My trip to #One91: Reflections of Classroom/School Design

Last Friday, I was fortunate to participate in Google’s ExploreEDU event, held at Burnsville High School in Burnsville MN.  Part of the agenda,  that day, was to take a tour of Burnsville’s new facility.  This was a big draw for me.  I had heard about their career pathways and their newly designed learning spaces… and decided to take the opportunity to see it with my very own eyes!

Career Center

The career center is an integral part of the Career Pathway program.  Whether they are learning about careers/colleges/ or going on Google Expeditions (career AND college) the space is used independently and with classes.  Understanding the students interests and passions are essential to student success within the program.


Typical Classroom

Check out this snapshot of a Burnsville classroom.  No more sage on the stage.  Teachers can either stream content to all 6 TVs or students can collaborate with each other using their group TV.  The furniture in classrooms is very flexible and powered. They have floor to ceiling windows and many of the teachers were using the glass to write notes.  It’s also very easy to observe learning activies this way.  Beside every TV was a whiteboard (NOT SMART BOARD) for further STUDENT collaboration/notes/ideation.  Just a side note – Burnsville recently went 1:1 with Chromebooks.  One point of feedback I heard – was the pickup for the devices was 10 minutes long.  Impressive!

Flexible Spaces outside of classrooms

I will be honest, the space outside of the classrooms was pretty cool too.  I really liked that moon shaped sofa, with standing desks or tall stools behind it.  Again, there is an ability to connect to a large TV screen to and give presentations. Check out the cool furniture and use of space!  (Self directed space – that seemed to give students plenty of autonomy)


Certified Nursing Assistant Classroom/Lab

Here is a classroom that is used to certify nursing assistants.  It combines the classroom with the “hospital” lab.  Students going down this route would also have to have 20+ hours of clinicals at a local nursing home before receiving their CNA certification.


Cafeteria/Kitchen/Culinary Lab

The Cafeteria/Kitchen area had a very upscale feel to it.  Check out the digital signage in the kitchen as well as the large commons area.  I am guestimating 15-20 TVs.  This space is also used by students in the culinary arts pathway and students get to use the professional kitchen as a lab area.


And finally, I was very impressed with the CNC/PLTW/Engineering area.  Between the labs, classroom space, and flexible space inside the classroom space – it was amazing!  The students had access to industry standard equipment.  In the last video, we actually stopped by to speak to some students who just helped the local credit union re-brand their company.  How awesome!  I also learned that the credit union was also going to be setting up shop in the high school.

Final Reflections

Within the pathway program the district is being very progressive in trying to continually provide students with:

  • College credit
  • Industry level certifications
  • Student internships
  • Business partnerships (some of these partnerships also provide grant $)

Example of Pathways

One of the roadblocks ( I have heard in the past) is that sometimes these pathways “LOCK” students into a particular path.  That is not the case in Burnsville.  For instance, let’s say that a student has an interest in a health career.  Then, after going through the CNA class, the student decides they really do not like the nursing experience.  Students could select other options like  business administration in health.  See the latest job search for the Mayo Clinic as there are so many health careers that are beyond nurses, doctors, ect.  I like this flexibilty. I also assume, they can hop over to another pathway all together!

The big picture to remember- is that Burnsville students are going to have a more real world – authentic learning experiences in high school, BEFORE they decide to go to college or step into a career.  I can not tell you how important this is especially when you consider the success rate of college students, the amount of student debt students may have upon graduating.  (See my past blog post about the parents perspective of innovation)  If students decide to go the career route – they will already have some serious resume experiences and certifications that will give them a “one up” on the competition.

This was incredibly inspiring – as someone who works in education and as a parent! Way to go Burnsville – for paving the way for the future of High Schools in MN!

  1. Thank you, Jen, for coming to visit. As you can tell, visionary leadership and commitment to students have created some positive changes around here. I anticipate they will continue – and spread! These comments coming from someone I admire for her own commitment to positive change in her district are very meaningful.

  2. I appreciate your kind words and insightful reflections from your visit at Burnsville High School. One91 is working hard to reimagine the educational experiences for all students, and we are only one year in to implementing Vision One91. I enjoyed our post-tour dialogue: I look forward to learning more from your district’s experiences as well as hosting a visit from you and your team in 2017!

  3. This post is very exciting. We have already debriefed about the visit last week. Burnsville is an exciting study for our district–as we have many of these same components built into our curriculum, and have a new building going up, as well. One of the special things I see is how much they have the culture of the Pathways idea built into their entire district. Thank you for shining a bright light on their program, Jen!

  4. That’s awesome Jen — thanks for the video you captured. I loved my visit to all the California schools last March, but as I continue to learn from my own and your visits around MN, there are some incredible programs with awesome learning spaces very close by. When you think the timing is right to make a push in Byron for some truly innovative spaces that support the learning we’re trying to create, I am 100% behind you.

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