Eastridge Elementary School
At Eastridge Elementary School, removing a wall played a big role in encouraging innovation for students and teachers alike.
The school launched its new Innovation Space at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year, and what was once a traditional library with walled-off rooms and static furniture is now a wide open space featuring a presentation stage, a distinct technology room and movable furniture that can accommodate a broad range of lesson plans. The transformation depended in part on getting rid of a wall that had previously broken the space into compartments.
That simple step opened the door to a new kind approach to learning, according to Eastridge Elementary Principal Amy Cribbs.
“We can now have a large group of students and teachers in here collaborating,” Cribbs said. “We’re able to use the space in a way that we never did before.”
On a Thursday morning a few weeks in to the new school year, two Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) teachers taught separate lessons to different classes at the same time. On the presentation stage at one end of the room, students worked with tablets to program rolling robots, while another group of second-graders used the new lab space to create code and test technology. The school’s librarian teachers had plenty of space to do their work as two classes’ worth of students bustled about them.
Zeltano Provencio and Deangelo Bailey-Stevens, two second-graders working in the lab, were hard at work programming a miniature robot to follow a color-coded track on one of the tables. Both students were still marveling at the new space, which had completely changed how they approached their STEM learning.
“There’s more space for technology,” Bailey-Stevens said. “I like the computers, and I like that we’re working more with robots.”
The technology plays a complimentary role with the physical layout of the space, Cribbs noted, pointing specifically to the new stage that serves as a spot to work, present and perform for students of all backgrounds and interests.
“We’re doing more project-based learning, and this new stage is a great place for students to share their work with their peers,” said Eastridge Elementary Principal Amy Cribbs. “Since all of the furniture here is movable, we can fit two grades in here at a time without having to change our schedule.”
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.
“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.”
"So many times in the past we could not find a space conducive to students engaged in engineering and STEM tasks. Now, we have the ability to use the entire library/lab space easily. Students and teachers alike are enjoying the new space. Students can gather information and apply that information all in the same space."
-Principal Amy Cribbs