November 15, 2015
Dear Swigert Community,
It is hard to believe that Thanksgiving is just around the corner! The first semester of school has been a whirlwind of activity and learning experiences here at Swigert. There are many celebrations for this first trimester- we launched Explorations as an in-house program at school, and it has been very successful so far. We are partnering with Neighborhood Music to support our annual school musical and to help us line up several outside organizations to help teach engaging classes. All classroom teachers and administrators are also teaching a class this year. We have several exciting choices for students including Documentary Filmmaking, Cartoon Writing, Music and Hogwarts, Board Game Creation, Stop Animation Movie Making, Fencing and the launch of the Swigert magazine to name just a few. We are always looking for parents to help teach or support an exploration! Please contact the main office if you are interested in volunteering for our next session starting in January.
We have also been busily working on updating the design and content of our school website. We hope to launch the new site in December! Stay tuned for an update soon. In our classrooms students are hard at work diving into their IB units of inquiry with enthusiasm, exploring their world through learning experiences, field trips and guided research. Please see the end of this letter for updates by grade level. This fall also saw a very successful Direct Giving Campaign. Headed by an incredibly dedicated committee, the campaign not only provided opportunities to build community, but to raise money to support our school’s initiatives including paying for Spanish, teacher training, materials, paras and technology. Part of the money raised at the direct giving parties goes to support our teachers’ access to high quality professional learning opportunities. In October we brought the Jr. Great Books organization in to train our classroom teachers on how to utilize inquiry strategies to help teach reading and book discussions. Students read highly engaging literature and non-fiction, tied to specific themes, then discuss and debate with each other the themes and ideas presented in the stories using evidence from the text to support their answer.
Another way we utilize the funds from the PTA support is for classroom materials and resources. In late October we took our staff to The Bookies, a local bookstore for an after-hours experience shopping for their classroom libraries. We had the store all to ourselves, served light appetizers and drinks while our teachers shopped for books to support their classroom libraries and their IB units for the year. Each teacher received $600 to spend. It was a wonderful evening and every classroom came away with boxes of interesting new books to support student learning/enjoyment for the year!
Another way we have utilized the money raised by our parents is the purchase of technology. Those of you who attended the auction either last year or the year before remember that our paddle raisers both years were for mobile ipad carts that can be used both by our Technology Teacher in our Innovation Lab and by classroom teachers. Thanks to the generosity of parents during these two paddle raisers, we have two full carts of 30 ipads available for research and special projects. Some of the projects students have been using the iPads for include creating commercials tied to persuasive writing, video book reviews, programming, videos for science, stop motion videos, green screen videos, iMovies, Think Through Math applications and more.
And on the assessment front- we’ve finished our first round of new district assessments and are awaiting our results on the PARCC tests from last Spring. You may have seen the scores for the state that were released late last week. The drop in proficiency across the state was marked. Please remember, this test is completely new-the results cannot be compared to the previous TCAP scores as the tests are very different. The PARCC test was much harder and measures, in theory, a student’s progress towards mastery of the Common Core State Standards. It is a new test and so we will be taking our time reviewing the data and working to understand where our students did well and why and where we did not do as well, and why. We will be receiving our school-wide results this Friday and disaggregated individual results in December.
EARLY RELEASE DISCUSSION
As you can see, there is much work to be done every day at school! From designing, planning and developing curriculum- which is unique to our school- to utilizing a multitude of curricular resources, to making sense of the Common Core State Standards to analyzing and understanding our new assessment systems, tools and resources- these are just some of the things our faculty work through daily. Planning for five subjects for 27 very different learners in just an hour a day is a herculean task. We have asked the SAC to design a survey to solicit community input on either an early release afternoon once a month or one non-student contact day, each month, dedicated to the daunting and exhilarating work of planning for the best possible educational experience for our children. Please look for a link to the SAC survey coming soon.
In other news, last week we hosted author Lauren Myracle here at Swigert. She spoke to our 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students about her experiences as a writer, how she finds inspiration in the world as well as addressing the importance of perseverance. Lauren Myracle told the students that she received 148 rejections before her first book was finally accepted at a publishing house. Now, Ms. Myracle has authored or co-authored several bestselling books and is talking to the Disney Network about a possible pilot for a series based on her books. It was a great opportunity for our students to have a chance to talk with a published author!
SCHOOL BEAUTIFICATION EFFORTS
You may notice several new trees on our playground after the break. Our Garden Committee has been hard at work tackling how to make our playground and play spaces more inviting, shady and frankly, how to keep our plants alive! The PTA is supporting the first phase of beautification on the playground which will begin with the tree planting.
THE PARA PLIGHT
We know that our para professional situation has not been ideal this year. We had several paras retire or leave their positions for more lucrative jobs leaving us without para support across grade levels. Please be assured that we have worked tirelessly since August to find para professionals that we believe are a good fit for our school and that will work well with our children. Finding several high quality, educated, thoughtful and caring individuals who will work well with kids for $12/hour is not an easy task. We anticipate being almost fully hired by next week with a wonderful core of paras, but it has taken time to find the right team to support our teachers, students and our school mission and vision. Thank you for your patience as we look for the best individuals to work with our children.
INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE UNIT UPDATES ECE-5
ECE : Unit of inquiry on Communities.
Central idea: Communities create networks.
Lines of Inquiry:
• Types of communities (classroom, school, neighborhood, urban, rural)
• Services and resources provided in a community (firemen, shopkeeper etc.)
• How different individuals contribute to a community
The ECE classrooms have lined up many “community helpers” to visit their classrooms: a florist, a baker, a mechanic, doctor, nurse, firefighter and a police officer. Students will create a community neighborhood 3-D map with all the elements that they determine important in a community: services, recreation, parks, different types of homes, etc.
Kindergarteners are immersed in their Healthy Living unit of inquiry.
Central idea: Personal choices contribute to overall well-being.
Lines of Inquiry:
• Physical Movement
• The mind body connection
• Personal choices (friendships, eating, etc.)
Guiding questions that are leading their learning include: How do different choices affect our body? How does your body communicate with you and how do you communicate that to others? How do my choices affect others?
First graders are in the middle of their Sharing the Planet unit of inquiry focusing on Systems Breakdowns and Earth Systems Science.
Central Idea: Resources affect systems.
Lines of Inquiry:
• How the availability of resources affects people
• Problem solving
• Earth Materials
Students are exploring the ideas of scarcity and abundance in their community and in the natural world. How do limited or abundant resources affect people and their choices? They are problem solving different ways to create practical and effective ways to solve system breakdowns.
Second grade students are wrapping up their second unit of inquiry on Weather. They have studied climates, weather patterns and impact of weather on humans and the environment.
Central idea: Weather impacts humans and their environment.
Lines of Inquiry:
• Different climates around the world
• Causes /effects of weather on humans and environments
• Patterns of extreme weather
After investigating questions like: How does weather force us to adapt? And How does weather influence behavior? Students are finalizing their independent research projects on weather and starting in on their inquiry into Animal Migrations.
Third graders are in the midst of delving into how boundaries and conflicts shape regions in their current unit of inquiry on How We Organize Ourselves (Regions).
Central Idea: Boundaries and conflict influence regions.
Lines of Inquiry:
• The geography and physical features of a region
• How geography and resources influence industry, economics, and lifestyle
• The conflicts over space
• Why humans divide and define space
Through the lens of different Native American tribes, students will dive into how humans share, divide, and define space.
Central Idea: Needs and wants can motivate change.
Lines of Inquiry:
• Economic opportunities
• Interactions among groups
• Westward Expansion
To dive into Colorado History, the current unit of inquiry in 4th grade, students are exploring the concepts of change and interaction. By looking at primary and secondary sources, students will learn the history of Colorado and how Colorado has changed over time.
Central Idea: Exploration and migration shape our world.
Lines of inquiry:
• Exploration of the new world
• The causes of migration
• The changes that occur as a result of exploration and migration
Fifth graders have just begun an inquiry into the discoveries, explorations and migrations of humankind in their current unit of inquiry: Expanding Our World. They will explore the multiple push and pull factors involved in the discovery, exploration and migration to the New World. Culminating project: Wax Museum
11/16 Dyslexia Speaker at 6:30 p.m.
11/18 5th grade Wax Museum in the library 6:00 p.m.
11/19 Thanksgiving Luncheon at Swigert; 4th grade Colorado Artifact Presentation (after lunch)
11/23-11/27 Thanksgiving Break
12/3 4th grade concert 6:30 p.m. in the gymnasium
12/7-12/10 Book Fair in the library