Columbia Heights, Minnesota

North Park Elementary School

Midwest USA
Columbia Heights Public Schools
Project Size
75,000 Square Feet

Renovation, Elementary School

North Park Elementary School requested that Cuningham Group assess the spaces within a 1960s-era school building and begin to develop and co-design new classrooms for the 21st Century.

Three, unique learning studios (2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade) were designed through a collaborative charrette process involving teachers and administrators and resulted in the merging of several traditional classrooms into larger, more open spaces. Existing interior walls were removed and flexible furniture, digital learning equipment, and technology-embedded partitions were integrated. Focusing on adaptable learning spaces, desks were also taken away to create a less structured environment. Redefining the classrooms in this way allows instructors to act as facilitators, empowering students to be responsible for their own learning through “active engagement” and creating the best possible individual learning experience.

After the changes, faculty and students at the University of Minnesota partnered with the Cuningham Group, Columbia Heights Public Schools, and the College of Education on a multi-year research project to document, analyze, and assess the three retrofitted learning studios. The results are showing a complete transformation of the school’s approach to teaching that now prioritizes active, student-initiated, and self-directed learning and has resulted in students being more engaged and attentive with less behavioral issues.