In 2015, an innovative middle school opened inside the Grand Rapids Public Museum, a cultural site that dates back to 1854. An experiment in place-based education, the Museum School recently won a coveted XQ Super Schools award and is driving widespread adoption of its model across the district—bringing families and students back to a city in an economic and cultural downturn.
The “Creatures of Light” exhibit uses interactive displays to help students understand bioluminescence. The school employs a curriculum integration specialist who helps museum staff and teachers incorporate exhibits into classroom lessons.
The success of the Museum School has helped spawn the growth of theme and partnership schools across the district. At the Blandford School, a middle school inside a local nature center, students learn how to run a business by tending to the center’s chickens and selling their eggs.
The Zoo School, located in the John Ball Zoological Garden, is another of the district’s 15 theme and partnership schools. The school is ranked in the top 5 percent in the state and has been named one of the top 25 “Coolest Schools in America” by “Parent and Child” magazine.