Thinking outside the box is nothing new at Bristol Elementary in Colorado Springs.

The school encourages students to be creative from day one.

“Bristol is actually a school of arts and innovation,” said Bristol Elementary Principal Manuel Ramsey. “All kinder through 3rd grade students get a free violin lesson every week from a professional violinist.”

“A lot goes into the arts,” said Jacqueline Thompson, the school's STEAM Educator. “You can see all around our building we celebrate the arts with everything we do but still maintaining that high level of success.”

Success that they wanted maximize into a higher quality education.

“We were proud to be an arts school,” said Ramsey, “and we thought like that really helped us give a well-rounded education to the kids, but we were looking to go to the next level.”

So three years ago, the school decided to add science, engineering and math to their arts program—turning STEM into STEAM.

“In STEAM, I use the content—social studies…science, and we're creating based on what those standards are all the time,” Thompson said.

The school is giving students who wouldn't necessarily have the resources a chance to learn skills for the modern day workforce.

“Our parents are working parents and they're out working two, three jobs and so we need to provide that,” Thompson said.

“One of our goals is to make sure students are experiencing productive-struggle and learning to show grit and effort,” said Ramsey, “and we're able to use that program to help enhance those skills.”

That grit and effort paid off: Bristol Elementary recently won The Succeeds Prize for Excellence in STEM Education.

“It was a combination of schools across the Front Range, schools in rural areas across the state,” said Patrick Donovan, Board Chairman for Colorado Succeeds.

A first-of-its-kind award created in collaboration with Colorado Succeeds, 9News, mindSpark Learning and the last three Governors. Together they presented The Succeeds Prize to Colorado public schools and educators that showed innovation in education. A total of $137,000 was awarded with the hope the winners will share their best practices with other schools in Colorado.

Bristol Elementary is a school getting results and recognition for their approach to innovation.

“Year after year, our kids do really well in math and we think part of it is our arts program,” Ramsey said.

The school is also encouraging students to think outside the box for success in learning and in life.

“So we're always going back to what students should be learning,” Thompson said, “and then we're creating from that curriculum to balance that out.”

“It doesn't really surprise me that we're doing well because in an atmosphere like that, kids really learn a lot,” Ramsey said.

For more information about The Succeeds Prize, go to