Trails West Elementary School
Collaboration has made a big difference for Lily Picone, a 10-year-old fifth-grader at Trails West Elementary. Picone took a few moments from working on a group project in the school’s new Innovation Space to speak to the value of having more room and more resources to problem-solve and brainstorm with her fellow students. She stood in front of a massive whiteboard, shoulder-to-shoulder with fellow fifth-graders who were all jotting down ideas about sending micro-experiments into space.
“I can find the people I work well with,” Picone said, adding that the space’s moveable furniture and flexible work spaces have made the flow of projects more manageable. “You can move the furniture around, and instead of being stuck in one place, it’s easier to move around.”
According to Trails West Principal Cheryl Fullmer, the Innovation Spaces that launched in time for the beginning of the 2018-19 school year have made collaboration easier for students of all ages and learning styles. With two separate spaces designed for older and younger students, the addition of cutting-edge technology, flexible furniture and other improvements have made a world of difference.
“More kids have access to important resources, and they’re getting out of their seats more. It’s shown the power of movement; our students are thinking outside of the box,” she said, adding that the new spaces have also had a positive impact for teachers. “These additions have also impacted the collaboration of our staff. Co-teaching is becoming an important model in the school.”
Picone worked alongside students from three different classes on a project that sought to encourage and develop all the cornerstones of science, technology, engineering, arts and math, or STEAM. Students came up with ideas about which experiments would work well in space, even as they sketched out concepts and jotted notes on whiteboard and dry-erase tables.
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.”
"They [students] have space to work together to be problem solvers, take risks, network, be observant, create, be resilient and reflect."
-Principal Cheryl Fullmer