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Hopkins Public Schools – Pathfinder Projects

  • LocationHopkins, Minnesota, USA
  • TypeComprehensive Facilities Report / 5 Pathfinder Projects

Confronted with a pronounced misalignment between the esteemed values of Hopkins Public School’s Vision 2031 and its dated infrastructure, the imperative became clear: the District needed not just to refurbish, but to reimagine. The existing facilities, while well-maintained, were tethered to traditional classroom models, thus lacking the vitality and flexibility required to truly embody values like optimistic innovation, vigilant equity, and exploration. Recognizing this, Hopkins made a call to its strongest assets – its educators – to partner with Fielding International to create vision-aligned spaces. 

Teams of passionate teachers, administrators, and specialists were assembled and tasked with an ambitious project: to conceptualize and develop five unique “Pathfinders.” These Pathfinders wouldn’t simply be revamped classrooms; they’d be pioneering learning environments, testaments to what’s achievable when space aligns with vision. Each Pathfinder, curated and championed by educator teams, would serve as a beacon, illuminating the transformative potential of spaces crafted with deep relational, active, and student-centered pedagogies in mind.

Our approach was methodical and empathetic, ensuring that we truly grasped the essence of the District’s unique landscape. Our journey began with immersing ourselves in the context of the District. This wasn’t merely an exercise in familiarizing ourselves with brick and mortar; it was about understanding the heartbeat of the community – its ethos, values, and aspirations.

Our first actionable step was conducting a Spatial Audit. This audit was not just a superficial glance, but an in-depth analysis of the alignment between the District’s physical infrastructure and its stated vision and values. Combining both quantitative and qualitative methods, we observed activities in schools, interacted with the learning environments, and engaged deeply with its primary stakeholders. Focus groups with scholars and educators were crucial, providing invaluable insights into the lived experiences within these spaces.

Having gathered this rich data, we presented our findings to the school staff, inviting them to be co-authors in this transformation journey. We believed that the people who lived and breathed within these walls would be the best to reimagine them. The response was overwhelming – 47 proposals flooded in from educator teams across the District, each brimming with innovative ideas and a deep understanding of their community’s needs.

From this pool, we selected five Pathfinder teams, not just on the merit of their ideas, but on the potential for transformative impact. To ensure these visions weren’t lost in translation, we initiated the design phase with a charrette – an intensive collaborative session where dreams began to take shape, molded by practicality. These charrettes were illuminating, revealing the core of what each team hoped to achieve.

Our engagement didn’t end with the charrette; it was an iterative process. Regular check-ins with project team leaders ensured the designs evolved in line with their vision. Importantly, we also engaged students, the primary beneficiaries of this endeavor, gathering their perspectives and weaving them into the fabric of our designs.

In essence, our process at Fielding International was not just about designing spaces; it was about co-creating environments that would truly resonate with the ethos and aspirations of the Hopkins community. These environments will illuminate the path forward for Hopkins learning environments, filled with educators who are ready to take on a new normal.

The culmination of our collaborative process with Hopkins Public Schools resulted in five meticulously crafted, vision-aligned Pathfinder project concept designs.

These aren’t mere architectural drafts, but vibrant 3D renderings, annotated meticulously to convey how and why the space will function as designed. To further underscore the alignment with the District’s vision, a narrative was crafted for each design, detailing the embodiment of Hopkins’ six core values in the tangible environment. These narratives not only celebrate the present designs but also lay a foundational blueprint for future design endeavors.


The pinnacle of this project was the grand unveiling and gallery event at Fielding International’s Hummingbird Design Studio. It wasn’t just a showcase of designs; it was a public gathering of the Hopkins community’s heart and soul. The exhibition was graced by a diverse group – from executive leaders, principals, and Pathfinder teams to board and foundation members. The community’s presence was palpable, and notably, student leaders from Hopkins marked their attendance, symbolizing the very essence of who these Pathfinders were designed for. This unveiling was more than a display; it was a testament to a community’s collective vision coming to life.

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