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Pathfinders: Pilot Transformation

location_on United States

Unleash the Power of Space

Institutional & outdated facilities often act as barriers for schools wanting to change their learning paradigm. Pathfinders allow for schools to test new learning environments with minimal resources to begin. Pathfinders take an antiquated section of a building and turn it into a learning community, where creative learning environments catalyze your 21st-century vision for what school can be.



HundrED shortlisted this innovation

HundrED has shortlisted this innovation to one of its innovation collections. The information on this page has been checked by HundrED.

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November 22nd, 2022
With limited resources, you can create a beacon learning environment that truly aligns to the vision you have for your learners. You understand the why, now go after the how!

About the innovation

Why did you create this innovation?

Around the world, there is a call for learning to be authentic, collaborative, and connected to 21st-century goals. Unfortunately, most schools built in the 20th-century (and some still today) use a Cells-and-Bells model marked by isolated classrooms separated by non-learning corridors. We created Pathfinders to show how schools can pilot transformational learning environments on a limited budget.

How does your innovation work in practice?

Pathfinders address the problem of outdated facilities by converting Cells-and-Bells spaces into connected learning communities. These connected learning communities use a diversity of spaces to accommodate the needs and goals that are specific to each school's context - often there's a healthy mix of active learning studios for whole class activities, cave space for individual work & reflection, and small group collaborative areas. With the simplicity of taking a single hallway in a single school, there is a physical transformation that takes the environment from being a barrier of 21st-century learning to become a catalyst of it. Because Pathfinders can be done in small phases, it has a low entry cost with a high impact ceiling.

How has it been spreading?

Pathfinders are spreading rapidly, especially within schools and districts that try one to see their impact. At Singapore American School, one Pathfinder led to another, which led to another, and then another - the effects became so profound that the connected learning community model overhauled their entire campus serving 4,000 learners. In the Cranston Public School District in Rhode Island, Pathfinders led to the transformation the district's oldest elementary school with amazing outcomes. At North Junior High in Hopkins, MN, starting small meant creating a school-within-a-school with very limited resources; by simply activating hallway space with agile furniture, they could begin the transformation immediately on a small budget.

If I want to try it, what should I do?

Contact Nathan Strenge
+1 (320) 248-1135
USA Country Lead at HundrED

Implementation steps

Read about the Implementation Process

In 2018, Rhode Island’s Cranston Public Schools commissioned a district-wide master plan that set forward a vision to transform an aging building stock into modern, responsive learning environments. In preparation for a 2020 bond, the District wanted to establish a “Pathfinder” project that would set a new standard for their educational spaces going forward. Their Architects and Planners, Fielding International, identified the west wing of Eden Park Elementary School as a natural location to show the community a new vision for the design of teaching and learning spaces that more closely responded to the Educational Guiding Principles desired by the Cranston Community during the Master Planning process. The result is this highly successful “Pathfinder” project based on a wholistic “Learning Community” model rather than the now outmoded “Cells and Bells” model. A Learning Community is a powerful ensemble of spaces. It contains a shared learning common, a social heart, and a robust collection of discrete learning studios of varying sizes, small group rooms, and some seminar spaces, which can respond to individual needs and personalized learning.

Read cover story on Pathfinder: pgs. 31 - 37 in Planning Learning Spaces Magazine.

Identify misalignments in your learning ecosystem

When you and your community take time for authentic reflection and processing of outdated practices, you will start to identify steps to create an aligned learning ecosystem. 

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