Falcon Creek Middle School
The spirit of STEAM was alive and well at Falcon Creek Middle School on an overcast fall afternoon in the waning months of 2018. Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math were all on display in the school’s newly refurbished Innovation Space, as students worked diligently across the room on a variety of different projects. One group molded models out of clay, while another group at a neighboring table gazed at samples under a microscope. Other students did research on laptops, while a different group collaborated on multi-media projects at tables while atop “Stand and Rock” furniture pieces, small wedges that fit under the feet and allow a range of motion and fidget space.
All of these students were researching the same basic subject: the structure of the cell and how it relates to specific human illnesses. The routes that they took to their learning, however, were as diverse as the class itself. The school’s new Innovation Space, which launched at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, was key in offering that kind of flexibility and fluidity.
“The kids can spread out and engage in different activities,” said Pat Dickerson, science teacher and Cherry Creek School District STEM cohort. “Everything is moveable. They can get on laptops, work in the art space or write directly on the tables. They can come and go as they need.”
That flexible approach to learning has made all the difference for students like Dani Wilhelm, Naomi Seymour and Kaleigh Williamson, three sixth-graders who were hard at work discovering how organelle failure can impact the human body. They stood around a table with a smooth, erasable surface and brainstormed about coming up with a multimedia presentation to convey their findings.
“This is my favorite part of the school,” Seymour said. “It’s easier to focus than in a normal classroom. We can spread out, and I love how modern it is.”
“They have SO MUCH to do here,” added Williamson.
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 space will further our focus on creating and delivering learning experiences that are multi-faceted and contextualized outside of the traditional educational model. Students will be able to utilize design thinking and the design model across content areas to add depth and richness to the prescribed curriculum through hands-on experimentation and the creation of real-world applicable experiences to demonstrate their learning."
-Principal Alan Lavizzo