Creekside Elementary School
The team at Creekside Elementary wanted to build a new Innovation Space that would be the interactive heart of the school.
As administrators planned for the redesign that would completely reinvent Creekside’s library, they envisioned a central hub, a place where students could find the kind of inspiration, innovation and engagement that would carry into the rest of their classes. They wanted to fashion a central space where teachers could find new ways to inspire their students. The Creekside crew were intent on creating a learning environment that truly reflected the Instructional Excellence priority in Cherry Creek Future Forward, the district’s roadmap for maintaining educational excellence.
“Our priority was to create a space that was truly a hub of the school, that was accessible to all of our kids,” said Creekside Principal Kelly Sommerfeld. “We wanted a place where students could come at any point in the day, where we could teach differently. We wanted it to be a busy place.”
Sommerfeld and her crew realized these goals with a space that features a wide variety of learning environments, including a Maker Space, a STEM lab and flexible furniture tucked among bookshelves. On a recent afternoon, the Innovation Space was a hive of activity, as different grade levels worked on a variety of projects, without ever getting in the way of one another.
“It’s easier to work, because you feel like there’s more space and it’s not as cramped,” said Brooke Walsh, a third-grader who was hard at work on a lesson that incorporated robots, math and other STEM elements. “My favorite thing to do in here is making weather reports in the green screen room.”
Walsh’s enthusiasm wasn’t isolated. According to Sommerfeld, since the new space opened at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year, it’s been in high demand as a place to work and grow.
“They want to come down here every day. It’s a busy place,” she said, adding that the space’s multiple avenues to learning ties in directly with the Creekside community’s definition of innovation. “Innovation is about creating something new and different. It’s about engaging our kids in a different way, and giving them ownership over their learning.”
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.”
"We are so grateful to our community and our new space inspires all of us! Students are most excited about the variety of seating options and ways to collaborate. You can find them on a bean bag, sitting on the couch, rocking in a rocker, standing at a high top table, or sitting on the floor. They love the flexibility of the space and how they can move the furniture around to meet their learning needs."
-Principal Kelly Sommerfeld