Red Hawk Ridge Elementary School
The administrators at Red Hawk Ridge Elementary School approached creating a new Innovation Space a little differently.
Like every other elementary and middle school in the district, Red Hawk Ridge received money to create a new Innovation Space for students, thanks to bond funding approved by voters in 2016. These new Innovation Spaces would encourage 21st-century skills and reflect the Instructional Excellence priority in Cherry Creek Future Forward, the district’s roadmap for maintaining educational excellence.
Unlike some of the older buildings in the district, Red Haw Ridge wasn’t in need of completely new spaces. Their media center and many of their classrooms had already undergone renovations to match the needs of 21st-century learning, and didn’t require dramatic structural updates.
Even so, Principal Kait Whitaker and the rest of the staff knew that students could benefit from an emphasis on innovation. They decided to reinvent the resources featured inside the classrooms, as opposed to the classrooms themselves.
“When we sat down with our Innovation Team and started talking about the possibilities, we wanted to make sure the money impacted every student, every day,” Whitaker said. “We started exploring furniture, because we know that our kids learn in different ways.”
The team investigated different kinds of chairs and desks, classroom pieces that allowed kids to write on their desks, work in small groups more easily and tailor their tools to meet their learning styles. The positive impact was clear in classrooms across the building, from a first-grade room where students supplemented reading time with whiteboard presentations and group activities to a fourth-grade classroom where small teams of kids could move around much more easily, thanks to dynamic tables and chairs.
“I like the setup a lot better than last year,” said Marques Lawrence, a fourth grader. “You can move your seat and table; you don’t get bored and you can work in groups better.”
Whitaker said that kind of response has been common throughout Red Hawk Ridge. Even though the building is relatively new, it took incorporating different kinds of features in the classroom to truly bring the learning to an innovative stage.
“Kids are naturally wigglers,” Whitaker said. “We’ve been able to help them keep their energy even as their learning and innovating.”
Innovation 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.”
"When we thought about what we wanted to do with the innovation money, our team decided that we wanted to touch every kid, every day. We have changed the furniture to allow choice and collaboration. Our students choose a work spot that is best for them to engage in and complete work. Our furniture easily moves and provides students the opportunity to change the arrangement so that they can have collaborative learning opportunities. "
-Principal Kait Whitaker