GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids school leaders were in Washington Wednesday afternoon making history by accepting a $10 million award that will help create a high school patterned after the district’s successful Museum School.
District officials believe the grant is the largest of its kind to come to Grand Rapids.
The current Museum School serves seventh and eighth-graders with classes at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. The grant will allow the district to renovate the former public museum on Jefferson into Grand Rapids’ newest high school.
“Sometimes it’s emotional (be)cause we’re just so excited,” said Beth Martinez, whose daughter is a seventh-grader at the Museum School.
Martinez was on the committee that helped convinced a group headed by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, to award the grant to GRPS. The website for XQ: The Super School Project says the group is trying to remake America’s high schools.
“You talk about all these plans when we’re sitting down talking about the grant … ‘What if we could do this?’ And ‘What if we could do this?’ And now, all of those what ifs… those can actually come through,” said Martinez.
Grand Rapids Public Schools is one of ten winners XQ chose out of a pool of nearly 700 applicants. The winners will split $100 million. The bulk of GRPS’ $10 million will go to renovating the former Grand Rapids Public Museum into a high school.
54 people representing parents, teachers, local government and other institutions and organizations put the package together that sold the idea to XQ.
“The beauty of it is, is we never lost sight. Not one organization said it’s more about me than you,” said GRPS Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal.
And that apparently impressed the people at XQ.
“This is just a beautiful gift for this community,” said Weatherall Neal.
Along with creating the new high school at the former museum, the project rewrites the traditional lesson plan.
The school’s partners at the public museum have reclassified portions of its collections, allowing items to be taken out of exhibit and storage space and used in the classroom where students can touch history rather than read about it in a text book.
Students attending the current museum school say the hands-on learning is a big plus.
“Being able to go downstairs to the other exhibits and seeing things first-hand instead of just reading about them or seeing pictures of them is awesome. And there’s a huge difference there,” said seventh-grader Madison Wilson.
“We are creating a model for education that’s really connected with the way our world works now and the skills and occupations of the future,” explained Dr. Christopher Hanks, principal of the Museum School.
The benefits from the expanded museum school will extend well beyond the walls of the old museum and past the city limits. GRPS plans to offer its hands-on curriculum, including artifacts, to schools throughout West Michigan.
“We are the recipients of the award, but it will continue to pay dividends years from now for so many other communities,” added Weatherall Neal.