Pine Ridge Elementary School
The new Innovation Space at Pine Ridge Elementary School isn’t likely to look the same from one day to the next.
Thanks to the flexible and fluid design of the new space, teachers and students can adjust the layout, feel and dimensions of the room to meet their needs. Whether it’s using flexible, accommodating furniture for reading exercises in the library space or diving into hands-on, messy science experiments in the new STEM lab, students at Pine Ridge can now adjust their classroom to meet their individual needs.
According to Pine Ridge Principal Heather Woodward, that dynamism has made all the difference for students.
“The space feels a lot friendlier to all of our students,” she said. “Every single time they show up for a class or a lesson, the space can look different to suit their needs. They appreciate that they can be louder in the STEM space; they love that they can find furniture that meets their needs in the library space.”
Such flexibility is a core tenet of innovative learning, an approach that stresses team-building, collaboration and problem-solving. These tenets are also a key component of the Instructional Excellence strategic priority in Cherry Creek Future Forward, the district’s roadmap to maintaining innovative excellence well into the future.
The new Innovation Space has already had a concrete impact for students like Om Desai, a second-grader who was hard at work on a scientific experiment in the school’s new STEM lab during a recent fall afternoon.
“I have a lot more fun when I get to work in this space now,” Desai said. “It’s bigger, and I really like doing scientific projects here. I get to wear scientific glasses and make slime; I get to work with robots. It’s a lot more comfortable than it was before.”
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.”
"Teachers are currently using the space to innovate their instruction by collaborating with one another to create shared experiences for students which incorporate multiple content areas, real world experiences and use of 21st Century Skills. We are maximizing the value of the space by ensuring that all classes have the opportunity to experience it through a shared calendar for teachers to sign up, teachers often partner up to create shared experiences for students and our students in STEAM are able to flow into the space through the shared door allowing for additional learning opportunities."
-Principal Heather Woodward