Sagebrush Elementary School
Sagebrush Elementary Chris Powell said the shift from an outdated approach to education to one that incorporates innovation, team-building and initiative has made all the difference for students and teachers alike.
“We went from an older approach that only served one purpose to one that utilized spaces and environments in multiple ways,” Powell said, referring to the school’s newly refurbished Innovation Space. “We’ve become multi-purpose, multi-functional and interactive.”
By linking the school’s library/media center and its newly rebuilt Maker Space, students have more access and options, Powell said. What’s more, teachers have the ability to link curriculum and build lessons in an entirely new way, one that highlights connective learning and stresses interaction, engagement and tactile experience.
From working with robots to creating Lego projects to building expertise with 3-D printers, students now have many more routes to 21st-century learning. In addition, the design for the new space that launched at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year incorporates the benefits of timeless architectural touches, such as incorporating more natural light.
“We put in more windows and really opened up the space in a new way,” Powell said. “The students have loved it. They’re now working in an environment that encourages discovery and problem-solving. They’re discovering for themselves the real-world applications of their lessons.”
Foster Cupp, a 10-year-old fourth-grader, was hard at work making those meaningful connections during a STEM lab held in the new Maker Space during a fall afternoon. Combining the Lego construction approach with robotics and programming exercises brought multiple disciplines to life in a single lesson – the carriage was part of a unit exploring the history of Colorado.
“I’m making a Lego robotic carriage,” Cupp said, showing off his progress on a creation that neatly combined old-school building and innovative programming. “Our old technology room was so different; this is so much better. I get to work with 3-D printing, technology and robots. It’s really fun.”
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 new innovation space and maker space inspires students to think critically and solve real-world problems. It allows them more opportunity to collaborate and learn from each other. The excitement of the new spaces encourages students to create and achieve in ways that were not available to them with our traditional library and computer lab set-up. As we emphasize working together as a community, students have greater access to collaboration opportunities to care about and support each other in their learning. "
-Principal Christopher Powell