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They are called Innovation Spaces. Two classrooms at Castle Hills Elementary School no longer have traditional desks for students and a teacher. Instead, children will find comfortable, colorful cushions on the floor and work stations filled with everything from old clocks and push button telephones to household items like empty egg cartons, duct tape, and aluminum foil. The Innovation Spaces were created this summer to encourage students to build, create and design anything their young minds can imagine when the school year begins.

“My vision is that students will be given the opportunity to hone their problem- solving skills as we increase the amount of creativity that we see in kids,” said Principal Janissa Nuneville.

Students will visit the Innovation Spaces at least once a week for 45 minutes. Teachers will guide students to work stations like a water table in the kindergarten to second grade Innovation Space, but rules will be few. With common materials like pool noodle pieces, straws, and duct tape, children will be challenged to figure out ways to make an item float. In the Innovation Space for students in grades three-five, students will be encouraged to dismantle old household items they may never have seen or used before like wind-up clocks and CD players so they can rebuild them or create something new. “We just want kids to explore and become more creative,” said Nuneville.

Members of the Colonial Education Foundation (CEF) recently toured the Innovation Spaces because Nuneville plans to submit a request for funding to the organization that awards grants to schools in the district. Nuneville says she’s seeking support from the CEF so students can use technology like iPads for documenting and taking pictures. The older students will also be encouraged to use social media to share what they are doing. Parents will also be asked to support the spaces by donating old items found around the house so kids can tinker with things like out-dated remote controls, and CD players. Household tools such as screwdrivers, nuts, and bolts will also be needed for the students to use. CEF President Linda Moffett was impressed with what she saw saying, “These rooms are so colorful and inviting. I know the students will be excited about this new space, and they’ll never realize they’re learning important life skills like problem-solving while they’re having so much fun!”

Superintendent Dr. Dusty Blakey was equally impressed. “The Innovation Spaces took me back to my childhood when we made toys and games with things we had around the house; something as simple as a box or board. Kids don’t do that anymore, but this center will drive them to use their creativity, to explore options, collaborate and just have some old-fashioned fun,” he said.

To donate items to the Innovation Spaces, contact Castle Hills Elementary School at (302) 323-2915.

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