High Plains Elementary School
The administrators and staff at High Plains Elementary saw a unique opportunity after voters in the Cherry Creek School District approved funding in 2016 for new Innovation Spaces in every elementary and middle school.
The school had already drawn on previous bond money to complete physical improvements and upgrades to the building, and the 2016 election offered the chance to complement those additions. According to High Plains Principal Linda Maccagnan, school leaders saw a chance to offer all students constant access to innovation and engagement.
“We had already had a lot of construction in the building with money from a previous bond election. With this Innovation Space funding, we wanted to focus on allowing our students to have access to innovation all of the time across the school,” Maccagnan explained. “We wanted to make sure that our students have access to collaborative, immersive and creative learning every day, in every classroom.”
With that goal in mind, High Plains staff focused on bringing flexible furniture, new technology and immersive resources to every classroom and shared space in the building. This effort included new library nooks for individual classrooms, tables and chairs designed to accommodate movement and kinetic learning and standing dry-erase boards meant to give students immediate access to creative collaboration and team exercises.
According to first-grade teacher Shaina Vassau, the additions have already had a measurable and positive effect for students. She pointed to a new, individual library corner and a wide variety of brand new tables, chairs and whiteboards.
“The new furniture has allowed all students to access learning in a way that’s appropriate to their own needs,” Vassau said. “For the kids who are wiggly, they can come over to the cloud table and use a chair that has more movement. During our reading times, kids are able to use furniture to make them more comfortable. It’s made a huge impact on engagement and positivity.”
Like every other recipient of the Innovation Space funding, High Plains staff had the freedom to use the money to meet the school’s unique needs. Maccagnan said that flexibility has made all the difference for teachers and students alike – in a school that’s already seen considerable improvements, new furniture and tools for every classroom served as the ideal complement.
“We can design our classrooms differently and flexibly. Day-to-day, moment-to-moment, we have space to build and grow,” she said. “It gives the students the chance to collaborate and the furniture accommodates their own, individual physical needs.”
New Innovation 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.”
"I love that students have the ability to easily collaborate with peers and have choice in learning spaces."
-Principal Linda Maccagnan