EnCORE: Large-Scale Learning Experiences and Educational R&D

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Volume 1, Issue 1 Spring 2018



Using STEM to Create a Meaningful Impact


CU Boulder STEM Workshop


An Introduction to PBL


Flight Queens


A Lesson in Courage from a First Year STEM Teacher


STEM as an Identity


Changing The World


World of Apps


My name is Jon Pierce, and I am the Coordinator of Elementary STEM and Innovation for the Cherry Creek School District. I am passionate about changing the landscape of education: making the difference between students’ going to school and propelling them to the next level. I am someone who has always pursued my dreams and creates the opportunities for those dreams to become reality. What drives me is looking at the world of education and adding the value that I think will make it better for everyone. I truly believe that there is no dream too big and that there is no challenge that can’t be overcome.

My name is Adrian Neibauer and I am an Elementary STEM and Innovation Coach for the Cherry Creek School District. I am a former elementary school teacher with 15 years of experience in non-conforming and mentoring students to help them find their voices in order to change schools and society. I am passionate about creating exceptional learning experiences for students. I am an intellectual thinker who dreams of transformational change, and a practitioner who helps make change possible for students, teachers, and administrators.




Using STEM to Create a Meaningful Impact

James Justus


CU Boulder STEM Workshop

Jenn Ansorger


PBL (staff-wide)

Julie Mueller


Flight Queens - Girls in STEM

Ryan Remein


Be Brave: A Lesson in Courage from a First Year STEM Teacher

Mary Anderson


STEM as an Identity

Justin Towner


When was the last time you believed that you could change the world?

Adrian Neibauer


Why not treat your learning like downloading different apps to your smartphone?

Jon Pierce


Cover Photo by Julie Mueller



Using STEM to Create a Meaningful Impact By James Justus During my first year teaching STEM at Village East, I was lucky enough to receive a dozen Makey Makey kits from our PTCO. It was the first time my students and I had ever used a Makey Makey kit. We had fun creating pianos and drums, and then moving on to creating controllers for video games. I was amazed at the seemingly limitless applications of the Makey Makeys, and when a fifth grader created a guitar out of cardboard and tinfoil to use with Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Scratch, I had an idea! Earlier in the week, I had brought the Makey Makey kits to a Specials team meeting in order to discuss different applications and uses in the classroom. At the time, we had just finished watching the fifth graders rehearse a performance in which every student got to play an instrument… every student

except Sooz. Sooz is a young girl (now in sixth grade at Prairie Middle School) who is confined to a wheelchair and has very limited physical functions— so limited that she is unable to blow through and play a recorder. For most of the performances, she was wheeled up next to her class and sat there while her peers played music. The music teacher (Don Fairchild) and I got together and used the Makey Makey kit to build a recorder for Sooz. By using some old PVC piping and drilling holes at strategic locations, we were able to add tinfoil and connectors to the inside of the PVC pipe. We then connect the Makey Makey kit to Don’s computer, which was running a music program. He made sure that the appropriate sound would come out with each touch. Sooz would now be able to play the recorder for the very first time! As a result, she was able to take part in the fifth graders’ performance. By using ideas from STEM and Innovation, we were able to create a meaningful impact on this student’s life. She was able to participate in an

activity that she had never done before, which could very well have formed a memory that she will have for the rest of her life. The applications for STEM and Innovation are only limited by your imagination!


The visit and workshop day with Colorado University (CU) was an amazing opportunity for both students and teachers. We were engaged in hands-on approaches to teaching and learning. This STEM day was led and guided by Eric Carpenter, a representative from CU Boulder. Elementary STEM and Innovation were instrumental in bringing these STEM classes to Cherry Creek teachers. The focus of these classes was around the Stanford Design Thinking Model.

CU Boulder STEM Workshop By Jen Ansorger Every session we attended used this model as a guide. The individual session topics ranged from robotics, electricity, and 3D printing to Makey Makey and MakerSpace. During the school STEM day, fourth grade students rotated through three different workstations. Each rotation lasted eighty minutes, giving the students a chance to deeply explore what each station had to offer.

Station 1 had the students playing with

and coding Edison Robots by Microbic. Using a new, inexpensive classroom robot, Microbric Edison, this learning module presented methods for introducing and applying STEM concepts through technology and computer programming. Teams of learners were guided through introductory programming activities, standards-based inquiries and extensions, and student-directed innovation activities for the 21st century classroom. KEY CONCEPTS: Robotics; Computer Programming; Programming Languages; Logic; Variables; Measurement; Speed; Distance; Angles; Circuits; Resistance; Light, Sound, and Wave Science.

Station 2 had the students designing and

building in a Makerspace. Teams of learners used design thinking strategies and the tools and resources in our portable makerspace to plan, build, and test models, devices, and inventions. Using a unique facilitation model, teachers guided the inquiry process and capitalized on opportunities to incorporate grade-specific learning standards in mathematics and physical and life sciences. KEY CONCEPTS: Measurement; Variables; Scale; Constraints; Parameters; Mixtures; Properties of Materials; Angles; Forces; Motion; Human Body Systems; Structures and Characteristics of Living Things.


Station 3 gave students the opportunity to experiment and make predictions using a variety of tools and materials. This module used virtual learning platforms paired with engaging hands-on activities to explore relationships

in Earth Sciences. Choosing between standards-based units, teams of learners explored and inquired about relationships between the earth and sun, energy in the earth system, weather and climate, and the distribution of resources and living things across Colorado and the world. KEY CONCEPTS: Solar System; Orbits; Angles; Insolation; Reflection; Refraction; Transformation of Energy; Weather; Climate; Water Cycle; Ecosystems-Biomes; Communities; Natural Resources. This day was fantastic for both students and teachers. Not only did the students get an opportunity to explore new concepts, but they were also able to “play” with new materials and robots. From a teacher’s perspective, this experience gave us a chance to see the Stanford model in action. Seeing how the facilitators (Eric and his team) incorporated the model into the workstations was a great learning experience and has definitely influenced my teaching practice. At Homestead, we are trying to move STEM from being a pull-out “Specials”

program to a push-in program that teachers can implement themselves. This STEM day helped our cause because it showed staff that push-in programs are completely doable even with limited tech knowledge and that using different resources can add to and enhance the core standards that we are required to teach. These sessions also provided models for Project Based Learning (PBL), which is the direction our school is taking. Following the STEM day, our school has already purchased three different types of robots (including a set of Edisons, which were explored in one of the sessions), and I will be running an introductory session on how the robots work, with a follow-up session on how we can use these robots in PBL. Students need to not only learn the core standards, but they also need to learn to succeed as 21st century learners. To keep up with technology and the ever-changing workplace expectations, students need to develop their ability to problem solve, collaborate, and think “outside of the box.” STEM programming is

a great start. However, we need to ensure that students get the opportunity to explore PBL and the engineering process outside of designated STEM programs. Helping other staff members to explore these new technologies and become more comfortable with using them is the first step.

Not only did the students get an opportunity to explore new concepts, but they were also able to “play” with new materials and robots.


An Introduction to Project Based Learning By Julie Mueller

After using PBL in my own classroom, I was excited to extend the opportunity for students to be involved in handson learning projects throughout the building.


I was first introduced to Project Based Learning (PBL) when I attended the Buck Institute for Education PBL 101 workshop in the winter of 2015. This opportunity, through the Office of STEM and Innovation, allowed me to learn project based teaching practices, implement essential project design elements in my lessons, and create a project based unit to take back to my classroom. As an elementary STEM teacher, my focus is on teaching students the engineering design process. When I sat through the first few days of the training, I realized that the elements of PBL aligned with what I was trying to teach in STEM. In PBL, students are exposed to sustained inquiry, authentic challenges and problems, and opportunities for choice. The 4 C’s—critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity—also align perfectly with PBL, as students reflect, revise, and creating a product to share. In the PBL 101 workshop, I created a unit on water filters to bring back to my fifth grade classes. Throughout the unit, students researched what problems could be solved with water filtration systems and what materials could be used to build a filter. The unit culminated with students working collaboratively

to build a water filter prototype that could filter out contaminants from water. After using PBL in my own classroom, I was excited to extend the opportunity for students to be involved in hands-on learning projects throughout the building. In the fall of 2016, 15 Fox Hollow teachers formed an action and inquiry team to delve deeper into PBL. The action and inquiry team provided the opportunity for teachers to get feedback from one another as they built their units. Many teachers planned with a teammate or their entire team to create cross-curricular units. In one such unit, “Penguin Sleepover,” first grade students at Fox Hollow worked collaboratively to research different species of penguins, with the goal of learning enough about their penguin to host a sleepover for the animal in their own bedroom. In another unit, second grade students practiced financial literacy through a “Fox Tank” project in which the students worked with limited materials and funds to design and create products to sell. The project culminated with students presenting and selling their products to a panel of parents. Through this hands-on project, students learned first-hand about budgets, supply and demand, profits, losses, and business plans. Other projects throughout the building included planning a Colorado dream vacation on a budget, researching and creating digital citizenship websites, and developing plans for healthy habits and lifestyle changes.

Are you considering getting started with Project Based Learning? Here are a few tips: Start small

Trying to incorporate all of the project based teaching practices and essential project design elements can feel overwhelming. Beginning to slowly incorporate PBL practices and elements into your current lessons can allow you to scaffold student thinking and build up to an entire PBL unit. For example, you can make changes to an existing lesson by giving it more real-world relevance or presenting students with opportunities to critique and revise their work.

Look for existing PBL project ideas on the BIE.org website

You can search for PBL units by subject area and grade level on the Buck Institute for Education website. Even if you can’t find a unit that matches exactly what you are looking for, it is helpful to see what a complete PBL project looks like from beginning to end.

Give yourself time

As educators, time is always a problem: it just never feels like there is enough. Writing your own PBL unit or revising an already existing one is very time consuming. Give yourself plenty of time to plan the unit. Also, with project design elements such as sustained

inquiry, reflection, and revision, students may need more time as they delve deeper into their learning.

Plan backwards

At the center of both the essential project design elements and the project based teaching practices are key knowledge, understanding, and success skills. Begin by thinking about what you want your students to learn at the end of the unit. Choose a couple of priority standards or learning outcomes to focus on, and plan from those. Planning a PBL unit can often feel overwhelming, so it helps to stay focused on what you want students to ultimately learn.

Your role as the teacher might look different

As I think ahead to what our teaching might look like with the implementation of innovation spaces in elementary and middle schools, I constantly come back to Project Based Learning. As we begin to innovate our space, we must also begin to innovate our teaching practices. Rather than delivering content, PBL allows the teacher to take on a coaching role as students explore a subject, try to find answers to real-world problems, and present their findings to an audience.


Flight Queens


By Ryan Remein If you happened to look up on the morning of December 16, 2017, you may have noticed a steady stream of private planes circling the Cherry Creek School District. If you had the ability to look a bit closer, you would have seen pure joy on the faces of nine students taking the wheel to control the flight. These intrepid explorers, and part-time pilots, are members of the Red Hawk Ridge Girls’ Engineering Club, the Flight Queens. Once a week from September to December, the Flight Queens gathered to learn and experience a range of topics related to aerospace engineering under the guidance of community experts, culminating with a flight on a private plane at Centennial Airport. While the focus was aerospace, the broader goal was to expose the girls to potential careers in fields where women are traditionally

underrepresented. According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, women make up only 29% of the science and engineering workforce. This number is particularly alarming considering female and male students score equally well on standardized testing K-12, and 50.3% of science and engineering Bachelor’s Degrees are awarded to women. It is a troubling discrepancy, and studies by UNESCO suggest a number of factors may limit opportunities for women in STEM fields, including sociocultural and labor market preconceptions. The Flight Queens began with a vision to close these opportunity gaps in learning and experience for girls by providing access to female STEM professionals and engaging activities, in the hope of igniting passion in the participants. With the assistance of Dr. Adrian Neibauer, Office of STEM and Innovation, a program was curated to expose the girls to a range of exciting aerospace opportunities outside the structure of the normal school day. One such excursion was a visit to the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum. April Lanotte, Director of Educa-

tion at the museum, taught the girls about female support in constructing planes and ammunition during WWII, showed them how to use a riveting gun to create an aluminum model of a WWII-era fighter plane, and took them on a private tour of the hangar. As a follow-up, Ms. Lanotte came to Red Hawk Ridge to teach the girls about atmospheric science, and we designed pressure-sealed spacesuits to be tested under a vacuum bell. In another activity, the girls ran a near-space balloon launch. They designed an experiment to be tested in the rigors of our stratosphere, planned out a mission launch, launched the balloon in front of the Red Hawk Ridge student body, and used web portals to track their balloon’s flight in real time. Our attention then turned to engineering and entrepreneurship. The girls met with Arieanne DeFazio, CEO of Kitables, and learned about starting a business and engineering small-scale electric flyers. We finished this event by soldering and constructing mini-brick drones. The final experience for the Flight Queens was a trip to the Centennial

Airport to take a private flight as a part of the Young Eagles program. Each girl received a flight with a private pilot and was able log her hours and learn more about achieving a private pilot license. The excitement was palpable throughout our time together, and many of the girls have expressed interest in pursuing the field of aerospace further. The goal moving forward will be to run a girl’s engineering club each year with a different area of focus, providing a unique and transformative educational experience that taps into their natural passions. “It was amazing,” exclaimed Peyton S. “It’s like we were doing all of the STEM stuff boys get to do, but it was better!” You could say it was an educational experience fit for queens.

According the National Girls Collaborative Project, women make up only 29% of the science and engineering workforce.








STEM and Innovation Resource room checkout so far this year Cherry Creek Elementary STEM and Innovation provides tool sets that teachers use to innovate their classrooms.

Number of In Phase 1 elem schools

These Cherry Creek Elem first phase of redesigning for the 2018-2019 school

Number of NSBL launches

(data from mission control eg. altitude)


30 Number of classrooms implementing LAUNCH

Educators John Spencer and A.J. Juliani use design thinking to boost creativity and bring out the maker in every student. Cherry Creek classrooms have students see themselves as designers of their own learning.



The Cherry Creek Elementary STEM and Innovation team has launched 20 payloads into near space. Students learn about aerodynamics, atmospheric science, and weather balloons.


Number of miles traveled vertically since the first launch Since its inception 5 years ago, the Cherry Creek students have sent hundreds of micro-experiments into near space covering thousands of miles straight up!

nnovation mentary

mentary schools are in the their innovation spaces l year.


TOPGUN classroom growth (year 1-2) Year 1: 2 classrooms; 2 schools Year 2: 23 classrooms; 7 schools

Number of teachers on Innovation Teams/ Committees


Cherry Creek Elementary schools have begun to form Innovation Teams. Teacher leaders are learning about design thinking and planning professional development for their buildings.

126 Number of current subscribers to 3-Bullet Friday

3-Bullet Friday is a weekly newsletter from the Elementary STEM and Innovation department. It is a list of our favorite quotes, experiments, toolsets, books or podcasts that we are really enjoying… anything that we have come across this week that we feel is worth sharing with our closest friends.

Cubic feet of helium used

10736 A weather balloon filled with helium will fly for the same reason oil floats on water. Just as the oil has less density than water and rises to the surface of the water, helium is less dense than air and rises to the surface of the earth’s atmosphere. By trapping the helium inside a balloon, we can attach a line to the balloon, called the flight train, with our payload suspended at the other end and reach 100,000 feet!

The Cherry Creek School District TOPGUN Paper Airplane Academy teaches students the four forces of flight by enrolling them in the most elite Paper Airplane Academy. This pilot program is in its second year with continued plans to grow.


E xponential Workshops

Having an exponential mindset prepares students to innovate like they want to innovate. It is may be simple, but it’s not easy. These workshops prepare teachers to inspire students to dream big and then give them the tools to make it a reality.


Number of classrooms visited Cherry Creek Elementary STEM and Innovation provides instructional support and innovative coaching in order to improve and enhance individual STEM lessons, units and project-based learning (PBL) based on ongoing analysis.


Be Brave:

A Lesson in Courage from a First Year STEM Teacher By Mary Anderson


As I reflect upon my whirlwind first year as a STEM teacher, my thoughts take me back to the root of the common phrase that I’ve held in the forefront of my teaching practices: “Be Brave.” It was the summer of 2016, and I was finishing my Masters at the University of Denver (DU). My cohorts and I had just bravely petitioned DU to offer the mathematics cognate after it had been removed as a program. Our professor, Dr. Richard Kitchen, seemed to have the reassuring confidence and guiding charisma that we needed to persevere and succeed in the unpopular and complicated program. “Just be brave. We’re just going to have some fun with a little math,” were his words when we approached an intimidatingly complicated problem. These were the words that inspired us to nickname our mentor the Bob Ross of Math. “Be brave,” were not only the words that my cohorts and I used to support and encourage each other, but also the inspiration for the matching tattoos that would enable us to visibly display the powerful message to our students. “Be brave,” were also the words I uttered to myself after ending the call during which I accepted the STEM teaching position at Eastridge Elementary. I once read that it is best practice in life and health to give yourself a really good scare at least once a month in order to feel alive. If that is true, I’m 99.9% positive that I’m the most “alive” person in the teaching profession. After accepting the STEM teaching position, I had exactly two months to define STEM, what it meant for my students, and why this should be offered as a separate position when there was already a technology teacher in the building. During this time, I was shocked to discover that teaching in a school that welcomes almost 700 students meant that I wouldn’t see my students very often. I started to panic as I realized I would have to make every second count! It wasn’t long after I started teaching in the building that I accepted the fact that

there are no concrete answers to what I should be teaching, when I should be teaching it, and how it should be taught. I discovered that allowing a natural progression toward risk-taking was more important than adhering to a strictly prescribed curriculum, making STEM a holistic concept that demands flexibility. I wanted to use my own personal motivation and experiences in the classroom to enable my students to take academic risks and see themselves in the driver’s seat of their education. Building a program that promotes bravery is what will enable students to take responsibility for their own education and to become involved in their community. As an Eastridge Elementary STEM department, we have learned to marry our knowledge and skill sets in order to define the relationships between each component of STEM and unlock the potential of what we can do. Being flexible enough to work together on a project, idea, or event while also branching out with individual concepts is the essence of what STEM success looks like from an Eastridge standpoint. Understanding that STEM is an umbrella under which all curriculum resides fosters limitless points of access to each student and brings meaning and understanding to STEM in a natural way. Even though we must be quick on our feet to capture and take advantage of every educational opportunity, this holistic and natural approach to teaching STEM is the foundation of student preparedness for future innovation. Our curiosities have led us to these discoveries, and our bravery will encourage us to persevere toward creating innovative classroom experiences for each and every student!

By Justin Towner “Wait, you’re a STEM teacher? I thought you taught Technology!” That is a comment I hear on a weekly basis working as an elementary Science/Technology/Engineering/ Mathematics (STEM) teacher. Let’s not even go into STEM versus STEAM or this versus that, but over the past three years I have been dead center in the swirling use of vocabulary and acronyms associated with the ever-evolving STEM world. I was once even told that I should not attend a STEM group because I was a technology teacher, which never made sense to me. Over the past decade, we have seen an emphasis in education on the benefits of cross-curricular or interdisciplinary instruction. Teaching subjects in a silo or in isolation makes little sense, which makes STEM so inviting to teachers and students alike. No matter the content standards, one, two, or all of the elements of STEM can be incorporated into hands-on and engaging instruction for students. The essential thing is that STEM is not just happening in a STEM classroom or rotation, but should be happening in all classrooms throughout the school day. At Eastridge Community Elementary School in the Cherry Creek School District, we are fortunate to have two STEM teachers in our integrated arts rotation due to our large school size and number of grade level classes. Mrs. Anderson and I

teach STEM to all grades K-5. While we previously called our classrooms STEM and Technology, respectively, our new focus on Project Based Learning has led us to refer to our classrooms as her STEM Space and my STEM Lab. We refer to my classroom as the STEM Lab because of people’s familiarity with the computer lab, which is where the instruction takes place. However, only approximately 60% of my classroom activities take place on these computers (desktop iMacs). Whether my students are block coding with Spheros across the classroom or designing sets for Stop Motion Animation projects, it is a STEM room regardless of computer or technology usage. Furthermore, in years past, I was referred to as the “technology teacher” because mine was the only classroom in the school with computers. Today, however, we are nearly at a 1:1 ratio for student computers in classrooms, so the idea of a “technology” room is rapidly changing. Mrs. Anderson’s room, for instance, has more open space to delve into projects including reverse-engineering or miniature golf course construction and engineering. What a STEM room looks like or what it is called differ from location to location, and that is okay. Actually, that’s the beauty of it. Our rooms will continue to evolve, with flexibility, creativity, and ingenuity taking center stage as we, as educators, adjust our learning spaces to meet the STEM needs of our students. When people ask me if I am a technology teacher, I reply “yes.” If they were to ask if I am an engineering teacher, I would reply “yes.” But most importantly, when others ask me what I teach, I tell them, “I am a STEM teacher,” and this makes me proud.

STEM as an Identity


I was ten years old. Fifth grade. I remember going out on the field for recess. It was an incredibly windy day that afternoon; the kind of wind where you could almost lean forward into the gusts and you didn’t fall down, Buster Keaton style. I got this crazy idea that I would attempt to stop the wind. I grabbed two sticks from the ground and climbed to the top of a large hill adjacent to the baseball field and playground. I stood at the top of the hill, closed my eyes, and willed the wind to stop blowing. Nothing happened. I raised the sticks high above my head and the wind intensified. What was happening? Instead of stopping the wind, I seemed to be able to make it stronger! I opened my eyes, looked up to the clouds, and began waving the sticks in chaotic, semi-circular motions. The wind matched my movements with subsequent larger and larger gusts. I stood on top of that hill for probably 30 minutes believing, truly believing, that I was controlling the weather. Looking back, I’m sure the teachers on recess duty thought I was a strange kid. My classmates probably thought I was insane, but for those 30 minutes, I felt that I had the power to control the wind. After recess, I held on to that feeling. If I could control the wind and weather, I could change the world!


When was the last time you b By Adrian Neibauer Fast forward 20 years and I am now charged with helping students change the world. This is an audacious goal that is not found in today’s education system. Inspiring children to tackle global challenges starts with helping them solve real world problems through an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to critical thinking and problem solving.

How do I know what to unleash? For years, educators have heard the importance of 21st century skills, including critical thinking and problem solving. However, as Wagner (2012) discovered when he interviewed leaders in the for-profit, nonprofit, and military sectors, these 21st century skills are not enough. His list of skills “doesn’t touch on some of the qualities of innovators that [Wagner] understands as essential—such as perseverance, a willingness to experiment, take calculated risks, and tolerate failure, and the capacity for design thinking, in addition to critical thinking” (p.12). Having students solve real-world engineering problems is great for helping students learn team dynamics, design thinking, and collaboration. However, how do students find such problems? Do these problems need to be engineering-based? Or how, as Wagner (2012) puts it, “do I solve a political problem, a social problem, and a technical problem all together to deliver some-

thing” (Wagner, 2012, p.13). This is where educators need to begin before unleashing their problem-solving students. Students need to find projects and problems that are of interest to them before they can value these hands-on projects while demonstrating mastery and using a transdisciplinary approach to problem solving.

Release the Problems! Finding problems is harder than many educators think. We are constantly surrounded by problems, but many of us do not see them. Instead of using the cliche phrase “think outside the box” teachers need to help students be creative within the box. As Tina Seelig describes, “creativity requires a complex set of skills, attitudes, and actions, intimately related to imagination, innovation, and entrepreneurship” (Seelig, 2015, p.5). Her Invention Cycle

believed that you could change the world? framework—comprised of (a) Imagination, (b) Creativity, (c) Innovation, and (d) Entrepreneurship—allows educators to “parse the pathway, describing the actions and attitudes that are required to teach and learn these skills” (Seelig, 2015, p.12). Ewan McIntosh (2011) discusses how our current education systems “are crazy about problem-based learning, but they’re obsessed with the wrong bit of it. While everyone looks at how we could help young people become better problem-solvers, we’re not thinking how we could create a generation of problem finders” (McIntosh, 2011). He describes a story related to him by Alan November, an educator specializing in educational technology. In it, Alan tells about teaching a Community Problem Solving course “where, on the first day, he set students the task of finding a problem

in the local community that they could then go off and solve using whatever technology they had available. From the front row a hand shot up. ‘Mr November?’ began one of the girls in the class. ‘You’re the teacher, we’re the students. It’s your job to come up with the problems and give them to us to solve. This was in 1983” (McIntosh. 2011). How is this possible? The answer is a direct result of years of pedagogical practice where “the academic world sees its mission as creating and transmitting ‘pure’ knowledge, divorced from any kind of application or the development of specific skills” (Wagner, 2012, p.114). Public education needs to redefine itself, no longer as a knowledge factory, but as a vibrant, collaborative think tank where everyone involved is simultaneously searching for interesting and relevant problems to solve, as well as creative solutions. Tim Brown, the CEO of design firm IDEO, defines this type of design thinking system as “a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success” (Seelig, 2015, p.187). This is how public schools should be organized: where teachers enhance creativity by sharing tools, resources, and frameworks that other educators can use in their own professional learning opportunities.

Public education needs to redefine itself, no longer as a knowledge factory, but as a vibrant, collaborative think tank where everyone involved is simultaneously searching for interesting and relevant problems to solve.


Why not treat your learning like downloading different apps to your smartphone? How do you learn and improve your skill set? Many teachers will attend a training or a workshop. But then what?


By Jon Pierce Your career is like a smartphone in that you can customize and do with it what you want. This makes learning dynamic, fluid, and non-linear: you can “download” whatever skills you want. For example, Cherry Creek Elementary STEM structures our Exponential workshop series around the “World of Apps” (WOA). These workshops are focused on getting anyone into the mindset that they can change the way the world works. Are you working on something that will change the world?

Hello World When was the last time you worked so hard at something, invested so much energy, that you just couldn’t stop? When was the last time you succeeded and felt unstoppable? Every programmer remembers their first “Hello World” moment. When those words appear on the screen, it is a triumphant rite of passage. In this moment, all of your

hard work has paid off and you feel as though you can accomplish anything! So, what is your “Hello World” moment? “Hello World” is about helping teachers create these peak moments for students. We will help them thoughtfully create learning experiences that students remember forever.

Artists and Engineers Some people think of themselves as artists. They love to draw, paint, sing, dance, and write. Some people think of themselves as engineers. They love to tinker, design, program, fix problems, and understand how things work.

Are you an artist or an engineer? Why can’t you be both? Discovery is messy! Artists challenge engineers with the impossible. Engineers make the impossible possible. By bringing together art and science, we can help you understand the importance of tapping into all types of creativity. We will show you that when great thinkers work with great doers, 1 + 1 equals 3!

Moonshot Are you working on something that will change the world? Why not? Right now, students are designing ways to charge your cell phone in 20 seconds, and creating a bicycle-powered water sanitation station that can filter water as you pedal. The best part of having moonshot ideas is not the fulfillment of the idea, but the process of working toward something and overcoming challenges. Innovating against the tide of conformity and complacency. Pushing the status quo. Google’s Moonshot Factory is changing the world through engineering and design ideas. They are using technology to make the world a better place. Are your students working on something that will change the world? Why not? When it comes to the impossible, we’re the experts. We will show you how to create large-scale learning experiences for students and encourage them to fulfill their own moonshot ideas. So, what is your Moonshot idea?

Unstuck What problem has you stuck right now? How much time have you wasted working without any solution? Getting stuck (and then unstuck) is part of the creative process. Being creative is about adapting fresh perspectives to current problems, expanding your empathy, and playing with ideas. Sometimes what is unclear to you is crystal clear to others. Getting unstuck is about getting a strong dose of inspiration. If you ever wished you had an expert to help you, look no further. Whether you are deflated, reluctant, or just waffling, don’t let getting stuck prevent you from succeeding.

Eureka “Eureka!” is what people say when they have made a discovery or have had an idea so amazing that they can’t keep it to themselves. Most people have over 70,000 thoughts or ideas in single day. So, why aren’t more people screaming “eureka” more often? It might have something to do with narrowing it down. With such a vast number of ideas, how can you know which one is the “eureka” idea you should work on? Whether you’re choosing between extending electric car mileage or human life, here are three questions: (1) Which of these ideas will potentially have the biggest impact? (2) Which of these ideas will possibly be implemented the quickest? (3) Which of these ideas will be the most cost effective? Answer these three questions and then roll up your sleeves and get to work. Share this with everyone. Help them find their “eureka” moment. Don’t let what you think people can’t do get in the way of what they can do.

The 5 Second Rule So, what is the 5 second rule? Well, some people think it has to do with how long food that has fallen to the floor can lie there before you shouldn’t eat it. However, in this context, it is a mindset: a mindset that encourages you to act on an idea. Specifically, it is the mindset that allows you to marry an action to your idea in the first 5 seconds you have the idea. We all have ideas that we never act on. Remember that middle school dance where you almost asked that special someone to dance? Then you talked yourself out of it. Or that time when everyone in class was asked to share their project, and you didn’t share because you didn’t want to look silly? The moment you did that, you stopped yourself dead in your tracks. You pulled the emergency brake. We all have done it before. We pump the brakes for many reasons. One reason is to avoid doing things that might seem hard to do in favor of what we have always done. This is called autopilot. Have you ever just taught the same lesson, the

same way, every year? You were on autopilot. You were not being innovative at all. Innovating is simple, but not easy. The 5 second rule will help you take your ideas and set them in motion. It will help you innovate like you want to innovate. So, what is your idea? You have 5 seconds.



WANT TO WRITE FOR ENCORE? 1 HAVE A STEP-BY-STEP PROJECT? Are you working on a mind-blowing project that you want to share? Tell us about it!


Have something that’s not a step-by-step, such as a story, a skill builder, an announcement, or a review?


Want to have Elementary STEM and Innovation come and help you create an experience to write up and submit?



EnCORE is designed to share our goal of being the world’s most innovative, student-centered school district that produces exponential growth and achievement for all students. 18

Message from the Editors If you could do something that felt impossible, what would you try? For us, it is the magazine that you are holding in your hands. EnCORE stems from our love of reading blog posts and articles about the most innovative things happening in public education. As we continue to create large-scale learning experiences, we want to share our failures, learning, and successes. We couldn’t find a journal or magazine that we liked for sharing our stories, so we created our own! EnCORE is designed to share our goal of being the world’s most innovative, student-centered school district that produces exponential growth and achievement for all students. There are words that seem to get overused the moment they roll off our lips: “21st century” comes to mind, and “innovation” is getting there. Many times, these words lose their meaning because they are used too often and incorrectly. We want to help you navigate all of the educational jargon and give you real examples of teachers creating innovative learning experiences for their students. Whether through design thinking or idea incubators, teachers and students everywhere are sparking innovation in others and making an innovative mindset the new status quo. EnCORE is about enriching the core classroom content. EnCORE is about making the ordinary obsolete. EnCORE will help you disrupt the status quo and change the world, while offering actionable steps for what to do once you have an innovative classroom. We have tons of stories to tell and lots of change to inspire, so let’s begin!

Schools served by Elementary STEM and Innovation ||Altitude Elementary ||altitude.cherry​creekschools.org ||27300 East Southshore Drive, Aurora, CO 80016 ||Phone: 720-886-4300 || ||Antelope Ridge Elementary ||anteloperidge.cherrycreekschools.org ||5455 S. Tempe St., Aurora, CO 80015 ||Phone: 720-886-3300 || ||Arrowhead Elementary ||arrowhead.cherrycreekschools.org ||19100 E. Bates Av., Aurora, CO 80013 ||Phone: 720-886-2800 || ||Aspen Crossing Elementary ||aspencrossing.cherrycreekschools.org ||4655 S. Himalaya St., Aurora, CO 80015 ||Phone: 720-886-3700 || ||Belleview Elementary School ||belleview.cherrycreekschools.org ||4851 S. Dayton St., Greenwood Village, CO 80111 ||Phone: 720-554-3100 || ||Black Forest Hills Elementary ||blackforesthills.cherrycreekschools.org ||25233 E. Glasgow Drive, Aurora, CO 80016 ||Phone: 720-886-8900 || ||Buffalo Trail Elementary School ||buffalotrail.cherrycreekschools.org ||24300 E. Progress Drive, Aurora, CO 80016 ||Phone: 720-886-4000 || ||Canyon Creek Elementary ||canyoncreek.cherrycreekschools.org ||6070 S. Versailles Pkwy., Aurora, CO 80015 ||Phone: 720-886-3600 || ||Cherry Hills Village ||cherryhillsvillage.cherrycreekschools.org ||2400 E. Quincy Av., Cherry Hills Village, CO 80113 ||Phone: 720-747-2700 || ||Cimarron Elementary ||cimarron.cherrycreekschools.org ||17373 E. Lehigh Pl., Aurora, CO 80013 ||Phone: 720-886-8100 || ||Cottonwood Creek Elementary ||cottonwoodcreek.cherrycreekschools.org ||11200 E. Orchard Av., Englewood, CO 80111 ||Phone: 720-554-3200 || ||Coyote Hills Elementary ||coyotehills.cherrycreekschools.org ||24605 E. Davies Way, Aurora, CO 80016 ||Phone: 720-886-3900 || ||Creekside Elementary ||creekside.cherrycreekschools.org ||19993 E. Long Av, Centennial, CO 80016 ||Phone: 720-886-3500 ||

||Dakota Valley Elementary ||dakotavalley.cherrycreekschools.org ||3950 S. Kirk Way, Aurora, CO 80013 ||Phone: 720-886-3000 || ||Dry Creek Elementary ||drycreek.cherrycreekschools.org ||7686 E. Hinsdale Av., Centennial, CO 80112 ||Phone: 720-554-3300 || ||Eastridge Community Elementary ||eastridge.cherrycreekschools.org ||11777 E. Wesley Av., Aurora, CO 80014 ||Phone: 720-747-2200 || ||Fox Hollow Elementary ||foxhollow.cherrycreekschools.org ||6363 S. Waco St., Aurora, CO 80016 ||Phone: 720-886-8700 || ||Greenwood Elementary ||greenwood.cherrycreekschools.org ||5550 S. Holly St., Greenwood Village, CO 80111 ||Phone: 720-554-3400 || ||Heritage Elementary ||heritage.cherrycreekschools.org ||6867 E. Heritage Pl. S, Centennial, CO 80111 ||Phone: 720-554-3500 || ||High Plains Elementary ||highplains.cherrycreekschools.org ||6100 S. Fulton St., Englewood, CO 80111 ||Phone: 720-554-3600 || ||Highline Community Elementary ||highline.cherrycreekschools.org ||11000 E. Exposition, Aurora, CO 80012 ||Phone: 720-747-2300 || ||Holly Hills Elementary ||thehollys.cherrycreekschools.org ||6161 E. Cornell Av, Denver, CO 80222 ||Phone: 720-747-2500 || ||Holly Ridge (Primary) Elementary ||thehollys.cherrycreekschools.org ||3301 S. Monaco Pky., Denver, CO 80222 ||Phone: 720-747-2400 || ||Homestead Elementary ||homestead.cherrycreekschools.org ||7451 S. Homestead Pkwy., Centennial, CO 80112 ||Phone: 720-554-3700 || ||Independence Elementary ||independence.cherrycreekschools.org ||4700 S. Memphis St., Aurora, CO 80015 ||Phone: 720-886-8200 || ||Indian Ridge Elementary ||indianridge.cherrycreekschools.org ||16501 E. Progress Dr., Aurora, CO 80015 ||Phone: 720-886-8400 || ||Meadow Point Elementary ||meadowpoint.cherrycreekschools.org ||17901 E. Grand Av., Aurora, CO 80015 ||Phone: 720-886-8600 || ||Mission Viejo Elementary ||missionviejo.cherrycreekschools.org ||3855 S. Alicia Pkwy., Aurora, CO 80013 ||Phone: 720-886-8000 ||

||Mountain Vista Elementary ||mountainvista.cherrycreekschools.org ||22200 East Radcliff Parkway, Centennial, CO 80015 ||720-886-2700 || ||Peakview Elementary ||peakview.cherrycreekschools.org ||19451 E. Progress Cr., Centennial, CO 80015 ||Phone: 720-886-3100 || ||Pine Ridge Elementary ||pineridge.cherrycreekschools.org ||6525 S. Wheatlands Parkway, Aurora, CO 80016 ||Phone: 720-886-8800 || ||Polton Elementary ||polton.cherrycreekschools.org ||2985 S. Oakland St., Aurora, CO 80014 ||Phone: 720-747-2600 || ||Ponderosa Elementary ||ponderosa.cherrycreekschools.org ||1885 S. Lima St., Aurora, CO 80012 ||Phone: 720-747-2800 || ||Red Hawk Ridge Elementary ||redhawkridge.cherrycreekschools.org ||16251 E. Geddes Ave., Centennial, CO 80016 ||Phone: 720-886-3800 || ||Rolling Hills Elementary ||rollinghills.cherrycreekschools.org ||5756 S. Biscay St., Aurora, CO 80015 ||Phone: 720-886-3400 || ||Sagebrush Elementary ||sagebrush.cherrycreekschools.org ||14700 E. Temple Pl., Aurora, CO 80015 ||Phone: 720-886-8300 || ||Summit Elementary ||summit.cherrycreekschools.org ||18201 E. Quincy Av., Aurora, CO 80015 ||Phone: 720-886-6400 || ||Sunrise Elementary ||sunrise.cherrycreekschools.org ||4050 S. Genoa Way, Aurora, CO 80013 ||Phone: 720-886-2900 || ||Timberline Elementary ||timberline.cherrycreekschools.org ||5500 S. Killarney St., Centennial, CO 80015 ||Phone: 720-886-3200 || ||Trails West Elementary ||trailswest.cherrycreekschools.org ||5400 S. Waco, Centennial, CO 80015 ||Phone: 720-886-8500 || ||Village East Elementary ||villageeast.cherrycreekschools.org ||1433 S. Oakland St., Aurora, CO 80012 ||Phone: 720-747-2000 || ||Walnut Hills Community Elementary ||walnuthills.cherrycreekschools.org ||8195 E. Costilla Blvd., Centennial, CO 80112 ||Phone: 720-554-3800 || ||Willow Creek Elementary ||willowcreek.cherrycreekschools.org ||7855 S. Willow Way, Centennial, CO 80112 ||Phone: 720-554-3900

For more information, please contact: Dr. Richard Charles Director of the Office of STEM and Innovation Cherry Creek Schools rcharles@cherrycreekschools.org 720.554.5605



@CCSDSTEM   www.cherrycreekschools.org/STEM While launching weather balloons is quite common among hobbyists and college engineering students, Cherry Creek’s Elementary STEM and Innovation department has now made it common for our 5th grade students as well. These classes focus on the project-based learning activity of launching a weather balloon, videotaping and photography of the earth’s atmospheric limb, recording atmospheric data, and safely landing and retrieving the payload. This demanding project takes STEM and Innovation to a whole new level; requiring students, teachers and district leaders to engage in collaboration around, research, and instrumentation of this payload. 5th grade classrooms from across the school district engineer an atmospheric payload to launch a camera high enough to photo-

We believe that our world can only survive when the next generation is prepared to innovate and lead with compassion in a global society.

graph the curvature of the Earth and collect weather data in ­real-time. Instead of rockets, boosters and expensive control systems, they inflate a weather balloon with helium and design a styrofoam enclosure payload. We are constantly bombarded with the idea that the U.S. is “behind” the rest of the world in STEM education. We all know that our students need to be able to think critically, problem-solve and collaborate in order to succeed in the future they will inhabit. We no longer have to imagine the impact this project will have on the lives of our students; we are seeing it everyday as their creative confidence skyrockets exponentially! Our goal is to inspire future scientists, technologists, engineers, mathematicians and most of all, dreamers of the future.

Special thanks to the Cherry Creek Schools Foundation for awarding the initial grant that allowed us to begin the NSBL Program.

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