Contact innovator

Cierra Mantz
Nathan Strenge
Design Patterns for Creative Learning Environments

School Design Patterns

location_on Minneapolis, United States
School Design Patterns is a free tool that allows communities to co-create vision-aligned learning environments. A learning environment can be designed to foster things like creativity, collaboration, well-being, innovation; or it can act as a barrier to achieving them. Accessible at, the patterns give communities a shared design language to turn dreams into reality.
Nathan Strenge, USA Country Lead at HundrED
"Design Patterns help schools create learning environments that foster creativity, collaboration, wellness, and belonging."

Nathan Strenge, USA Country Lead at HundrED


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.
Key figures

Innovation Overview

Target Group
20 000
Updated on August 9th, 2022
about the innovation

Why did you create this innovation?

There is a critical misalignment between what we, in the 21st century, want out of our schools, and what 20th-century learning environments were designed to do. Design Patterns have helped innovative schools worldwide create vision-aligned learning environments for nearly two decades, so we at Fielding International decided to make them freely accessible in an online library.

How does your innovation work in practice?

Design Patterns are most useful when a community (individual school or school district) is looking to build a new school, renovate/expand at an existing site, create a school-within-a-school, add outdoor learning spaces, or go through a Master Planning process. For these communities, Design Patterns serve as a tool and a shared language to align physical spaces to the goals and vision of the project.

There are over 70+ Design Patterns at Each Design Pattern aims to solve a common problem encountered by schools. Each pattern includes an annotated sketch, a problem and solution statement, illustrating photographs, and links to research & support for implementation.

How has it been spreading?

Randy Fielding's original set of 28 Design Patterns were published in the 2005 book, "The Language of School Design." This seminal work helped launch a practice that has created innovative schools in over 50 countries, each leveraging the power of Design Patterns.

A larger scale and more significant impact comes by openly sharing best practices, so in 2021 Fielding International launched so anyone, anywhere could freely access and use the patterns.

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

For a self-guided tour, go to There you can explore all 70+ Design Patterns to see what sparks your imagination.


See this innovation in action

Students Engage in Design Patterns Workshop
All over the world, students are able to better describe what they want and why in their schools with the use of Design Patterns. In the picture below, with some simple annotated sketches, kids vote with their feet and talk to each other about how they would create environments where they feel safe and free to learn. When teachers, school admin, and parents see their kids using their voice and describing what they need, its not surprising how willing they are to authentically listen and respond with appropriate actions.In this particular workshop, one student left exclaiming to his friend "that was the most amazing experience!" 
You Can’t Lift Up America’s Schools Without Lifting Up the Neighborhoods Where They Operate - Metropolis
The Design Pattern, Neighborhood As School, was featured in an April 2022 article in Metropolis magazine titled "You Can't Lift Up America's Schools Without Lifting Up the Neighborhoods Where They Operate." Check out the article here.
Indoor-Outdoor Connections
In teacher and student design pattern workshops at a school in Tucson, Arizona, both groups independently realized how important indoor-outdoor connections were for life and learning to thrive on the campus. They took an existing pattern of Learning Commons and another of Indoor-Outdoor Connections, and they collectively realized how their climate would support shaded outdoor commons as a vital feature on their redesigned campus.Check out the Indoor-Outdoor Connection pattern here
Launch of Design Pattern Library at
In October '21, Getting Smart spotlighted the launch of and started a new blog category, Place-Based Education. Randy Fielding, the original creator of the Design Pattern language, began writing regular articles featuring key Design Patterns. The launch article can be found at
Spatial Accountability
In meetings with students, parents, teachers, and district leaders, design patterns were used to generate a spatial accountability tool. By synthesizing the most important environmental factors into 18 key design patterns, the district and its future builders have a easy-to-use tool to ensure the voices of the community remain heard. 
Students Ask for Calming Retreat
In visioning for a new school in Ontario, Canada, students in grades 4-5 engaged in a design patterns workshop. While many patterns resonated with the students including Outdoor Classroom, Variable Seating, and Learning Commons, their number one was Calming Retreat. They said they needed accessible places they could go where it's quiet, where they could be alone to do things like read, write, draw, or just relax. The Calming Retreat pattern can be found at


Achievements & Awards

June 2022
Shortlisted for HundrED Global Collection 2023
June 2022
Showcased at Deeper Learning: Twin Cities
December 2021
Innovation page created on

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