Aspen Crossing Elementary School
The students at Aspen Crossing Elementary felt transported when they walked into the newly redesigned Innovation Space for the first time.
The new flexible furniture, the refitted Maker Spaces, technology labs and classrooms, the shiny new media room that boasts green screen technology – it all made the space feel like a distinct and remarkable place within the walls of the school
“One of the most exciting things for us was that when the kids walked in for the first time, they said, ‘This feels like a real library,’” said Aspen Crossing Principal Karen Puga. “They felt like they were somewhere else, somewhere new.”
Tiana Mell, a fifth-grader, was one of the students that felt that sense of possibility and potential as soon as she walked into the new space. As she worked in the new STEM lab on crafting a video trailer on a laptop, Mell said that all of the new resources have made learning more enjoyable and seamless for the 2019-20 school year.
“I love the new space. I like it so much more than the old library – it’s so much more fun and enjoyable,” Mell said. “It’s so much easier to use the technology than I expected. I like technology and math, and this new space makes doing the lessons much easier.”
Creating that sense of accessibility was a central priority in designing Aspen Crossing’s Innovation Space, a place that can host multiple classes and multiple grade levels at once without any strain on the facilities. As Mell worked on her video project, for example, students in a math class worked separately in another section of the space, dutifully writing out equations on new, whiteboard tables and taking part in collaborative discussions.
“We wanted a hub that would be the learning space,” Puga said. “Students can take part in group work, they can engage in individual learning, and there’s plenty of room for everyone. We can adjust to meet the needs of our students,” she added.
Similar spaces have gone 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. This innovative approach to learning is also tied directly to the Instructional Excellence priority in Cherry Creek Future Forward, the district’s roadmap for maintaining educational excellence.
“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,” said CCSD Superintendent Dr. Scott Siegfried. “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.”
"Having spaces dedicated to small group work has taken student responsibility and ownership to a new level because students have been given the opportunity to extend their learning to areas outside of their classroom. This area has given our community the flexibility to meet in large groups, as classes or smaller groups. The Aspen Crossing Library remodel has made our dream of fostering student responsibility, engaging learners and fostering a love of learning a reality. We are finding new uses for our space daily and embrace the excitement of new reality."
-Principal Karen Puga