GVSU partners with Grand Rapids Public Schools

gabriella patti

Grand Valley State University has been working closely with the Grand Rapids Public Schools to create the Grand Rapids Public Museum School, opening in the fall of 2015.

The museum school will hold class in the Grand Rapids Public Museum as well as on 54 Jefferson St. SE, allowing students to use museum artifacts for a creative, hands-on learning experience.

“We created the museum school to allow students in this community to learn in a project-based environment so they can be hands-on while studying and using our museums’ artifacts while connecting it to the curriculum in the state of Michigan,” said Teresa Weatherall Neal, superintendent of schools.

GVSU has been active in helping to design the school’s curriculum as well as with training teachers to be well-equipped to effectively use the museum artifacts. The university has worked closely with the Van Andel Museum, which will be providing many of these artifacts.

“This will expose kids to more artifacts than anywhere else in Michigan to support their learning,” Neal said.

Michael Posthumus, the assistant director of the Center for Educational Partnerships at GVSU, has been present throughout the entirety of the development of the school, closely offering support.

“We have contributed on a curriculum development team and the leadership team for the school as well as having engaged faculty and staff from the College of Education to provide support to those designing model and curriculum for the museum school,” Posthumus said.

The school utilizes place-based learning, which engages the community and helps students become involved in the world around them.

“Place-based learning allows them to experience civic engagement, social responsibility, stewardship of community and environment first-hand,” Posthumus said.

GVSU is not the only institution to play a role in the school’s development though. Other contributors include Ferris State University, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and the city of Grand Rapids. Neal said that each contributor is an equal partner in the creation of the new school.

“This is really about the community. Grand Rapids just happens to be the district, but it is a community,” he said.

The museum school will be open to sixth graders and each year it will grow a grade up. The school is expecting at least 60 students to enroll and it is open to special needs students.

The school is not just about the science of the museum. It is about being creative and learning. Carolyn Evans, assistant superintendent of curriculum, said that GRPS and their partners recognize that the face of education is changing and they intend to keep up with it.

“We have been very deliberate about going slowly before we go fast so that we are creating something that will be meaningful 20 years from now,” Evans said. “We think it will be a cutting edge approach; representative of what 21st century education looks like. We are excited to have the brightest minds around our table to challenge and reinvent what kids will know and do.”

Evans added that they are grateful to GVSU and the partnership that has formed.

“In all that we do, we have not endeavored in a partnership in Grand Valley where we have not found it valuable,” Evans said. “They have always come to, and asked, what they can do.”

GVSU has not stopped with the museum school partnership but has also been working with an International Baccalaureate arts school.

Evans said that GVSU has helped to bring in a fresh view of education in order to better prepare young students for college.

“These are the kids that are going to design our future,” Neal said.