March 2019

From the Principal’s Desk...

“Education is not the learning of facts but the training of the mind to think.” – Albert Einstein

Dear Swanson Families,

It seems spring has almost sprung with the beautiful weather being right around the corner.  I can sense the students renewed sense of energy and enthusiasm and look forward to nicer weather and outdoor play.  

February, though a short month, was very busy and culminated with a wonderful school-wide Minding Your Mind Day.  On Wednesday, February 20th, all students and staff came together to learn about mindfulness, refuel their brains and bodies, try new experiences, and explore ways to practice these self-care strategies on a day to day basis.  Research suggests that children today are less empathic and more self-absorbed than they were a decade ago. Developing empathy involves being able to identify emotions, understand and explain emotions, and respond appropriately to those emotions. Increasing societal risk factors and challenges such as poverty, stress, bullying, and mental illness make it more difficult for children to develop high levels of empathy. Stress, especially, is highly toxic in the brain. This can negatively affect the prefrontal cortex, which controls self-regulation and executive functioning. Thus, highly stressed children may find it more difficult to effectively understand and regulate their own emotions, diminishing their capacity to develop empathy for others. Furthermore, stress is contagious, and when you are involved in networks of about 15 stressed individuals or more, you are likely to be stressed as well, (Milkie & Warner, 2011).

In response to this understanding, the district has made concerted efforts to provide public events to bring to light the many challenges our children face and discuss how we can work together to support them.  At Swanson, we recently dedicated a full day to emphasize emotional wellbeing through the generosity of local organizations and businesses, as well as, Swanson Road Staff, who facilitated workshops throughout the day such as Yoga, Cooking, Gardening, Thai Chi, Crossfit Kids, Twisty Trees and many more.  In addition, in every class there were many team building and reflection activities planned to bring our students together.  Our goal was to devote one day to emphasize the importance of mindfulness, growth mindset, and relationships at school, as well as, within the Auburn Community that not only support academic growth, but social-emotional growth.

My sincere thanks to all who made this happen.

Academic Updates:

Our students continue to gain skills across all content areas each day.  One area we continue to see marked improvement on is our students’ ability to skillfully and successfully complete online assignments and assessments.  This format is becoming second nature to the students as seen in classrooms throughout the day in class lessons.  The deep, critical thinking and logic being taught requires students to transfer these skills into very complex problems and written essays, all of which are completed using the online format. Students consistently practice the various technical reading skills required and are utilizing specific and explicitly taught strategies for the 21st Century learning platform.  
*There will be an MCAS Parent Informational Session on 3/11, all are welcome.

On another note, recently, all students took the Mid-year Math Benchmark Assessment. This test requires students to independently, demonstrate the grade level math skills taught thus far.   It also allows teachers to assess areas needing review, as well as create assignments to practice.  This data in turn, is utilized to monitor and respond to students’ mastery of skills, as well as level of need for changes in intervention.

In all content areas, students continue to read a variety of genres and engage in conversations that demonstrate their ability to connect multiple texts together and apply thinking skills in depth. Our students are amazing!  It is wonderful to listen to students discuss, debate, and justify their reasoning using text evidence or evidence found through research.  These conversations are often the springboard of ideas that then are applied into their writing assignments. 

Please continue to ask about and discuss what your child is learning at school, as this reinforces the skills being taught and strengthens the home school connection.  Thank you in advance!

Stay Active, Get Involved

Before/During/After School Programs Updates:

  • Math Academy – Students involved in this club continue to have fun opportunities to practice and refine their math skills each day before school.
  • Build Our Kids Success – Students meet before school to engage in physical activities, exciting games and build leadership skills.
  • Band – Grade 5 students continue to practice their musical skills before and after school and enjoy the company of their peers.
  • Strings – Grade 3, 4, and 5 students continue to learn the fundamentals and expand their learning of string instruments.
  • International Club – Students are learning about cultures around the world and gaining insights to the many wonderful things each brings to our diverse school.
  • Vex Robotics – Grade five students learn teamwork skills, along with all components of the Vex Competition.
  • Spanish Club – This club has begun its third session introducing third and fourth grade students to the language, music, art, and culture of Latin America.
  • Girls on the Run – Running club that focuses on empowering girls to be strong, confident, and healthy.
  • Grade Five Yearbook Club – Students work with candid photos, upload pictures, and use technology tools as they develop this year’s yearbook.  


Yours in Education, Dr. Lopez

From the Desk of Mrs. Mahan


The PBIS activity last month was Minute to Win It!  On Friday, March 1st, students had the opportunity to compete against the clock, participating in games like "Cookie Face", "Stack Attack", and "Needle in a Corn Stack".  What a great way to end the month of February. Congratulations to all students who earned the opportunity to attend. Check out the pictures on Facebook.

Safety Reminder

Please remember, when dropping off students in the morning to utilize the parent drop-off loop. In the past weeks, I have received messages about individuals parking on Swanson Road to drop off students. I want to emphasize the extreme danger of doing so for our students.  Those parents needing to use the handicap spaces to park and escort their students into the building, should be the only ones using the upper parking lot.  As always I want to thank the SWIS community for working together each and every day to ensure we are creating the safest environment possible for all students.

News from the Art Room

CONGRATULATIONS to the following SWIS students who have art work on display at the Worcester Art Museum during the month of March in honor of “Youth Art Month”!

Casey Johnson, Grade 5
Victoria Callahan, Grade 5
Owen Sanford, Grade 4
Caitlyn Davenport, Grade 4

These students are four of 326 Massachusetts students from grades K-12 who have been chosen to participate in the Central Massachusetts Regional “Youth Art Month” Exhibit. The exhibit is being held at the Higgins Education Wing of the Worcester Art Museum from March 1st to March 31st, 2019. “Youth Art Month” is a national celebration endorsed by Council for Art Education, the National Art Education Association and the Massachusetts Art Education Association. This event also coincides with the museum’s free admission day, which is the first Sunday of each month. This annual celebration emphasizes the value of Art Education for all children in public and private schools.

The Worcester Art Museum is open Wednesday-Sunday, 10am-4pm and the 3rd Thursday of every month, 10am-8pm. Admission for the March “Youth Art Month” exhibit is always free!

Grade 3 News

In reading, students are studying themes about meeting challenges, making smart, healthy choices, and using our skills and talents to help others. 

Students are reading a variety of genres including folktales, realistic fiction and expository texts to learn comprehension strategies.  These strategies include ask and answer questions to clarify meaning, identifying point of view, and compare and contrast. As you read with your child at home, frequently stop to ask questions that can be answered by using evidence in the text. In third grade, students are expected to answer open response questions using evidence to support their thinking. 

At this time in writing, students are creating a commercial to provide a book review. In order to make this commercial students need to be aware of their audience. They need to use language that supports their reasons for their opinion. 

In science, students continue to learn about climates all around the world. In social studies, they are learning about the hardships that the Pilgrims faced. 

Third grade students are currently exploring fractions and what they represent. Next, students will begin comparing fractions. Many students have made the connection that we use fractions when we cook and bake. This is a great opportunity for you to include your child when measuring ingredients for recipes to help them deepen their understanding and strengthen their real world experiences with fractions. Thank you for continuing to practice math facts and telling time at home. 

Grade 4 News

It’s hard to believe we are already in the month of March! Finally, there are some signs that spring is just around the corner. Some exciting things are taking place in fourth grade as well.

In math, your children are busy learning about fractions.  We finished chapter 8 and will continue in chapter 9 studying the relationship between fractions and decimals. Keep practicing math facts nightly as they are essential to many of the operations learned in our study of fractions.

In science, we are continuing to study the Earth’s Natural Hazards. We will then begin to study the human body systems. Students will begin to explore the human body  including the circulatory, respiratory, skeletal, nervous, and digestive systems.

Students will continue to develop their reading and writing skills in the Wonders reading program.  They will use essential questions to reflect upon their reading. They will continue to build their vocabulary with each story.  Students will also have the opportunity to write about the stories they are reading. In addition, students will be writing fictional narratives.

In social studies, our unit of study will continue across the United States. We will  explore each region focusing on the geography, natural resources, landmarks, and climate.

As always it is a pleasure working with you and your children. Happy Spring!

A Note from your School Counselors


Mindfulness is a tool that can benefit both parents and children alike.  Mindfulness can help students do better both academically and socially. Participating with your child in age appropriate mindfulness activities will help to reinforce the positive outcomes of regular mindfulness practice. Below are some fun, engaging mindfulness activities to try with your child or whole family:

  • Blowing bubbles. Have your kids focus on taking in a deep, slow breath, and exhaling steadily to fill the bubble. Encourage them to pay close attention to the bubbles as they form, detach, and pop or float away.
  • Pinwheels. Use the same tactics from blowing bubbles to encourage mindful attention on the pinwheels.
  • Playing with balloons. Tell your kids that the aim of this game is to keep the balloon off the ground, but have them move slowly and gently. You can tell them to pretend the balloon is very fragile if that helps.
  • Texture bag. Place several small, interestingly shaped or textured objects in a bag, and have each child reach in to touch an object, one at a time, and describe what they are touching. Make sure they don’t take the object out of the bag, forcing them to use only their sense of touch to explore the object.
  • Blindfolded taste tests. Use a blindfold for each child and have them experience eating a small food, like a raisin or a cranberry, as if it was their first time eating it.

Media Literacy News

During the month of March, Media Literacy students will be familiarizing themselves with the online testing platform, TestNav in preparation for the MCAS 2.0. In class, grade 3 students are differentiating between evidence and explanation in open response questions using digital tools for highlighting. Grade 4 students are completing the construction of their hurricane proof house models and making adjustments based on the criteria from a specific design rubric. Grade 5 students are constructing balsa wood bridges, following their study of the Genoa bridge collapse. Our Grade 5 intervention team continues to complete the construction of a model of Polar Park where the AAA Red Sox will play. They are working collaboratively to design a content rich curriculum to ensure that other student groups from around the region can replicate their project with similar results.

Nursing Notes

Good weather is hopefully on the way!  We continue to go outside for recess so please send layers as we will see fluctuations in temperatures during the day. 

Here is some health information to share with you:

We are still seeing flu-like illness and confirmed flu in our community. It is not too late to get a flu shot.  This year we are seeing strep throat confirmed by pediatricians without typical symptoms. Typical symptoms are fever, sore throat and fatigue. We want you to be aware that we have seen students with positive strep without a complaint of a sore throat or fever. Please keep this in mind if your child is sluggish and has a stomach ache. 

3rd Graders 
Hearing screenings were conducted in February with the help of Worcester State University Graduate students and our wonderful volunteer, Jen O’Brien! We could not have done the screenings without her help. Thank you Jen.  
Vision screenings are almost done for third grade and we will be completing fourth and fifth grade as soon as possible. 

We request a copy of 4th graders’ annual physical exam. The Department of Public Health asks us to include in your child’s school health record an annual exam in 1st, 4th, 7th and 10th grade. 

Body Mass Index (BMI) Screening Program for 4th graders will start in April and continue until completed.  A Body Mass Index, or BMI, is a measure that is used to show a person's “weight for height for age.” It is calculated using an individual's height and weight. Just like a low blood pressure reading or an eye screening test, a BMI can be a useful tool in identifying possible health risks. We are very interested in making sure that all our students are healthy. All children in grades 1,4,7,and 10 will have their height and weight measured and will have their Body Mass Index (BMI) calculated. If you would like to have your child's pediatrician perform this screening you may submit, a signed note to me saying you will have your MD perform this screening and then send us the results. Results need to have been done in the last 6 months. 

Please feel free to call me with any questions you may have about the BMI screening. Additional information about children's wellness and fitness is available upon request or you may access the state's resources at

5th Grade
Postural Screening will be conducted in May and we will send information home in April via homework folders about the screening and an opt out form with a request for a copy of a doctor’s Postural Screening exam within the last 6 months. 

Safety first!
Please remember to review safety with your students regarding the following things:

  • Wear a helmet for bike riding, skate boarding, skiing, football, and baseball. There are helmets for many sports now that protect children from head injuries and concussion . 
  • Tick checks are very important after being outdoors in grass or woods. Ticks carry many kinds of diseases including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever has been identified in our state.
  • Sun protection can help avoid a lot of issues later in life! Sunburns are not healthy, so apply sunscreen to all affected areas before school and playing outdoors. The sun is strong between 10 and 2. Apply sunscreen when your child will be out for more than 15 minutes.

Have a great March!

PE News

The month of February was a busy one in Physical Education. We started the month finishing up our Basketball and Tennis units. We then moved into a cooperative games unit where we focused on strategy development and teamwork. These skills highlighted not only apply in the gymnasium, but are life-long skills. Our first ever “Climb-A-Thon” is happening now and so far, it’s a huge success. Students are working in groups to complete as many traverses as they can in a 10-minute time period. Rock climbing works on coordination, upper body strength, core strength, balance, and we are continuing to work on teamwork by adding the team element. Once the “Climb-A-Thon” is over, we will continue with more cooperative and team games.

News From the Reading Room

As the month of March approaches, the Reading Team is busy preparing for our Annual Community Reading Day that will be held on Friday, March 29, 2019.  To build excitement around reading and to keep with our theme of “Score with a Good Book,” the students in each grade level will be participating in a Tournament of Books.  Book talks will take place, read alouds will be shared and discussion will occur regarding which book should be awarded “Best Book of 2019.”  Members of the community will be sharing some of these titles as they read with the students.  When children are shown how important reading is in individuals’ lives, it inspires them to open the door for reading in their life.  

Look for the “Best Book of 2019” winners in our April Newsletter.

Math is Everywhere!

The Math Team is looking forward to celebrating National Pi Day on Thursday, March 14th.  Pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. In other words, the distance around a circle divided by the distance across the circle.  No matter how large or small the circle is, the quotient will always be Pi which is approximately 3.14. Your child will be participating in different lessons and activities surrounding Pi Day.  Be sure to ask them what they learned about Pi. Also, be on the lookout for information on our upcoming annual Math Night to be held at the Auburn Middle School on Thursday, April 4th.

Grade 5 News

Fifth grade has been working hard with fractions in math. We finished multiplying fractions and are on to dividing them. Next up will be converting units of measure.  In reading we continue to delve into strategies and skills to increase comprehension. Point of view has been the focus for the past few weeks and will continue to be for the next few, as we explore different genres. Point of view can mean author’s opinion or feelings, narrator’s view, or even character’s opinions. In social studies, we are learning about the sparks that built the fire of the American Revolution and in science we have just finished learning about the human impact on earth’s systems, and are moving on the the solar system! 

As always, we thank you for your continued support at home.   

The Music Corner with Ms. Speidel & Mrs. Caruso

Happy March! We have many exciting things happening in the music rooms here at SWIS!

All grades are currently working on instruments this month. 3rd graders are exploring ukuleles, learning how to play chords and writing songs about pirates and taco’s. 4th graders have are in the midst of learning recorders, working on B, A and G. Our 5th graders are either working on keyboard or marimbas. They are all becoming quite the group of musicians!  

The band students are rockin’-and-rollin’ their way into the year! All Town Band is coming up on March 7th at 7pm over at Auburn High. We are so proud of how much progress students have made, this will be one of the best bands yet!

The SWIS String Society is also having a marvelous start to the new year! Students are gearing up for their big Stringapalloza concert which will be on Saturday, March 2nd. The kids are very excited to show off all the hard work they have put in over the past few months!

Lots is happening here in the SWIS Music Department!
Ms. Speidel & Mrs. Caruso