District leaders accompanied a team from Wold Architects and Engineers, the firm that designed the majority of the district’s construction projects made possible by the community’s support of the 2019 bond referendum, to present at the EDspaces “Designing the Future of Education” national conference. The annual event is described as the place where leaders and innovators unite to drive the future of learning environments, where technology, space and pedagogy converge.
The district’s presentation focused on the design and construction of North Star Elementary, which opened in Hugo in the fall of 2022. North Star Elementary was carefully planned from the perspective of both the physical space and the pedagogical perspective to support student agency and flexibility. The process included significant stakeholder input throughout the process and professional development to support the mission.
“Innovative and future ready learning environments are being created throughout the district, and while the concept of student agency may not be new we are frontrunners with the work happening at North Star Elementary School,” said Superintendent Wayne Kazmierczak. “We are implementing teaching and learning practices to empower students to lead their learning, and the building is specially designed to support this effort.”
The philosophy of supporting student agency and student-centric design was accomplished through a building design that incorporates educational spaces called Learning Studios, where students and educators work together throughout a larger area that can be separated into multiple space configurations. Through a strategic design of the space, the environment has become an essential tool in shaping the student experience. Multi-age learning has been implemented in some of the studios, and sensory spaces where students can reduce anxiety and self-regulate when needed have been incorporated in all of the studios. Every aspect, including furniture, technology and operable walls, is multi-functional in the Learning Studio and adds to the flexibility.
“It was rewarding to be able to share with school and district leaders from throughout the nation, and the world, what we have been able to achieve at North Star,” said Principal Dan Schmidt. “We started with a shared dream of how to ‘do school differently,’ and we were able to realize that dream with the help of a community that supported our vision.”