Buffalo Trail Elementary School
Hannah Tesfaye and Vishva Katrodiya appreciated having more room to learn, build and innovate. The pair of Buffalo Trail Elementary School fifth-graders had just completed a session in the school’s new Maker Space, part of the larger upgrades and Innovation Space additions that were completed over the summer. They’d been working to create greeting cards with a high-tech touch – the cards featured electronics that included blinking lights.
“It’s a great working space,” Katrodiya said. “You have an extra space to build stuff. We were making light-up greeting cards with circuits and wires.” Tesfaye appreciated the proximity of the new workspace to the school’s library; she said having immediate access to all kinds of resources and learning styles was greatly appreciated. “I really like the library and the new spaces,” she said. “You can really grow your brain here.” Both stressed the fact that the newly refurbished Innovation Space encouraged teamwork and collaboration, elements that were highly prized in the study of subjects ranging from science to art to history. They demonstrated the school’s new dry-erase tables that allowed them to jot down ideas immediately. “If you need to draw a diagram with partners, you can do it right here,” Katrodiya said.
That kind of flexible, collaborative learning was a guiding principle behind the design of the new space, according to Buffalo Trail Principal Tamara Speidel. From new furniture built to encourage both group and individual study to cutting-edge technology and learning spaces, the new Innovation Space was all about highlighting real-world, applicable instruction styles.
“We wanted all of our kids to access this space,” Speidel said, adding that the new space features spots designed for all elementary ages and grade levels. “They can congregate and collaborate on individual projects; they can gather together to hear stories; they can find a space for quiet study and individual focus.” In other words, the upgrades at Buffalo Trail have offered expanded resources to learners of all types.
Similar spaces will go 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.
“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,” Siegfried said. “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.”
"Our staff is beginning to incorporate more project-based learning experiences for students and provide them with an increased level of voice and choice in their learning. They are looking forward to using the new spaces."
-Principal Tamara Speidel