Indian Ridge Elementary School
The addition of new Innovation Spaces at Indian Ridge Elementary School over the summer of 2018 had an impact across the building.That much was clear as Principal Matthew McDonald toured the building on a sunny September day, dropping into classrooms and roaming through hallways.
He was technically away from the new facilities that had been finalized for the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, the expanded open workspace and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics lab attached to the school’s library.
Even so, the impact of the additions was clear across the school. McDonald pointed to classrooms that had been opened up to encourage collaboration; he explained that a new approach to design and orientation had taken hold across Indian Ridge. These steps all stemmed from the devotion to teamwork and problem-solving that steered the design of the school’s brand-new facilities. “This brings excitement for the entire school,” McDonald said. “It encourages our students and brings a sense of connections and community.”
That sense of energy was clear as students worked on STEM projects in the new spaces on that same day. Birks Garland, a 7-year-old second-grader at the school said the addition of the new spaces over the summer created a new sense of excitement at the school. As he worked with a partner on an assignment that involved equal elements of creativity and scientific inquiry, Garland marveled at all aspects of the new space – the open work lab, the welcoming furniture and the high-tech resources.
“This space is awesome. I really like building things, and seeing this new classroom was exciting for me when I came at the beginning of the year,” Garland said, adding that the Innovation Space has only further cemented his plans for a future career. “I want to be an engineer.”
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.”
"Students are learning by tackling projects and activities aimed at real world challenges and problems. In the new space they're allowed to move more freely and utilize even more resources and materials"
-Principal Matthew McDonald