Cottonwood Creek Elementary School
The new Innovation Space at Cottonwood Creek Elementary has had an effect on all kinds of learners. For those students who already tend to be vocal and demonstrative during class, the additions that went in during the summer of 2018 have offered even more platforms to express themselves and show off their learning. From the interactive screens in the library space to the Maker Space designed to encourage the whole design process, the additions have appealed to those learners who naturally show engagement.
But the newly refurbished facility also appeals to other kinds of students, according to Principal Katie Johnson. The newly expanded menu of resources, tools and means of expression has given a voice to those students who tend to be independent learners. Designed to encourage teamwork and individualized learning alike, the new space has offered a forum for all.
“Even the kids who don’t typically say much in class are engaged,” Johnson said. “This space is used by all grade levels, and even the teachers are moving out of their comfort zones. We wanted to create a space where we can hear different ideas and different voices and apply classroom lessons in a purposeful, meaningful way.”
Nearby, a teacher was using photos and anecdotes from her own home garden to teach first-graders about agriculture. She beamed photos on a screen at the back of newly refurbished space before moving the class to an interactive portion of the lesson in the new collaborative work area. Students were able to learn about different plants and different foods from a home garden in a variety of ways.
That diversity of instruction appealed to Jake Rayner, a first-grader who found plenty to appreciate in the new space.
“It’s really, really cool. We get to see cool images and work on cool activities,” he said. “Today, we’re observing corn, but it’s fun to learn everything here. It’s fun to learn math.”
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.”
"We wanted to create a space where we can hear different ideas and different voices and apply classroom lessons in a purposeful, meaningful way.”
-Principal Katie Johnson