Northeast Metro 916 Intermediate School District

Step 1: Karner Blue Education Center

Completed fall 2014
Karner Blue Education Center was designed to address the specific needs of students with Autism, emotional and behavioral disorders, and cognitive disabilities. The environmental supports provided by the building design create a controlled space for students in which to learn, play, and relax. The focus on nature provides a calming atmosphere, and educational philosophies tied to nature and place build student's connections to their world. Karner Blue Education Center utilizes the Compassionate School model, which supports both physical and emotional health by helping students build relationships, self-regulate and achieve success in both academic and non-academic areas.

Specialized Services
  • Proactive behavior strategies
  • Flexible and differentiated learning communities based on student needs
  • Individual/small group instruction
  • Naturalistic opportunities
  • Full range of related services including: speech/language, occupational/physical therapy, nursing, assistive technology, social work, mental health and Autism support
  • Developmental adaptive physical education and recreation/leisure/play instruction
  • Interactive SMART Board and iPad technology
  • Extended school year program as required by IEP

Healing Learning Environment  

A Healing Learning Environment is more than a place for students to learn. It is a educational environment that acknowledges the extraordinary needs of children with mental and behavioral challenges. The design departs from traditional school floor plans by creating learning communities, developing more open and daylight spaces that assist faculty and support the students as they learn life skills of self-regulation, coping, communication, self-efficacy and socialization.

Features of the Karner Blue healing learning environment include:
  • Circulation – Increased hallway widths and multiple entrance points reduce crowding to limit stress and anxiety.
  • Open Design – Students can access common space areas for alternative learning spaces and movement breaks.
  • Levels of Intervention – A series of sensory, breakout, and alternative spaces allow teachers to support students’ individual needs. 
  • Acoustics – Multiple acoustical considerations create an exceptionally quiet and peaceful learning environment.
  • Lighting – LED and natural lighting, instead of traditional fluorescents, creates a calming effect, keeping students on task and regulated.
  • Connection to Nature – Design elements bring nature indoors to provide a soothing atmosphere and create a controlled outdoor space for students to learn, play and relax. 

The Story Behind the Name

Karner Blue Butterfly In the early stages of development and planning, Principal Val Rae Boe, Ed.D., was identified to provide leadership for the new school. Her research of nature-based and place-based learning, and inspiration from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) protected land adjacent to the school property, led her to look for examples of vegetation and wildlife native to the area. In her search for a mascot that embodied the vision for the school, she discovered an endangered butterfly named Karner Blue, that currently only exists in two counties in Minnesota—Anoka County, where the school is located, and Winona County. District leadership agreed that using a butterfly, which symbolizes transformation, was a great metaphor to represent the spirit of the hopes and dreams for the students who will be attending the school.

But the story does not end there. Shortly after the name Karner Blue Education Center (KBEC) was chosen, the district learned that relatives of Naomi Lepore, KBEC assistant manager, were developing a children’s book featuring the Karner Blue butterfly. Lepore’s sister, Sara Jo Dickens, Ph.D., was writing the book based on her research as a biologist and their mother, Nancy Scheibe, was doing the illustrations. Serendipity struck at that moment, and everyone was delighted at how these seemingly unrelated things came together and added to the inspiration of the development for the school. This was truly one of those, “It was meant to be,” moments.

When you visit KBEC, take note how the facility relates to the surrounding beautiful landscapes, as well as how nature is integrated into the school environment. 
Last Updated 8/28/15