Centennial Elementary School’s Commitment to Innovation with Heart through Centennial Cares

Centennial Elementary students work on Centennial Cares projects

Centennial Elementary School’s commitment to “Innovation with Heart” is transforming the way students engage with their community, fostering empathy, and nurturing impactful change-makers. Through initiatives like Centennial Cares and the Innovation Lab, students are encouraged to tackle real-world problems with compassion and creativity.

“Innovation with Heart is about more than just finding solutions; it’s about understanding the people behind the problems,” explained Sarah Larson, Centennial Cares and Innovation Lab Teacher at Centennial Elementary. “We want students to recognize the power they hold to make a positive difference in the lives of others.”

Students at Centennial Elementary utilize the five stages of the Design-Thinking process: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test. This approach allows them to deeply understand community needs by empathizing with those impacted by diverse issues. “Empathy is fundamental in the Design-Thinking process,” stated Larson. “It involves truly understanding the needs and experiences of others, essential for creating effective solutions.”

Fourth grader works on Centennial Cares projects

In a previous Centennial Cares class discussion, students engaged in a brainstorming session to address various school-related issues that they had either experienced or observed. After carefully considering the ideas that were shared, Mrs. Larson selected seven issues that resonated with class. Topics included keeping the school clean, bus behavior, recess time rules, hallway noise levels, bullying prevention, respect towards peers and school property, and adhering to school expectations. By focusing on these specific issues, students broke out into groups to work on the topics they were passionate about.

A group of students worked on solutions, such as creating a video script demonstrating ways to contribute to a clean environment and designing awareness-raising posters. Fourth-grader Alexis emphasized her role in the initiative by stating, “It’s important to support our school custodian by picking up our own trash.”

Another group of students decided to come up with ways on how to improve overall behavior norms within the school. They have created boxes that can be strategically placed throughout the building to incentivize positive behavior. Sophie explained, “Students demonstrate their willingness to follow school rules by selecting a piece of paper from the box and signing it which shows they are committed to making our school better.”

Through these collaborative efforts, Centennial Elementary students are contributing to a more positive and supportive school environment. “Innovation with Heart supports student achievement and academic growth by giving students opportunities to utilize their academic skills in a way that differs from the typical grade level classroom,” said Larson. “Through activities like peer interviewing and problem-solving, students hone essential skills such as communication, collaboration, and critical thinking, contributing to their overall academic success and personal growth.”

Centennial Elementary School