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Museum School: A Tale of Two Dreams!

Museum School: A Tale of Two Dreams!

What is the Museum School?

Four years ago, the Grand Rapids Public Museum Executive Director Dale Robertson and GRPS School Board President Tony Baker started a conversation about how these two Grand Rapids institutions might partner in a new and fresh way.  The Museum hosts amazing collections that represent our community’s history, from dinosaur bones to traditional clothing.  GRPS is transforming the way it approaches education to help prepare our students for the 21st Century Economy.  Could the two collaborate to bring their resources together for the good of our community’s children?

They quickly invited others into the dialogue, including: Kendall College of Art Design of Ferris State University, GVSU College of Education, the City of Grand Rapids and Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.  Together the team designed the Grand Rapids Public Schools Public Museum School (GRPM School)—a totally innovative, place-based, design thinking school.

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What is place-based learning?

“Place-based education is different from traditional text and classroom-based education because it uses the local community as one of the primary resources for learning. This way, learning is rooted in the unique history, environment, culture, economy, literature, and art of students’ own ‘place’ or immediate neighborhood and community.”

-GRPS Public Museum School website



What is design thinking?

“Design thinking is a widely valued creative problem-solving process where information is collected and expressed visually or physically (prototyping) in order to create new strategies, develop ways and methods to solve problems, create opportunities, or strengthen weaknesses. In the classroom, design thinking processes encourage students to be curious, creative, and collaborative.”

-GRPS Public Museum School website



In the Museum school, the middle school (grades 6-8) are allocated on the newly built fifth floor of the museum.  Students spend their days in and around the museum collections and working with experts in the field.  For grades 9-12, the GRPM Annex Building at 54 Jefferson is being renovated into the new high school. High school students will have regular access to the rich breadth of materials housed within the museum’s permanent collections.  The middle school is open to sixth and seventh grades now. Eighth grade will be added next year.  The high school opens in Fall 2018.

What is an XQ Super School?

A few years ago, a group of international thought leaders came together to rethink high school. Their team included among others: Russlyn Ali, former Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights for the U.S. Department of Education; Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs; Yo-Yo Ma, musician; Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone; and Leon Wieseltier of the Brookings Institute. They noticed that technology advancements have moved at light speed, but education has been struggling to keep up. They posited that what schools need today is the “XQ” Factor.

XQ represents the innovative and flexible intelligence that children need to be successful in the 21st century. “Sure, IQ (intelligence quotient) is important.  It measures how we process information. But it isn’t everything… What also matters is a person’s EQ (emotional quotient)—the ability to relate to others, understand emotional cues and collaborate.  But today, neither IQ nor EQ is enough. There’s a certain something, something we call XQ, that’s essential for success in the new era we’re entering.” –XQ Super School Project.

In 2015, the XQ team sent out the largest call for education project ideas ever. They received applications and nominations from over 1,000 communities across the country and around the world. Grand Rapids is one of the communities that submitted a nomination for its new museum school.

Grand Rapids Public Schools Museum School is an XQ Super School!

On September 14, 2016, in a broadcast aired live from Washington DC, the GRPM was named AN XQ SUPER SCHOOL—one of only 10 in the nation!

As an XQ Super School, the Museum School also won a historic $10 million grant to fund technology upgrades and construction for the Museum High School. With this money, GRPS is creating the school of the future—a school that combines IQ and EQ with that special X factor AND right in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids.

The Museum School: an XQ Super School, is the tale of two dreams, two visions for education in the 21st century, coming together right here in our community.