Polton Elementary School
It’s not hard to find books at Polton Elementary School.As part of the addition of new Innovation Spaces at the school, staff has sought to reimagine its approach to literacy. Along with new furniture, whiteboards, displays for student work, maker spaces and refurbished library resources, the school has added mobile, moveable bookshelves in nooks across the entire building. According to Principal Mike Chipman, the addition exemplifies a wider push toward accessibility and everyday learning; it sums up a new approach to encouraging literacy and engagement.
“We wanted to offer more opportunities for our kids to access resources,” Chipman said. “We made a point of making sure that these spaces can be used by any student in any grade. These spaces are for our kids.”
The school’s renovations included the reinvention and refurbishment of multiple underused spaces across the school. The additions included new intervention spaces for individualized sessions between teachers and students, new breakout collaboration spaces, upgrades to the school’s library space and an “Innovation Center,” which includes new materials and resources for a Maker Space and other innovation workshops.
Chipman said the refurbished resources will also encourage students to engage in the Launch Cycle, which pushes them to design, present and put their projects out into the world. Fifth-graders Izy Latta and Nita Kan were doing just that, as they put the finishing touches on a project that was bound for the districtwide Cardboard Challenge competition, which encourages students of all ages to build projects entirely out of recycled materials.
As Latta and Kan focused on completing an interactive ball game made out of cardboard, tape and other materials, they spoke of the value of the Innovation Center that had popped up in the library space.
“It looks cozy, it looks nice. There’s a lot of equipment we can use to help our projects,” Kan said. “It’s a nice place to work – we want peace and quiet to focus.”
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.”
"Using knowledge gained from professional development with the Launch Cycle, teachers will present challenges to students that involve real-world problems and encourage them to use creative means in proposing solutions."
-Principal Mike Chipman