The Columbine Elementary Innovation project aims to boost collaboration and communication with remodels in the cafeteria, computer lab, and classroom pods. The project aligns with three of BVSD's six Innovation Guiding Principles: Learning is a Social Process, Learning is Founded in Inquiry, and Learning is Personalized and Learner Led. 

Results - Impact on Learning

During the first school year the new space was used, educators were asked to monitor and track growth towards the outcomes identified in their project plan and present the findings in a digital story.  The story was framed by the question, "How is innovation shifting the story of learning at our school?" 

Project Photos


Project Description

To develop the school's project, staff worked together to develop responses to the following guiding questions. 

1. Briefly describe the project that you plan to implement with your Innovation Funds.

Wildcat Community Café

Learning is a social process and a more inviting community café will create a space that promotes collaboration and communication. Our cafeteria is in need of a change in order to provide students, faculty, parents, and guests a space that is more flexible, inviting and used often. We envision a space in which students can eat in an environment that promotes positive social interactions, where we can hold assemblies, use for media viewings, celebrations, workshops, “Ted Talks”, family and community meetings and project-based learning.

Our idea is that the Columbine community would be able to use the café outside of lunchtimes, including after school and in the evenings, to be able to have meaningful learning experiences for all school members.  

We want a space where students and the Columbine community can feel safe, nurtured and united.

Collaboration Centers (Pod and Computer Lab Minor Adjustments)

We would like to create open, warm, soft and flexible shared collaborative learning spaces that extend from classrooms. Students will be able to engage in inquiry projects, problem solve, and benefit from break out spaces. Currently, the space is used for storage. We envision an open layout with some furniture, connecting the classroom environments. This would include minor demolition and adding carpeting, as well as the purchase of furnishings. The third-grade pod area would be slightly different in that it would be an extension from the current space in order to provide supervision.  

Computer Lab

We would like to reconfigure and clean out the computer lab in order to create a usable and student-centered area. This room would be used as another breakout space for projects (makerspace, small group instruction, collaborative work, etc...). It would also be used as a space for students to practice Mindfulness and/or take breaks. We would keep some of the desktops that are already in there but push them back against the wall. This room would need minimal furniture (a few moveable tables and chairs) in order to maintain an open floor plan.

One other minor remodel that we would like is an additional sink in the art room.

Finally, we will need some flexible seating for each grade level and the art room.

2. How will you involve stakeholders in the decision-making process concerning the use of the innovation funds for your site?  

Students will give the Innovation Committee feedback on what elements make the current cafeteria and pods challenging learning environments and how to make improvements.  The Innovation Committee has been working with their grade level teams to have their voices included in the proposal process. We have also reached out to our Parent Community for ideas and feedback.

3. How does your project support The Success Effect? (BVSD's Strategic Plan-Mission/Vision/Goals)

As we look at the District’s mission and vision, we feel strongly that our project is aligned with both in that we want to “create challenging, meaningful and engaging learning opportunities so that all children thrive and are prepared for successful, civically engaged lives” and that by providing these new spaces we will “provide a comprehensive and innovative approach to education and graduate successful, curious, lifelong learners who confidently confront the great challenges of their time.” More specifically we can break the project down into categories that fall into the BVSD Effective Teacher Standards.

Wildcat Community Café

With respect to “Impact on Teaching and Learning Practices” as aligned to Educator Effectiveness Standards the Wildcat Community Café will allow students to:

  • Respect the background of fellow students.
  • Apply higher order thinking and problem-solving skills to address challenging issues.
  • Apply what they are learning in class to inspire curiosity and pose questions about their world.
  • Select challenging content and activities when given the choice in order to stretch their skills.
  • Contribute their individual interest and strengths in a collaborative manner.

Collaboration Centers (Pods)

The Collaborative Learning Spaces will allow students to:

  • Apply what they are learning in class to inspire curiosity and pose questions about their world.
  • Work respectfully, collaboratively, and effectively to meet instructional objectives.
  • Utilize processes (protocols) to build trust and promote effective interactions among team members.
  • Apply higher order thinking and problem-solving skills to address challenging issues.
  • Select challenging content and activities when given the choice in order to stretch their skills.
  • Contribute their individual interest and strengths in a collaborative manner.

Computer Lab

A Redesign and Restructuring of the Computer Lab will allow students to:

  • Use technology to deepen critical thinking skills.
  • Make connections across larger themes and between disciplines.
  • Actively participate in classroom activities.
  • Seek opportunities to respond to difficult questions.
  • Select challenging content and activities when given the choice in order to stretch their skills and abilities.
  • Use technology to accelerate learning,  apply team building and networking skills, deepen critical thinking to communicate effectively.
  • Work respectfully, collaboratively, and effectively to meet instructional objectives.
  • Utilize processes (protocols) to build trust promote effective interactions among team members.
  • Apply what they are learning in class to inspire curiosity and pose questions about their world.

4. Review the Innovation Guiding Principles and discuss with your stakeholders. How will your project align with one or more of the guiding principles?

It is our feeling that our proposal addresses three of the Innovation Guiding Principles: Learning is a Social Process, Learning is Founded in Inquiry and Learning is Personalized and Learner Led. We see them broken down as follows:

Learning is a Social Process—The Wildcat Community Café concept envelopes community, which in itself is a social process. The café will give our student body the opportunity to interact in a more positive, intimate setting. This is important for many reasons, including that our students sometimes don’t get to see one another during the day because of the way our program is set up. They are separated by language for part of the day. Intentional time where they can talk and share stories is important. The pace of our schedule is intense and it would be nice for them to have a space to really relax and enjoy one another. We have been working very hard with our students to develop Mindfulness practices in which they can treat each other kindly and take care of themselves. Currently, the cafeteria is an extremely chaotic experience and they don’t have time to interact, can barely hear one another, and don’t have a chance to enjoy a meal together.

With regard to the greater community, it is well known that when parents and community members feel welcomed in a school, they participate more. This participation equates to stronger student health academically, emotionally and socially. We already have many programs that support our school, but at times it is difficult to find space that feels genuinely welcoming for them. The more they are able to interact with one another and with our students, the stronger community we will build. This is particularly true with our parents who are not native English speakers and may feel disenfranchised. They need a place where they feel safe, where they can learn about our school and how to help, and where they can be with one another, sharing the same experience—a child at Columbine.

Learning is Founded in Inquiry—Inquiry has been a guiding principle in our program for many years and we strongly believe that tapping into a child’s interests and curiosities is the foundation to their development as lifelong learners. One of our cornerstones is comprehension strategy work, which teaches our students to be critical thinkers. This work is not just so they can “understand” a text, it’s so they can interpret the world around them, participate and make a difference. This is why we want to remodel our pods. In order for students to collaborate, discover, ask questions and solve problems we need break out spaces that are conducive to this kind of communication. As extensions of our classrooms, our pods are natural breakout spaces that can easily be transformed into areas in which individual and group work can be done.

Learning is Personalized and Learner Led—As we strive to guide our students in becoming more independent and confident, we know that it is important to give them opportunities in which they can explore, struggle, fail and then later succeed. The computer lab space will help facilitate students developing skills and capacities to exercise high levels of self-management, ownership, and accountability over their own learning. It will be a space where students can have choice, autonomy, participate in active exploration, self-reflection and self-care, and do so in a space that can be used for peer-to-peer teaching, guided instruction, hands-on learning and more.

5. Determine what your learning outcomes are for your innovation project. What will happen as a result of this innovation?

Wildcat Community Café—Social theorists help us understand how people learn from one another. This is not a new concept. The café is a way to develop a learning community that functions collaboratively within the constructs of the school. As Vygotsky clearly notes, we learn through our interactions and communications with others. In a school as diverse as Columbine, this kind of interaction is vital. As a result of this innovation, our students, their families, and our greater community will learn from one another, cooperate, develop an appreciation for each other and collaborate to make our school even stronger than it is now.

Collaboration Center Renovation—The pod renovation will allow for students to engage in critical inquiry that promotes problem-solving and mastering new concepts. They will learn to work through ideas while producing a variety of texts/projects in different genres and for many purposes/audiences. They will use inquiry as a medium for reasoning and creating intellectual and social-emotional connections. As a result of this innovation, students are engaging in a logical critique of information and will gain new insights and deeper understandings of concepts and content.

Computer Lab Overhaul—The computer lab is ripe to create a “Maker Movement.” The rationale behind the makers movement is that it is based on constructionism, or the philosophy that hands-on learning through building and experiencing things through a highly-personalized lens is essential. Rather than being teacher-led, teachers act as guides for inquiry-based discoveries of knowledge and thinking processes. As a school with a huge range of abilities and needs, this kind of space will enhance our abilities to differentiate and meet the needs of students who thrive by being able to explore and build, experience Mindfulness, or create through Art.

Furniture to create flexible learning environments—Flexible seating allows for different personalities to choose what is most comfortable for them. An array of choices shows students that they have the power to make their learning their own. It also allows the teacher to choose seating that will help facilitate learning. We anticipate the initial shift of redesigning our rooms with furniture will encourage collaboration, communication, creativity, productivity and movement for our students who sit for long periods of time.

6. Determine how you will measure the progress towards and achievement of your learning outcome. What is your plan for gathering data to show that the change is positively impacting learning at your site?

Surveys—We plan to administer different surveys to different participating groups to find out more about attitudes and understandings about the spaces both pre- remodeling and post.

We will monitor groups who work in the newly remodeled spaces and document the increase of use with a more inviting environment. We will also note, what specific groups using the spaces for before and after the remodel.

Noise levels during lunch—We would like to record the noise levels in the spaces now and post- remodel.

7. What professional learning and support might your staff might need in order to reach the desired learning outcomes for the space?

We would like to run a book club with our staff using professional texts on collaboration, inquiry and how to create and foster cooperative spaces. We want guidance on setting up space and implementing routines that support this kind of learning. We have chosen four books that we feel will be pertinent to our ability to implement change in our building. We would like to create several groups in which teachers can choose one book to read, then hold our book groups during staff meetings. At the end of the year, each group can share the content with the entire staff. This is a list of books we would like to read:

  • Launch: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student – May 19, 2016, by John Spencer & AJ Juliani
  • Empower: What Happens When Students Own Their Learning – June 21, 2017 by John Spencer & AJ Juliani
  • The Innovator's Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity -- October 21, 2015 by George Couros
  • The Space: A Guide For Educators by Rebecca Louise Hare and Robert Dillon