  In the middle of college applications and the height of his senior year studies, Reid was very kind to spend so much time with us critiquing his transition to high school, his Saint David's School experience and his thoughts about the future.

It was fun catching up.

Today, I'm off to see alums at Riverdale.

Mark Church of Harvard Project Zero Visits Saint David's For Faculty Study Session

Today in the Hume Library, groups of faculty members had the opportunity to join Mark Church, author of "Making Thinking Visible," and part of the team at Harvard University's Project Zero, for a follow-up study session that focused on "Descriptive Consultancy" -- a protocol for fine tuning strategies teachers have been using to make their students' thinking visible.

During the session, faculty members presented a challenge they have encountered and received help from their peers sorting and thinking through the issue, using approaches such as asking clarifying questions, reflecting back and brainstorming possible solutions and next steps.

The atmosphere was collegial, and the focus on helping the presenting teacher frame an issue for herself/himself first, before hearing how others frame it and exploring potential solutions. 

Our teachers have been working with Mark Church since August 2014, using what they've learned in the sessions to implement strategies that provide insights into boys' thinking--important to increasing understanding and identifying areas in need of clarification.

In this year of deliberate moral introspection, Saint David's continues to explore methods to formalize how we think and talk about thinking; to further a culture of deep, reflective thinking in our students and ourselves.  For more on this effort, see my earlier blog entry: Thinking Made Visible.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Community Through Art

Now on display in our lobby are these lively collaged images made by our boys as part of a community building project.

In several sessions during the fall, Upper School boys new to Saint David’s and their assigned “buddies” participated in creating the art project to help welcome  boys new to our school community.

First, the boys and their buddies completed a “getting to know you” questionnaire in which they shared information about their families, likes, and dislikes. 

They then created self–portrait type artworks, which incorporated collaged images representing the content from the questionnaire within a silhouette of their profile (4th grade), or a figure in action (5th and 7th grades).

The boys and their teachers, Ms. Boccella, Ms. Valdes, and Mr. Meals, enjoyed working on this activity to help our new boys and their buddies get to know one another better through their art.

Community is a cherished value at Saint David's; through the school's Committee on Community, the Friday morning Community Club,  activities like this Community Art Project, and in myriad ways throughout the year, we celebrate and strengthen the connection between and among ourselves.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Ellis Island - The Study of Immigration and Culture in Grade Three

Last week our third graders and their teachers visited Ellis Island, entry point for more than 12 million immigrants from 1892 when it opened, until its closure in 1954.

There, the boys walked the same halls as immigrants had, explored artifacts, participated in interactive exhibits, and viewed the American Wall of Honor--some of them seeking the names of their ancestors.

Later this week the boys will participate in a mock Ellis Island activity here at school where they assume the identities of immigrants from a variety of cultures. Acting as processors, their teachers will interview them and either "admit," "detain," or "deport" them. 

This immigration unit, which looks at immigration's impact on our city, state and nation, will culminate with a visit to the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side, where they will experience how many immigrants lived at the turn of the 20th century.

The third grade immigration unit lays a foundation for a research project in the winter, in which the boys study South Korea with an eye to thinking critically about the nature of societies, and then embark on an independent study of a culture of their choice.

By stepping into immigrants' shoes, they more fully understand and find empathy with others' experiences. In closely comparing and contrasting cultures through primary research, our young boys begin to appreciate the context for several of the global challenges that exist today, many of which require the application of this year's theme - deliberate moral introspection.

Boys Doing Good - Thanksgiving Food Drive

Eighth Grade boys selling pies at drop off in November can mean only one thing: Saint David's Thanksgiving Food Drive has begun!

Led by the Eighth Grade Student Council under the guidance of teachers Tom Ryan and Gene Romanosky, this is the school's oldest and one of its largest school-wide service projects. 

From now until Thanksgiving, boys and families from the entire school will participate in the project, which includes a canned food drive, the sale of holiday pies (to fund the purchase of turkeys), the packing of grocery baskets, and, finally on the day before Thanksgiving, the delivery of meals to three local parishes.

What began in 1967 by then assistant headmaster Mal Cleary as a donation of 4 boxes of groceries to The Little Sisters of the Poor, has grown tremendously throughout the decades. Last year, the school amassed over 200 boxes of groceries, 100 turkeys, and over 100 pounds each of bacon and sausage.

I am proud of the way our Upper and Lower School boys work together each year to help others in need, in this and so many other projects.

It is a true reflection of our spirituality pillar's mandate that to be good we must do good.  

Warm Night on Ice

Were we really ice skating together in 70 degree weather?

The calendar said November 2, but it could have been a balmy evening in mid-June. Indeed, the evening was warm in the truest sense of the word.

Each year, our devoted Parents Association hosts this party at Wollman Rink, providing the opportunity for us to celebrate with our families all that Saint David's means to us.

It was a fun-filled, spectacular night.

Thank you to committee chairs Dorian Fuhrman and Barbara Michels, to our PA officers, and all of the volunteers for giving us such a beautiful warm night on the ice.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Student Council and the New York School for the Deaf

Friday, October 16th, Peter and William De Luca and Saint David's parent Dixie De Luca attended the ribbon cutting ceremony of the new, long- awaited playground at the New York School for the Deaf in White Plains, NY.

The school's old playground was destroyed in October 2012 during Hurricane Sandy, so the school has been without a playground for three years.  It took three long years to find the right company to provide a wheelchair accessible, safe playground and to raise the $125,000 necessary to get it built.  

The school's students are predominantly from families who live below the poverty level and thus are dependent on outside donors to provide facilities improvements and student programs that the New York State Department of Education does not provide.  

New York School for the Deaf is the second oldest school for the deaf in the United States.  It will celebrate its 200th anniversary in 2017.  On a historical note, Alexander Graham Bell brought Helen Keller to its 75th anniversary!

Mrs. De Luca expressed "being very proud when William, as a new Student Council member, raised this issue/need with the Saint David's Student Council in 2014.  We are so grateful to Coach Imbelli who helped the Student Council vote 'yes' to donate significant portions of funds raised to this very worthy cause.  

The plaque in front of the playground that memorializes Saint David's School as a major donor

In 2014 the Saint David's boys donated $2,592 to NYSD from the Baskets for Charity event. In 2015, the 5th and 6th grade Student Council voted to donate a further $2,851 to the playground.  As a result, the boys of Saint David's became 'significant donors' to this project, contributing almost 5% of the total cost!"

Following is an excerpt of the thank you email received from Dr. Stern, the school's head:

"On behalf of the entire Fanwood community, thank you so much for joining us along with your sons at the playground ribbon-cutting ceremony.  More than you probably can realize, your presence and words meant a lot to those of us privileged to have been on the receiving end.  It goes without saying that this is on top of the incredibly generous support indispensable to making the playground a reality - for today and tomorrow's children.  Was not the (quite controlled) joyous stampede of our children into the playground a fitting ending to the ceremony?!  I trust it was heartwarming and 'validating' for those of who you have worked hard and long in bringing on the playground."

During a year which includes "Deliberate Moral Introspection" as its theme, Mrs. De Luca expressed being "proud of the school for encouraging its boys to support other children less fortunate than themselves."

Halloween Candy to Lenox Hill Hospital

Received today:

Dear Candy Drive Committee,

On behalf of the MANY happy recipients of your Halloween candy: Thank you, Saint David's!!   

We were able to distribute more than 60 large bowls of candy all around the hospital, and still had enough for some refills.  It definitely brought a smile to everyone’s faces—employees, visitors and patients (for whom candy is okay)!

We really appreciate the donation.  Let’s plan to speak soon about some things we might be able to do for the boys at Saint David’s.

Peg B.
AVP, Marketing and External Relations
Lenox Hill Hospital