Mountain Vista Elementary School
When the weather cooperates, the students at Mountain Vista Elementary School can take their learning into the great outdoors.
An outdoor amphitheater right next to the school’s playground offers access to the latest technology and resources in an open-air setting. Students in science class learning about local wildlife, for example, can connect to built-in wi-fi and observe local flora and fauna from their open-air seats. Similarly, students taking part in balloon launch science experiments can pull up-to-the-date weather information and statistics as they watch their project steadily gain altitude.
“This is truly an outdoor classroom,” said Mountain Vista Principal Toby Arritola. “With a wifi connection outdoors, students can make real-time observations about a balloon launch or a lesson about sun patterns as they’re sitting and learning outside.”
The outdoor amphitheater was one of many upgrades and additions made to Mountain Vista thanks to bond funds approved by the voters. Along with the amphitheater, school administrators also revamped Mountain Vista’s STEM lab and its library space, adding more engaging technology, dynamic furniture and architectural design schemes meant to get students moving, communicating and innovating.
Indeed, innovation is the theme that tied all of the school’s separate projects together. Whether students are taking part in a Socratic seminar in the outdoor amphitheater or learning how to code robots in the new STEM lab, they have a common access to team-building, creativity and individual inspiration, components that are at the heart of innovation and at the heart of Cherry Creek Future Forward, the district’s roadmap for continuing excellence well into the future.
“Our students love the changes we’ve made, thanks to the generosity and the investment of our community,” Arritola said. He pointed to the flexible seating in the STEM lab, the open design of the new library and the work spaces designed for team work and joint problem solving. “All of these new spaces are more accessible for all of our students. There are entry points for all kinds of learners here, and our students have responded.”
Sadie Griffith, a fifth-grader who was hard at work on a team project in the library on a recent afternoon, has noticed the positive impact of the changes. Though the library still offers students plenty of access to books, it’s also more open to team projects and individual study, she said.
“There’s more space to spread out and read or work with partners,” she said. “There are comfy chairs and it feels more organized. It’s a lot easier to focus.”
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.”
"Students are most excited about the new opportunities they will have to extend their learning in the new STEM lab with 3d printing, robotics, iPads, engineering, drones, and much more. "
-Principal Toby Arritola