Willow Creek Elementary School
One Willow Creek Elementary School second-grader spoke about the proximity of the new Innovation Space to the library. “It helps when you’re doing a research project,” the student said. Another spoke of the freedom the newly refurbished space offered to write, create and design. “We reflect, too,” the student said, “We reflect about how we can do better.” Another offered a straightforward appraisal of the space, which includes an open design and a collaborative feel designed to encourage team problem-solving and brainstorming. “I like this place; there’s more room to work, and it helps us focus on writing and creating whatever we want.”
All of these assessments came from a group of second-graders at Willow Creek who had recently worked on a project that blended science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM). Working with teacher Jamie Shunk, the group had learned about the science of germs, even as they had the opportunity to draw, create and problem-solve.
It was a class project that perfectly fit the mission of the new Innovation Space at Willow Creek, which launched at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year. With its open design, its inclusion of the latest technological tools and its proximity to the school’s media center, which also received a makeover over the summer, the space was designed to encourage innovation and engagement on all fronts.
“The first day that students and teachers came back to school, it gave them such an excitement about coming back,” said Willow Creek Principal Diana Price. “They are totally engaged in this space. For both teachers and students, the space gives everyone a chance to create, design, think and participate.”
A brand-new “Maker Space” gives classes the room and resources to design and build individualized projects, while additions to the library offer a fusion of the latest innovative tools and furniture with the presence of plenty of books and reference materials.
“It gives everyone the chance to focus on what problems they want to solve,” second-grade teacher Jamie Shunk 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.”
"Students are motivated by the new space. This will enable them to further 'tap' into the power of their thinking in this new environment."
-Principal Diana Price