Canyon Creek Elementary School
The planning behind Canyon Creek Elementary School’s new Innovation Space kicked off long before formal construction began in the summer of 2019.
According to Canyon Creek Principal Shelly Dusky, the entire staff took part in careful thought and meditation starting last year. They exchanged ideas about 21st-century learning, about how an environment can impact how a student processes and retains information. They read up on the latest research from facilities like the Stanford Design School, and they committed themselves to incorporating the latest data tied to innovation.
Dusky and the rest of the staff wanted their new space to be a place that not only modernized learning for their students, but one that updated instructors’ approach to instruction.
“We worked on imagining doing different things in different spaces. We thought about the impact of different environments on all of our abilities to think in new ways,” Dusky said. “We wanted to encourage our kids to practice self-regulation and practice building their own worlds. In traditional classrooms, they don’t always get to apply that.”
In the school’s new Innovation Space, all of those conceptual goals are a reality. Students have multiple ways to set their own educational course. There are simple avenues, like the movable furniture that gives students the freedom to design their own learning space. There are the bigger pieces, the movable walls and interactive whiteboards designed to create immersive, flexible learning environments.
All of these touches were designed to help make Dusky’s vision of innovation an everyday reality for students.
“For me, innovation is about taking the constraints off,” she said. “We need to meet the kids where they are. The same old practices and the same old results aren’t good enough.”
Braelynn Ites, Joelle Cina and Kalyani Singh, a trio of fourth-graders who were hard at work on a design project at one of the new, flexible tables set up in the book aisles, were taking full advantage of the new layout on a recent fall morning. They set the parameters of their own work space, they manipulated writing surfaces and seating arrangements and they made the layout comfortable for the purposes of their unique lesson.
“It’s so much easier to work in here now,” Cina said. “I like the color and texture of the whole room. I like the new space.”
Similar spaces have gone up in every elementary and middle school in the Cherry Creek School District, and came through funding approved by voters in 2016. The spaces are designed to develop skills like collaboration, inquiry, empathy, problem-solving, curiosity, innovative thinking and passion. According to the latest academic research, as well as firsthand input from parents, teachers and other members of the CCSD community garnered during the Cherry Creek 2021 initiative, these are the skills that are integral to preparing students for a 21st-century academic and professional landscape. This innovative approach to learning is also tied directly to the Instructional Excellence priority in Cherry Creek Future Forward, the district’s roadmap for maintaining educational excellence.
“We worked with business, we worked with industry and we worked with colleges when we created the focus of what our innovation spaces would be. The goal is helping our students become critical thinkers,” said CCSD Superintendent Dr. Scott Siegfried. “We want them to use knowledge in different ways, and we want them to learn to effectively learn to work with other people.” Siegfried added that every innovation space was designed to meet the unique needs of every separate school and community. “One of the greatest parts of our innovation work is allowing every school, every principal, every student and every community to be engaged in what innovation should look like at their school,” Siegfried said. “This is the next iteration of excellence.”
"Canyon Creek students are taking charge of our new space! They are engaging with one another in novel ways. They are creating seating arrangements, using wall dividers as dry-erase boards for learning, and showcasing their innovative thinking on every surface possible, including a green screen. They feel that they can bring their imaginative ideas to life in the recording studio, on the green screen, or through the digital world that has been created for their use. They love the space and are incredibly excited about creating novel solutions to the problems that they want to solve. They are ready to change the world and show us how they will do it in our new Media Center! They are most excited that this space belongs to each and every one of them!"
-Principal Shelley Dulsky