Belleview Elementary School
The students at Belleview Elementary School went from brainstorming about weather vocabulary to starring in their very own newscast, all in the space of a single class session. Working in the school’s newly refurbished Innovation Space, second-graders had the opportunity to see general science concepts turn into a full-fledged multi-media experience. After brainstorming about weather conditions, vocabulary and scientific concepts, they wrote short scripts and took turns in front of the classroom cameras. Wearing microphones and sitting in front of green screens, the students created their very own news segments, greeting their audiences and delving into the particular conditions of the day.
On the other end of the school’s media center, younger students were enjoying story time with a technological twist. Using a whiteboard and a projection system, a teacher read through the pages of a storybook, stopping to focus on specific illustrations that beamed onto the board and ask in-depth questions about theme and message. Though these classes took place in opposite corners of the school’s newly refurbished Innovation Space, they both took equal advantage the new technology, more open space and engaging classroom tools.
“The kids are really engaged, and they’re taking ownership of their learning,” said Belleview Principal Tiffany Kophs. “They’re taking ownership of their learning, and they’re making their own choices about their own best learning experiences.”
Those choices have been made easier by the renovations to the school’s media center and STEM space, changes that encourage movement, teamwork and creativity. From moveable furniture to standing desks, the new Innovation Space is full of tools designed to harness the energy of elementary school students in a constructive way. Whether they’re engaging in hands-on, technology-based experiences in the STEM maker classroom or just finding the proper way to get out their wiggles while at a desk (moveable furniture goes a long way in meeting that goal), Belleview students have plenty of opportunities to incorporate movement and exploration into their learning day.
“It’s very hands-on,” Kophs said. “They’re up and they’re moving around,” she added, pointing to the link between the Innovation Space layout and the school’s designation as a Wellness pilot school.
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.”
"The bright and open innovation space creates an environment where both teachers and students can be flexible in their thinking and learning; from grouping students to collaborating throughout projects. Students are challenged to work."
-Principal Tiffany Kophs