Village East Elementary School
The Innovation Space at Village East Elementary School encourages collaboration between disciplines.
Following the renovation that took place in the summer of 2019, students no longer face barriers between spaces designated for literacy and those designed for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). With the elimination of walls, both physical and conceptual, students now have more access to cross-disciplinary learning. They can now more clearly and effectively tap into the ties between disciplines and, what’s more, draw on the latest technology in every single subject.
“What’s so nice about what’s happening now is that there is collaboration going on between the library and the STEM room,” said Village East Principal Mia Robinson. “A lot of times they’re co-teaching and co-planning together. Kids are working in multiple places around the space, whereas before, it was all segmented and isolated.”
That much was clear on a recent afternoon, as students across grade levels took part in a wide array of lessons and learning styles simultaneously. Students in the STEM lab worked on complex LEGO construction projects, while others sat in a group around a teacher for story and reading time. In one of the new quiet reading nooks, students set their own pace, finishing literacy assignments and collaborating quietly with one another.
Even with multiple grade levels and multiple classes working at the same time, the learning didn’t feel cramped or uncomfortable, thanks to the open feel of the entire space. Humberto Perez-Gonzalez and Josh Alvarez, two fifth-graders working on a science project, were set up on the boundary between the STEM lab and the library space. As they worked carefully on building a catapult out of popsicle sticks and other simple materials, they seemed to exemplify the fusion between STEM, the arts and broad, critical thinking skills.
“It makes it easier to do a project like this, where we have to build something,” said Alvarez, who’d come in during his recess period to construct and problem-solve. “There’s more room, more cool stuff to use. It makes it easier.”
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.”
"Our students are most excited about the quiet reading room! They love to have time to immerse themselves in books and read without being interrupted. But, most of all, the comfortable and cozy seating options allow them lounge in seats and a spaces that were designed by them."
-Principal Mia Robinson