Summit Elementary School
Summit Elementary School’s new Innovation Space operates around the theme of a shared nest.
That aesthetic theme, summed up neatly in the central, tree-like structure in the center of the new space, is fitting. The school’s mascot is the eagle, after all, and as Principal Rachel Rubio points out, the priorities going into building the new environment were all about creating a sense of community learning.
“We wanted a space that would be multi-use, where kids could make and create and explore,” Rubio said. “We wanted it to work for multiple classrooms, multiple grade levels. That cross-collaboration was important.”
As multiple classes from multiple grade levels met in the new space on a recent fall afternoon, that tone of unification and collaboration was clear. Dozens of fourth-graders converged in the new auditorium space with no sense of crowding; they had all come together to work on projects rooted in the history of Colorado. Elsewhere in the Innovation Space, students worked on recording and transmitting a daily news update in the school’s new green screen room, while others were hard at work crafting individual projects in the separate Maker Space.
Across the entirety of Summit’s new “nest,” students were engaging in the kind of learning that reflects the Instructional Excellence priority in Cherry Creek Future Forward, the district’s roadmap for maintaining educational excellence.
“There’s an excitement about working and learning together,” Rubio said, adding that the same spirit applies to the school’s teachers, who’ve taken to using the space for professional development opportunities and community meetings. “I think that some of the solutions to the problems that the world faces are going to come from the students who are spending time in that space.”
Before tackling those kinds of large-scale issues, fourth-grader Hunter Maley was content to use the new resources in the space in service of his Colorado history project. Maley, who’s in his first year at Summit, said that arriving at a school with a brand-new learning environment equipped with cutting-edge tools has already helped his learning.
“It’s easier to work, and to do big projects like we’re doing now,” Maley said. “I love that there’s so much room!”
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 students and teachers are excited by all the possibilities our new space provides. The space is designed to allow multiple classes and/or grade levels to collaborate on projects. I have no doubt that this space will help promote solutions to real world issues!! "
-Principal Rachel Rubio