Independence Elementary School
The new Innovation Space at Independence Elementary has pushed students and teachers alike to think differently.
What was once a traditional library space has transformed into a center of 21st-century learning. The additions include a brand new Maker Space, a revamped community space, a production studio for videos and other multi-media and plenty of dedicated room for STEM experiments and immersive learning.
For students, the additions that launched at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year have offered a more immersive learning environment, one that stresses fundamentals like problem-solving, collaboration, creativity and team-building. All of these aspects are also part of the Instructional Excellence priority in Cherry Creek Future Forward, the district’s roadmap for maintaining excellence well into the future.
For the teachers at Independence, the additions have offered the chance to bring their instruction into the future. According to Independence Principal Lisa Morris, the added technology, flexible furniture and interactive designs have pushed educators to make the most of project-based learning lessons and to rethink how they approach familiar subjects.
“These new spaces have truly inspired us all with the true meaning of innovation. They’ve pushed us to think differently,” Morris said. “For our students, the new spaces have given them the chance to be more creative, to work more effectively and to create truly collaborative and immersive projects.”
Third-graders Mya Martinez, Yunna Litvinenko and Lauren Keys were hard at work on a nature-based STEM project in the school’s new Maker Space on a recent fall afternoon. They had been challenged to design and build a receptacle for leaves, twigs and other natural elements over an allotted amount of time, and they were taking full advantage of all the tools at their disposal to complete the project. They swapped ideas on the erasable table, sketched out their plan on a whiteboard and spun in fidget-friendly chairs as they meditated on their concepts.
“I really love how the new space looks and feels,” Litvinenko said. “We have a green screen in the video room, and we have all of this cool furniture. We get to focus on what we like and we get to be experts!”
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.”
"Our teachers have been involved in professional development as we are shifting our instructional approach. Teachers are implementing project based learning units in their classrooms. This new innovative space will allow for increased collaboration and creativity through project based learning and design challenges."
-Principal Lisa Morris