Grand Rapids Public Museum School Earns $10 Million Grant Award

Posted September 30, 2016 in Public, Faculty

Grand Rapids Public Schools’ (GRPS’) Museum School has won one of ten $10 million grants awarded through the XQ Super School Project, a nationwide contest started by Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

Launched last September, the contest challenged teams of educators, students, parents, and other community members to present their vision for evolving the American high school educational experience. Of the 696 applications that were submitted, roughly half made it through the contest’s first round of eliminations in April. The field was further thinned to just 50 finalists after the second round of eliminations in July.

Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) contributed broad expertise in design thinking to the development of the Museum School’s curriculum in collaboration with GRPS, the Grand Rapids Public Museum, and Grand Valley State University. Gayle DeBruyn, chair of KCAD’s Collaborative Design and Furniture Design programs, and Dr. Cindy Todd, chair of the Art Education program, worked closely with GRPS staff and other collaborators to blend design thinking methodologies with Common Core and additional K-12 standards.

“KCAD is thrilled that the Museum School’s model for shaping the future of K-12 education has been recognized on a national level,” said Interim Dean of the College Ron Riksen. “Gayle’s and Cindy’s work on the school’s curriculum is indicative of our faculty’s commitment to raising educational standards both within and outside of KCAD.”

DeBruyn and Todd attended the Washington D.C.-based winners announcement, broadcast via livestream to the Museum School’s newly-completed 6th-8th grade facilities, on September 14.

Museum School eventMuseum School students, parents, and community partners gathered to watch the winners annoucnement

"This is huge! Our Museum School truly exemplifies the success of our GRPS Transformation Plan. Being named as a winner for the XQ Super School Project gives much deserved national attention to our innovative, collaborative efforts to provide high quality public school choices,” said GRPS Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal. “Special thanks to all our school partners - Grand Rapids Public Museum, GVSU, KCAD/FSU, the City of Grand Rapids, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., and the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority.”

For the Super School grant, the GRPS team submitted a plan to further develop the curriculum and culture developed for the Museum School’s elementary grades to the high school level. The $10 million grant award comes as plans are underway to renovate the old Public Museum building at 54 Jefferson as a high school facility for the theme school. The inaugural cohort of sixth graders, who completed their first year in the school this spring, is scheduled to enter the new high school in the fall of 2018. 

“We are grateful to receive this generous award and are so inspired by the real excitement we have seen from our entire city around this concept,” said Grand Rapids Public Museum School Principal Christopher Hanks. “Grand Rapids answered the call to ‘rethink high school’ with passion and commitment. Since day one, our community rallied around the idea that we could do more for our kids, and that the skills, resources and dedication needed to turn our vision into a reality lives right here in the heart of Grand Rapids.”

The crowd reacts to the announcement of the Museum School's win

 “The Super School Project was born out of the conviction and commitment that every child from every background has a right to a quality education that prepares them for a future none of us can easily predict,” said Russlynn Ali, Chief Executive Officer of XQ Institute. “We are proud to partner with each of these 10 amazing teams who represent the power of communities coming together to restore the goals and excellence that the founders of our public schools envisioned.”

 “KCAD congratulates the Grand Rapids Public Museum School and its community partners on this milestone achievement,” said KCAD President Leslie Bellavance. “This award is both an affirmation of the school’s forward-thinking vision and inspiration to continue refining it for the future. The KCAD community looks forward to continuing its support of the school’s growth and success in the years to come.”

More information on the Grand Rapids Public Museum School can be found at