Black Forest Hills Elementary School
Mia Washington wasn’t working alone. Washington, a 6-year-old first-grader at Black Forest Hills Elementary, had a specific goal in mind; she slowing down the progress of a ball the size of a marble. She had an intricate plan in mind to achieve her mission, one that involved building a small wall and using precepts of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Luckily, she wasn’t tackling the feat by herself. Working in the school’s brand-new Innovation Space, Washington had access to insights and ideas from a group of her fellow first-graders. And thanks to the design of the new space, the group had no problems taking part in a workflow that was rooted in teamwork. “I can collaborate with my friends,” Washington said.
Encouraging that kind of group problem-solving was one of the guiding principles behind Black Forest Hills’ new spaces, which feature work tables, furniture and library sections all designed to encourage a free exchange of ideas and insights from students. What’s more, the renovations to the school’s library and classroom spaces were designed to encourage creativity and critical thinking on an individual level.
“Our new Innovation Space was designed with our students in mind,” said Black Forest Hills Principal Ty Muma. “Our goal is to get students out of the classroom and into spaces that encourage them to think outside of the box.”
From Maker Spaces to additional resources for multi-media presentations and group sessions, the school now features facilities designed to foster 21st-century skills. Muma added that the new additions accommodate all grade levels – first-, second- and third-graders have access to new spaces designed to encourage small group work, while fourth- and fifth-graders engage in activities in the refurbished library that are designed to encourage engagement and real-world applications.
“We’re working to create space in each grade-level area that offer a hands-on approach to learning,” Muma said. “We want to be forward-thinking to prepare our students for their future.”
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.
"In our new spaces students are able to collaborate with one another, communicate and share their thinking with one another, and gain new perspectives."
-Principal Ty Muma