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Planning Principles 
for Innovation

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Grouping students into cohorts of no more than 150 is a fundamental planning principle to organize a campus to help students feel they are part of a group instead of a number in an institution. This number is based on Dunbar's Number as a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships—relationships in which an individual knows who each person is and how each person relates to every other person. CCUSD believes school should feel like a home away from home and the learning environment should be vibrant. Small details such as having a kitchenette located in an indoor commons or an outdoor learning space next to tables for working, eating lunch or snacking are ways to create a home-like environment. 


Dunbar, R. I. M. (1992). "Neocortex size as a constraint on group size in primates". Journal of Human Evolution. 22 (6): 469–493. doi:10.1016/0047-2484(92)90081-J.

 Concepts and Ideas 

Small Learning Communities

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Learning Studios versus Classrooms

“Classroom” has the connotation of a power struggle with students all lined up in neat rows with the teacher doling out knowledge and each teacher working in a silo, owning their classrooms. “Learning Studio” is used in the Ed Specs and Master Plans, instead of “classroom,” to signify a space that is flexible in which the teacher is easily able to facilitate multiple styles of learning simultaneously with space for multiple activity centers. Teaming Learning Studios will support team teaching to support cross disciplinary learning AND WILL transform the culture, changing the siloed nature of school. Teachers will eventually not own their learning studios, and instead will use a variety of purposeful spaces to facilitate learning and engage in side-by-side learning with students. Dispersed Huddle Rooms will serve as shared multi-purpose spaces for both students and teachers. 

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Because the Ed Specs Workshop and interviews emphasize the importance of all students experiencing project/build work and learning that’s hands-on and real-world daily, these activities cannot be limited to a single-use space. Labs designed to support these activities use specialized equipment and infrastructure, and they require an investment that is more than typical learning studios. As technologies and industry pathways change, and the rate of change accelerates, providing adequate coverage of these spaces will become increasingly challenging. In order to integrate these activities throughout the school day, CCUSD must find a way to protect the community's investment by designing spaces that are future ready, adaptable and fiscally responsible all at the same time. 

Using pragmatic innovation, one of the District’s Guiding Principles, the approach is finding the right blend of multi-purpose and highly specialized labs. Highly specialized labs support a small number of more specific project types, using fixed equipment and higher costs. Multi-purpose labs support a wide variety of project types, adapt more easily as future demands change, and cost less. Strategies include maximum flexibility using right-sized spaces, additional volume, durable surfaces, and operable wall-like garage doors; fluid technology with increased power and data; and project amplifiers such as added storage, water, ventilation, white boards, projectors, and furniture. Labs requiring less investment support daily project activities, and labs requiring more investment support more specialized activities, such as robotics design and digital fabrication which require a cleanroom. 

Finally, to make these activities available to elementary students for longer durations, the District is adopting Flex Labs to support before and after school care for school age students. Flex Labs combine multi-purpose labs with a kitchenette, hand washing sink and student toilets within view of the supervising staff. They ideally have a direct and visible connection to outdoor learning and play areas, giving staff the ability to supervise students both indoors and outdoors from the same vantage point. Giving students the freedom to be indoors or outdoors is important, and Flex Labs give them the time and space needed for deeper project-based learning.

 Concepts and Ideas 

Variety of Lab Models for Flexibility

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Teacher Support Network Approach

CCUSD believes school should be approached holistically in terms of workplace, health and well-being for both students and teachers. All CCUSD campuses currently have an inadequate “Teacher Lounge” and “Teacher Workroom” which is the same space that the PTA must use since they do not have another space to do volunteer work in.  The workrooms tend to be tight on space for storage and equipment, while the lounges are not spaces of respite. Another current constraint that makes it more challenging for teachers to collaborate and communicate fluidly is that all campuses still have the traditional classroom ownership model.
CCUSD has a strong professional development program to support teachers in this world of growing demands in a changing profession. Teachers need spaces and ways to connect with each other and their students in a variety of modalities that help them each recognize their shared humanity.
Dispersed Teacher Collaboration Workspaces will give teachers a professional work environment and place of respite to connect to each other, work, share information, share resources, reflect on their teaching and on their students’ progress, research and plan best practices, and help each other help the students. The Teaming Learning Studios, dispersed Huddle Rooms, teacher dining areas with healthy food, and access to meditation space, fitness rooms and showers before and after school will all contribute to the Teacher Support Network approach.

 Concepts and Ideas 

Working Together

In this video, two teachers describe the experience of moving from individual classrooms to working together in a teaming studio. Although resistant at first, they believe the change has a big impact on the way they work, both invigorating their passion for teaching and supporting student-driven learning.


Lisa Michel, Director of Secondary Education, describes the importance of teaming in her interview:

Outdoor Learning

Shaded Outdoor Learning spaces, adjacent to Learning Studios or Indoor Learning Commons are an important part of the learning environment to extend the footprint of the Learning Studios to the outside and give students more outdoor natural space to engage in project based and inquiry based learning which CCUSD emphasizes. This “out of doors” extension also provides them with a sense of independence and ownership of their learning so they can function productively and independently upon graduation having honed their learning expertise.

 Concepts and Ideas 

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Supporting Inclusivity with Special Education

CCUSD continues to move in the direction of higher inclusivity by embracing a “push in” instead of “pull out” model for Special Ed students that can be readily integrated into the mainstream with the necessary support of space and staff resources. Examples of how to support inclusivity: Small Huddle Rooms near Learning Studios provide spaces for specialized academic support instead of pulling out students to the Learning Center when it is not necessary. Placing Special Day Classes Learning Studios inside the Small Learning Communities is another example, giving special and general education students access to shared spaces, such as Outdoor Learning or Indoor Learning Commons, where they can engage and interact.

 Concepts and Ideas 

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