Cimmaron Elementary School
Innovation isn’t limited to a single room at Cimarron Elementary School.
The beginning of the 2019-20 school year saw the launch of the school’s new Innovation Space, and one of the driving goals behind the construction was spreading innovation, collaboration and invention to every corner of the school.
Speaking from the school’s new and distinct Maker Space in Cimarron’s library, Principal Mandy Sheets spoke about the importance of offering access to a wide variety of learning styles to every student in the school. That meant redesigning the school’s “Learning Hub” to include a more open aesthetic, as well as adding new furniture, interactive technology and immersive, collaborative environments.
“We wanted to be able to offer innovation across the school, not just in a single classroom,” Sheets said. “The Innovation Space that we’ve created is flexible; our Maker Space has been used for everything from small groups to specials. The idea of innovation is across our school.”
Before lunch on a fall morning, several groups of students worked at once in the Innovation Space’s distinct classrooms. In the main section of the library, students worked on math problems, writing directly on erasable desks and checking their progress on a smart screen. In a separate classroom linked to the library via a closable garage door, students worked on immersive, tactile art projects. Teachers had the space and quiet to focus on work with individual students in another part of the space. All of these approaches to learning aligned with the Instructional Excellence priority in Cherry Creek Future Forward, the district’s roadmap for maintaining excellence well into the future.
“I like the new space because of the new wobbly stools, the laptops and all of the books,” said second-grader Chloe Bennet. “We get to make stuff and really pay attention to our work.”
Students like Bennet and her classmate Dominick Baxter have seen the difference the new space can make in the short span of a few months. The students are finding a new sense of potential in their everyday work, Sheets said, and that phenomenon is exactly what innovation is all about.
“Innovation is bridging what we know and what can be,” she said. “It’s using a creative, collaborative lens to meet the needs of all of our students.”
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.”
"Students are excited to explore and create in our new Learning Hub and Mustang Makerspace. Our students have engaged in a variety of new experiences throughout this space. Whether they are coding the Dash robots, exploring meal worms as a whole kindergarten grade level or creating a model of something to show their understanding, our students love the hands on experiences."
-Principal Mandy Sheets