The Upper School academic program is based on the classical paradigm of balance. In English, students explore the best in modern literature as well as selected works from the Western canon. The boys write often, and they learn to write well, with a coordinated expository and creative writing program that builds targeted skills from year to year. In mathematics, conceptual understanding and computational accuracy receive equal emphasis, and students are taught to apply their knowledge to real-life problems. In Upper School science, whether they are investigating the structure of atoms or the cardiovascular system of humans, our boys hypothesize, experiment, observe, and interpret. In history, through multi-faceted examinations of Ancient Egypt, the Renaissance or the Vietnam War, boys obtain essential insights into the human past and translate those into lessons for our time. Fourth and fifth graders are fully immersed in the Spanish language and experience cultures of the Spanish-speaking world. Boys begin studying Latin in the fifth grade and choose to continue with Spanish or begin French in the sixth grade. The use of technology for instruction, research and presentation is integrated throughout the Upper School curriculum.
Teachers in the Upper School use direct instruction to impart essential knowledge skills. Through collaborative, project-based learning, they also cultivate teamwork, leadership, and public speaking skills. For example, teachers of history, English, technology and art assist the fifth grade boys with their Native American projects, which involve research papers, speeches, computer presentations, and large-scale dioramas. Working in small groups, students learn to appreciate one another’s gifts and to delegate and accept responsibility. Each grade has comparable integrative projects that are among the highlights of a Saint David’s experience.
Public speaking is specifically addressed in each grade of the Upper School. In fourth and fifth grade, students practice fundamental skills such as delivering well-organized content and making good eye contact. Rhetoric is an integral part of the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade interdisciplinary study program. Students refine their style, delivery, and use of visuals as they present to their classmates, teachers, parents, and guests of the school.
Each day Upper School students are called upon to speak in front of others. Saint David’s boys greet guests confidently and readily explain the current focus of class. During lunch, students make announcements to their schoolmates and faculty about upcoming community service events and athletics games. Throughout the year, students are invited to speak at parent and alumni events.
The teamwork of the boys reflects that of their teachers, who meet on a weekly basis to discuss curriculum, plan assessments and special events, coordinate homework and monitor student progress. Partnership with families is also a prized component of our community approach to learning. Upper School parents feel connected to school life through Parents’ Nights, class coffees, Parents Association meetings, topical discussion groups and parent-teacher conferences. Teachers aim to be proactive and respond promptly to parent questions or concerns.
The unique charge of Upper School teachers is to launch young adolescents successfully into the broader world. Programs and activities at Saint David’s contribute to this important goal. Boys who are elected to our student government exercise leadership skills through planning, advocating, and mediating. Members of our athletic teams, clubs, and musical groups understand what can be accomplished by placing the group before oneself. Through religion classes and chapel, boys develop a moral compass that we hope will inform the personal and social decisions they are called upon to make. Grade specific classes are devoted to the challenges facing emerging adolescents.
On the annual sixth grade overnight trips to Ramapo and Washington, D.C., boys focus on leadership and team building activities. In the sixth grade, students study the twentieth century from the standpoint of history, English, and music, guided by the teachers in all three disciplines. During the annual weeklong seventh grade trip to Cape Cod, students not only examine marine ecology, but also expand and deepen the friendships that are so important to the emotional development of boys. All boys at the conclusion of seventh grade can take part in an optional trip to Salamanca, Spain, for cultural study and Spanish language instruction regardless of their level. The two-week Eighth Grade Italian Study Tour strengthens these bonds while providing students with the experience of a lifetime: seeing, discussing, critiquing, drawing, and writing about the Classical, Renaissance, and Baroque masterpieces they have been analyzing in their humanities classes. By the time our boys start considering secondary schools, they have developed a strong confident sense of self and a healthy curiosity with which to meet the challenges and adventures ahead.
Our comprehensive secondary school placement process provides guidance to each family so that the experience is illuminating and successful. A boy who graduates from Saint David’s takes with him rich experiences and life lessons from the Lower and Upper Schools. He is the sum of early skill development and more mature analytical thinking, of gentle reminders to live by the Golden Rule and of the Headmaster’s call to “be good men.” He has learned from devoted teachers, coaches and friends, and is poised to explore the important questions of how he will live, what he will love, and who he will become.