The 300-student K-5 school occupies part of two floors of the Merrill Middle School building in southeast Denver. C3 was founded by longtime Denver arts educator Julia Shepherd in 2012.
C3 has forged close partnerships with a wide range of community institutions, and students spend significant amounts of time outside the school building visiting and having hands-on learning experiences in places including the Denver Art Museum, Denver Zoo, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, and the Denver Botanic Gardens, among others.
The school engages the whole mind by encouraging students to follow their passions, and incorporates tactile, creative activities in everyday academic lessons. Teachers work with each student create an individualized learning plan.
Students also participate in regular mindfulness meditation practice.
“There is no doubt that there are huge benefits to adding mindfulness to our school curriculum,” states Assistant Principal Brent Applebaum. “We have worked with restorative practices when conflict occurs. Mindfulness is allowing us to precede that step, by putting strategies in place for students so they can control their emotions prior to having any conflict. Our goal is to improve the learning and social experiences of our students.”
C3 engages the whole heart domain through its consistent message that everyone in the community – students, teachers, and parents alike – is a Kind, Courageous Thinker. Students are consistently reminded – and remind each other – to assume positive intentions of others.
Students delve deep into hands-on projects during weekly Curiosity Crews, which allow them to explore their passions. One recent curiosity crew developed comic books. Characters and stories are wholly invented by the students. The one requirement is that the main character must demonstrate kindness and courage.
The school addresses the whole body domain through dance and physical education classes, and regular breaks in the capacious outdoor field adjacent to the school. There is also a nurse and a health technician on staff.
C3 promotes the domain of whole engagement through its work with community partners. Here’s an example from school’s website of how students benefit from community partners:
Fourth-grade students visit the Denver Art Museum to study how artists communicate an idea through the materials and subject matter they choose. They also gain a deeper understanding of American history from observations of American art over three centuries. The students create a final product that incorporates art, history and storytelling and includes photos, web-based voice recordings and artifacts from their own family histories.
Finally, there are many examples of how C3 engages multiple domains simultaneously. Here’s one example:
A group of second-grade students are asked to design a game that helps students understand patterns in arithmetic that could be used by children as young as 5 and as old as 10. Students use their creativity skills to help them look at many possible solutions and take into consideration math and design aspects. The students work together to decide how to design the game, chose what materials to use, establish the rules of the game and decide how to communicate directions.