Building Innovators

Robotics Enhances Students' Education and Growth

Student demonstrates how to code a robot

D liked his first experience in computer programming, back when he was in elementary school. “You could program images and make your own story,” he said. 

He learned robotics at Georgetown Community School, then at Clear Creek Middle School he joined the robotics after school program. At Clear Creek High he’s taking Robotics and Digital Media classes. 

“It’s important to provide students with a progression of robotics instruction starting in elementary and continuing through high school,” said Stephanie Mellon, Digital Teacher Librarian. “First you spark their interest, then students gain confidence and consider careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).”

There’s community support for robotics at Clear Creek, too, because people understand the value it brings to students. Henderson Mine, in partnership with Freeport McMoran Foundation and the Jim Leonard STEM Fund (Clear Creek Schools Foundation) have provided funding for robotics equipment. 

Students test their robot trying to complete a task

The robotics students worked in teams to program their robots to pick up a ball, move it, and set it down. Ms Mellon likened the task to the Amazon robots working in a warehouse (search “Amazon robotics” on YouTube).

Often the students have individual assignments, and often work in teams, too. The previous week they had a robot soccer competition. One student commented that working in teams was less stressful.

The students also communicated across teams. If one team’s robot was unable to pick up the ball, they’d ask for help from a team who had been successful with that part of the task.

Team members collaborating

Some of the students hope to compete in a robotics competition with neighboring counties later this year. Successful teams can move on to larger regional, and even statewide events. Even at large competitions, there’s collaboration across teams. Teams will share parts and provide other last minute support just so all teams can compete.

At Ms. Mellon’s class the soccer competition results were still on the whiteboard. The winning team was Looney Booneys. One of the winning “Looney Booney” team members said, “Sometimes the robots ran into each other and fell apart. It was fun!” 

Carlson Students at Sandbox

Empowering Students Through Innovation Grants

October 20, 2023

Clear Creek Schools Foundation is awarding funds to innovative educators at Clear Creek through an open grant application process. The Innovation Grants support the Clear Creek Learner Profile attributes, which were created by the Clear Creek community.  The program is a collaborative partnership with the school district. Over $16,000 was awarded.

"The Innovation Grants are an investment in our educators and students, which is an investment in Clear Creek’s future. We are thrilled by our educators’ innovation which will help empower students in their learning,” said Mitch Houston, Clear Creek Schools Foundation executive director.

The awardees are:

King Murphy Mountain School

Mary Gordon, 4th Grade Science - National Geographic science books.

Johnna Crawford, King Murphy Broadcasting and Video Club (all grades) Vlogging kits to give students experience in storytelling through video.

Carlson Elementary

eron twomey, Moving into the Outdoors (multiple grades) - materials for outdoor classrooms to experience traditional content in new ways.

Liz Bogers, Bug Hotel (preschool - 6th) materials to build a bug hotel where each grade can provide a home for their favorite bugs.

Samantha Klemm, 1st Grade Trip To The Denver Audubon - through multiple segments, students learn about birds and their habitats.

Margaret Marlin, Sandbox Science (preschool) - sandbox toys to enhance math and science learning.

Jenny Pyler, 5th/6th Grade Girls Tribe - build self esteem and feeling empowered while learning teamwork and skills in car mechanics, budgeting, and much more; and Training and Maintenance — Therapy Dog (all grades) to promote empathy, self esteem, and learning.

Clear Creek Middle/High School

Beth Hall, SSN Program Supporting Project Support Senior Center (9-12) community service projects to support skills like communication and collaboration; and Training and Maintenance — Therapy Dog (all grades) to promote empathy, self esteem, and learning.

Phil Mauro, Youth Referee Program (grades 9-12) students will gain certification and learn leadership.

Daniel McInerney, Homologous Systems: Pig Dissection Lab (grades 7-8) to support hands-on learning of organ systems.

Stephanie Mellon, STEM materials (grades 9-12) providing experiences with cutting edge technology to provide a deep understanding of STEM concepts.

Sarah White, I am Malala Biography (grades 7-8) to pursue student interest in the story and encourage curiosity.

Georgetown Community School

Lorray Singmaster, Green Up our School (preschool - 6th) students will engage in indoor growing to learn about plants, ecosystems, and nutrition.


Mike Patrizi, Outdoor Classroom Construction (preschool - 12th) Compass Day construction activities to build outdoor classrooms at King Murphy Mountain School.

Sarah Langford, Edtech Library (all grades) Education Technology resources for educators.

Funds were also provided from the foundation’s Capacity Development fund, which helps the school community to improve their ability to produce, perform and deploy district-wide programs. The Exploration Fund also supported the Youth Referee Program. The Exploration Fund was launched by Henderson Mine, in partnership with Freeport-McMoRan Foundation to support Clear Creek High School students exploring post-secondary pathways by paying a student’s direct enrollment cost toward a workforce certificate or college credits. 

Clear Creek Schools Foundation would like to thank all applicants for participating in the grant process. We are also grateful for our partners, individuals, and companies that support our work.

Discovery Scholarships Awarded to 6 CCHS Graduates

Pictured: Kelly Flenniken, CCSF Trustee; students William Lewis, Benjamin Buseck, and Jordan Peters; Annette Isaacson, CCSF Trustee. Photo courtesy of Mindy Rogers.

Updated July 27, 2023

Congratulations to the 2023 Clear Creek Schools Foundation Discovery Scholarship Awardees! 

Two Year Scholarships

William Lewis—Business at Gallatin College at Montana State University 

Benjamin Buseck—Automotive at Universal Technical Institute

Thomas Vasquez—Videography at Red Rocks Community College

One Year Scholarships

Veronica Buseck—Teacher Education at Red Rocks Community College

Maya Berber-Corriero (Class of 2022)—Photography at Colorado Mountain College

Jordan Rogers—The American Academy of Dramatic Arts (LA)

These incredible students have exciting plans and we wish them the very best. We look forward to hearing how they’ve continued their journeys as lifelong learners.

The Discovery Scholarship Fund provides financial support to Clear Creek High School graduates that have been accepted to a skills certification program or an Associate's degree. The goal of the scholarship is to help students graduate with a minimum of debt or debt-free. 

Clear Creek Scientists Participate in Statewide Competition

Posted May 15, 2023

Science is everywhere around us—as we breathe, cook, and play. It’s also fun to learn. Fun science fact: octopuses have three hearts and nine brains (one donut shaped brain plus “mini-brains” for each arm).

Fifteen Clear Creek students dived deep into science during the Science Olympiad after school meetings that culminated in competition with 300+ students from other Colorado schools. The program is designed to build student interest in STEM fields and provide recognition for outstanding achievement in team events.

The Middle and High School teams competed in standards-based challenges in biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, and more. In some events the students were quizzed on laws and calculations. In others, there are tasks such as bridge building, in which CCHS placed 9th. “It was rock-solid construction!” said coach and parent Carol Crowe.

Middle School Team

High School Team

Science Olympiad is a community effort, which makes it a perfect fit for Clear Creek. A special thanks goes to:

It’s a regional competition, and many schools had more resources and coaches than “small but mighty” Clear Creek. If you like science and would like to help next year’s teams, please contact Rose Morris

A parent expressed their appreciation for the program, "Thank you to everyone for such a great effort and wonderful experience. We most certainly had fun and learned a lot!” 

Two New Members Elected to Foundation Board of Trustees

Annette Isaacson

Kelly Flenniken

April 14, 2023

Clear Creek Schools Foundation is pleased to announce the appointments of Annette Isaacson and Kelly Flenniken to the Foundation’s board of trustees for a two-year term, which began on April 5, 2023.

“I look forward to being part of the Foundation, which has been actively fundraising and providing important programs to our schools ,” Kelly said. “This new role helps me support those efforts.” Kelly currently also serves on the CCSD Board of Education and Carlson Elementary PTA. She is the director of Community Relations at Xcel Energy. She earned her undergraduate degree from Knox College. 

Annette has been instrumental in bringing the entrepreneurship class ( starting Fall 2023) to Clear Creek High School and has provided support for the middle and high school football and lacrosse teams. “I’m excited to be a part of the board and help the district,” Annette said. She is an executive director and assistant general counsel at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and is also on the advisory board of the National Immigrant Justice Center.  Annette obtained her undergraduate degree from Tufts University and her JD from Columbia Law School. 

“I’m honored to welcome Kelly and Annette to the Board of Trustees,” said Mitch Houston, CCSF executive director. “As we implement the Foundation’s strategic plan, it is important that our board membership reflects the communities and families we serve.” 

Other members of the Board of Trustees include Mitch Houston, Becky Dancer, CCSD Director of Teaching and Learning, and Laura Johnson, CCSF Marketing Director.

Jim Leonard STEM Fund to Support Clear Creek Students

March 28, 2023

Clear Creek Schools Foundation is launching the Jim Leonard STEM Fund, in partnership with his family and friends, to honor Jim’s legacy. The Fund will support STEM education with an emphasis on robotics. 

Jim, who earned Master’s Degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Business, believed an education that includes Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) strengthens the individual while benefiting the community. 

Jim was passionate about public education and for many years served on the Clear Creek County Schools accountability committee and as an advisor and mentor for the robotics program. He was instrumental in starting the Clear Creek High School Robotics Team in 2012. As a Robotics Team mentor, Jim continually shared his engineering knowledge and enthusiasm, as well as monetary contributions—from buying snacks and lunches for team meetings and competitions to making substantial financial donations to the school district and Foundation.

Jim Leonard

Chris Crouse of the Idaho Public Library worked with Jim when CSU 4H ran the robotics club. She said, “Jim’s quiet, mild-mannered demeanor and guidance, in addition to his questioning ways, prompted the students to solve problems, answer competition interview questions, take pride in individual tasks and work together as a team, and exhibit gracious professionalism.”

Last fall, Stephanie Mellon, Digital Teacher Librarian, received a CCSF Innovation Grant for VEX Robotics. She said, "Students need to feel confident and engaged in technology if they are going to thrive in our community." 

To make a donation to the Jim Leonard STEM Fund, please donate here. For more information on how Clear Creek Schools Foundation supports STEM, please visit this page.

William Lewis, student & entrepreneur

Innovation Grants Benefit Clear Creek Students

October 2, 2022

Clear Creek Schools Foundation recently awarded funds to educators and students through its inaugural Innovation Grants. The Foundation launched the Innovation Grants to support engaging and community connected experiences for students. The program is a collaborative partnership with the school district. Over $12,000 was awarded.

Educator grants support the development of the Clear Creek Learner Profile skills: leadership, collaboration, communication, critical thinking, adaptability, and character. Clear Creek School District considers all of its employees to be educators since they have contact with students at some point in the school day. Student grants support ideas and passions and the development of Learner Profile skills.

The 2022 Innovation Grant recipients are:

Carlson Elementary

Liz Bogers, A Greener World (preK, K, 1st, 4th)

Students will study how a composter works (including maintaining a worm bin) and what can be composted. The compost will be used to fertilize our school garden plants. Students will also learn about drip system irrigation and how it works. 

Jenny Pyler, Elliott the Elementary Therapy Dog (all grades)

Jenny will train her Bernese Mountain Dog, Elliott, to become a certified therapy dog. Elliott will help  improve the overall mood of the school and provide students and staff with emotional support.

Samantha Klemm, Denver Audubon Bird Banding Experience (1st grade)

The Denver Audubon works with the first graders to track and monitor the bird species they are studying. The field experience includes tracking migration patterns of local bird populations, bird banding, owl pellet dissection, and a hike.

Beth Hall with students

King-Murphy Elementary

Carrie Prejzner’s class, Flexible Seating (5th/6th grades)

The class researched flexible seating and helped to write the grant request. Flexible seating supports the school’s shift in instructional tactics, in which students have more control over their learning environment as they pick the best learning environment for themselves.

Clear Creek Middle/High School

Stephanie Mellon, Vex Robotics (7th/8th)

Students need to feel confident and engaged in technology if they are going to thrive in our community. Funding supported updated Vex robotics materials and engineering and computer programming curriculum for the middle school STEM class. 

Beth Hall, Community Based Instruction meets Community Service (grades 7-12)

Students will work on community service projects such as putting hygiene bags together for the local animal shelter, making meals for a shelter periodically, and making dog treats to donate to Charlie's Place and Echo. Students will also learn to have pride in their work and their capabilities to learn independent skills during community based instruction trips.

Pippi Graham, Tipi Transformation (grades 9-12)

Students will learn the cultural importance of the indigenous peoples who lived on the school’s local Rocky Mountain landscape—the Ute Mountain Ute were nomadic in the Mount Evans Wilderness in which Clear Creek county resides. Students will construct a tipi using poles sourced from the local forest. The tipi will also become an outdoor classroom.


Andrew Wolff, The Digital Media Superhero Project (all grades and schools)

The Project will empower students to create digital media content including videos, audio/podcasts, and digital art. Students will learn the technical aspects of digital creation along with skills including collaboration, communication, leadership.

Student Innovation

William Lewis, Urban Skate Co. (Class of 2023)

Launching a skate themed clothing line. Designing , producing, and selling clothing. The grant will allow Urban Skate to  obtain equipment, create multiple designs, and receive feedback from the community on designs, styles, and sizes. 

Educators were thrilled to receive support for their ideas. “Thank you so much! I am so excited about the opportunities this will open up for my students!” said Beth Hall, special education teacher. “Excellent work securing funding to ensure cool learning experiences for kids,” Lorraine Swartz, Carlson Elementary principal, congratulated her educators.

Clear Creek Schools Foundation would like to thank all applicants for participating in the grant process. We are also grateful for our partners, individuals, and companies that support our work.

Dan Lanzilotti catches a fish

Edupalooza Launches New Experiences for the School Year

August 29, 2022

Edupalooza kicked off the school year for employees at Clear Creek School District. Teachers, front office staff, tech and building staff, bus drivers—gathered from all schools. They participated in outdoor learning experiences while taking advantage of what makes Clear Creek special—the beautiful mountain environment, dedicated staff, and community resources. Edupalooza modeled the types of experiences that Clear Creek will provide to its students this year. 

Edupalooza took place at the Rocky Mountain Village in Empire, a fully accessible Easterseals camp with forested hiking trails and streams feeding into Clear Creek. Along with RMV the event was sponsored by CCSD and Clear Creek Schools Foundation. The district and two of its partners, Mountain Youth Network and Transcend, designed fun activities that prioritized relationships and well-being. After each activity, staff reflected on the skills they used, like adaptability and collaboration, and how they could bring these types of experiences to the students and build their Learner Profile skills. 

Superintendent Quanbeck

“This event was designed to support teachers to support students,” said Andrew Wolff, CCSD student futures navigator.

Superintendent Karen Quanbeck kicked off the day talking about the school year themes: Coherence, Community and Success for all Children. Her examples included coherence across all schools, building community inside and outside of the schools, and ensuring great experiences for all students. 

Karen told staff that providing outdoor and hands-on experiences didn’t exclude classroom time for reading and 

math, and asked that they imagine more experiences for students that engage them in learning and help build a future of hope and confidence for them. “If a kid feels connected to their community, we’re helping them to be healthy physically and mentally,” said Karen. “Connections matter. Hope matters.”

Then it was time to go outside into the first cool summer day the county had seen in awhile. The light rain didn’t bother anyone.

Ben Shay (beige hat), Mountain Youth Network, guides staff on a learning experience

Ben Shay of Mountain Youth Network guided the fishing activity. Despite what seemed like little instruction—“If you don’t know how to tie a knot, then just keep looping”—people went right to work, smiling and laughing. Soon people were fishing in the pond with their poles made of sticks and rocks. 


The minimal instruction modeled how Clear Creek educators provide students choice in how they learn, explained Pippi Graham, Compass Day design coordinator for the district. Step-by-step instruction may be needed for things like math problems, “but for other things the journey itself is the learning experience.” As they built fishing poles, for example, they solved problems. They decided which role they wanted to take in the project. They collaborated. Pippi also explained that prioritizing well-being is important for both educators and students. “When you have your basic needs met, it’s a lot easier to learn.”

Groups rotated through three other activities:

Staff enjoy acting out famous movie scenes

Later that day, there was free time for hiking, yoga, and fishing. The next day was spent with Transcend (elementary school staff) and Colorado Education Initiative (middle/high school staff) to reflect further on how to bring these types of activities that can build Learner Profile skills (adaptability, character, leadership, collaboration, communication, critical thinking).

Edupalooza was designed to take care of the staff’s physical and mental health. Based on feedback from the participants, it was a success. Comments included “it was nice to take a step back and get centered” and “I got to know people from the other schools.” Many looked forward to embracing the resources that make Clear Creek unique—throughout the community and the outdoor environment—to have fun with students and create engaging and meaningful experiences for them. 

Clear Creek School District Receives $200,000 Early Childhood Grant

June 22, 2022

Clear Creek School District (CCSD), in partnership with Clear Creek Schools Foundation, has been awarded the The Community Innovation and Resilience for Care and Learning Equity (CIRCLE) Grant towards the community childcare center. 

The childcare center is an effort by CCSD, Clear Creek County, and Clear Creek Metropolitan Recreation District that will create at least 66 childcare seats in early 2024. This grant provides more childcare by funding workforce preparation and strengthening business practices. 

Clear Creek is building the infrastructure to draw and support more Early Childhood (EC)  providers into the county by implementing career pathways to support high school, college, and community students. CCSD has advantages in providing pathways through its experience with Homegrown Talent Initiative and its implementation of healthcare and outdoor recreation career pathways. Also, in Fall 2022 CCSD starts a 4-day school week with enrichment on the fifth day. Students can take classes at Red Rocks Community College and participate in internships. Adult learners will be able to access practicum hours and employment in Clear Creek. 

To strengthen business practices, an EC Business Coordinator will establish and document operational processes and procedures to support the childcare’s business practices and define the path toward a high Colorado Shines Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) rating. These tools will be available to all EC  providers throughout the county.

To receive ongoing information about the childcare center or becoming a childcare provider please complete this short form

About Clear Creek School District RE-1

Clear Creek School District provides quality Pre-K-12 education for the communities of Evergreen, Idaho Springs, Georgetown, and Empire Colorado. CCSD also attracts students from surrounding school districts. CCSD received the 2021 Succeeds Prize, which recognizes the innovations of Colorado’s most forward-thinking educators. The award acknowledges the work of Superintendent Quanbeck and the District, with innovations like career-connected learning that combines core academics and hands-on industry experience. These experiences lead to incredible outcomes for students while building local talent pipelines for our businesses. 

Best Educators. Empowered Learners. Visionary District. To learn more visit our website.

About Clear Creek Schools Foundation

As a community, we want the very best opportunities for our students. Clear Creek Schools Foundation identifies opportunities that can make a real difference to students and can generate support from others. The Foundation’s work is in alignment with Clear Creek School District’s strategic plan and priorities. To learn more visit our website

Clear Creek Schools Foundation Opens $10,000 Discovery Scholarship for 

Skills Certification or Associate’s Degree

April 4, 2022

Clear Creek Schools Foundation launches the first year of the Discovery Scholarship to support a Clear Creek High School graduate that attends a program granting skills certification or an associate's degree. The renewable scholarship will fund 100% of a student's net cost for tuition, fees, and books for up to two academic years and a maximum of $10,000.  Preference will be given to graduating CCHS seniors, students with a history of community engagement or volunteerism and those that demonstrate a financial need. The Spring 2022 applications are due April 30.

Funding beyond the first grading period requires a minimum cumulative post-secondary grade point average of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale.  Payments for tuition, books and fees will be made directly to the school or college.  Students are expected to return to Clear Creek High School to share their post-secondary experience with current students during the final year of their studies.

A student’s net cost is defined as the school or college’s cost of tuition, fees and books minus the grants, other scholarships, tuition waivers and other gift aid a student receives.  

The scholarship applications are reviewed by the Clear Creek Schools Foundation Scholarship Committee and the awardee will be announced on Clear Creek High School Senior Night May 2022. Applications can be submitted at

From Design to Implementation

November 22, 2021 - It was just two years ago that the Clear Creek community began designing the new Learner Profile and the skills that Clear Creek wants for its students. This year Carlson Elementary is bringing the design to life.

The Clear Creek Learner Profile describes the skills with which the community hopes to equip each student. 

The design began with Advanced Placement (AP) art students creating posters to describe all the outdoor activities that define the county. The district invited community members to view the posters and share their perspective of what Clear Creek means to them and what they felt was important for students to learn and understand about the community.

Community members discussing ideas 

The community design team included families, students, and key community members representing a variety of backgrounds, beliefs, and passions. “The conversations helped elevate equity in Clear Creek’s strategies” said Karen Quanbeck, Superintendent. 

The finished product is depicted in a graphic seen throughout the schools and county and online. The Learner Profile applies to all Clear Creek students from pre-K to graduation.

Carlson Elementary started this school year with a new principal, Loraine Swartz, and a new culture of “crew,” which align with CC Learner profile’s values. “Crew is a culture of teamwork, shared responsibility, and mutual respect. It’s about belonging and supporting each other,” said Ms. Swartz. 

So what does this look like during a school day? These are just a few examples of how Carlson Elementary is bringing CREW and the Clear Creek Learner Profile to life: 

Building a Tepee

Mr Mike Dinadro, 4th grade at Carlson, guided students along the journey of building a tepee. The students learned communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and leadership skills. “We messed it up a few times and how to take it all down again,” said one student. Then...success. The tepee held up and the students enjoyed the benefits of their teamwork. A student noted, “It was freezing outside and it was warm inside the tepee.”

How many of you were leaders today?

In her 1st grade class, Leslie Coleman asked, “how many of you were leaders today?” Several students raised their hands. 

One student sadly claimed, “I didn’t get to be a leader today!” Others chimed, “Me either!” Ms. Coleman said, “I should see all hands. Raise your hand if you worked with your partner, gave them directions, and then helped them.” Every hand rocketed up. “Then you were being a leader,” she says. 

Preschoolers Practicing Leadership

Preschoolers took turns being leaders. The class got in a wide circle facing each other, and each took a turn leading the class with their favorite pose, like touching their toes.

The Clear Creek Learner Profile and Crew culture helps the elementary students see themselves as part of their class, school, and community. One student stated, “It helps us learn more about each other and trust each other.”