Coyote Hills Elementary School
The new Innovation Space at Coyote Hills Elementary School has already earned a nickname. The learning space that launched at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year includes a presentation area, a maker space, a conference room and other elements designed to encourage 21st-century learning, and students, teachers and staff have already started calling the expansion to what was once a traditional library “The Den.”
According to Principal Hillary Pohlmann, that shorthand hints at the space’s communal appeal for students. The Den is a place they can call their own, a space designed to spark interest, investment and ownership of their learning.
“This space is getting kids out of their classroom and moving. There’s something about having a space specifically designed for them that makes kids more engaged,” Pohlmann said. “Bringing a group of kids in here, they feel like they own it and they’re really taking their learning into different areas. They have more leadership in how they learn.”
That much was clear on a September afternoon when a group of fourth-graders worked on designed their own controllers and codes for computer games. Collaborating in the school’s new maker space, students like 9-year-old Kaylie Lambert watched as their programming plans yielded immediate results on laptop computer screens.
“We have creativity in this project; we can pick our own games,” Lambert said. “This space is really fun; it’s a fun place where we can do projects and work together.”
The impact of the new space has had results that have reached beyond the boundaries of the individual classrooms. According to Pohlmann, students have demonstrated leadership qualities in classrooms across grade levels and during special events like the recent Back to School night. Students took the occasion to show parents how they collaborated in small groups to address school-wide issues, like coming up with a new way to reward students who participate in Coyote Hills’ “One Million Words” reading program.
“Our kids are solving school-wide problems,” Pohlmann said.
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.”
"This space is getting kids out of their classroom and moving. There's something about having a space specifically designed for them that makes kids more engaged."
-Principal Hillary Pohlmann