With outstanding academic performance and a focus on curiosity and innovation, Glacier Hills Elementary School of Arts & Science (GHESAS) is one of the best magnet schools in the country. Glacier Hills uses science and mathematics, technology and multimedia arts to create the collaborative atmosphere essential to cultivating deeper learning experiences for its students. At GHESAS, students are prompted to ask questions and take risks through its inquiry approach, which encourages students to engage through application. As one of Magnet Schools of America’s 18 national demonstration schools, this Eagan, Minnesota magnet school embraces the core missions of diversity and inclusion to prepare its young students to thrive in a global society.
Originally established in 1993, GHESAS became a magnet school in 2007 to attract students from beyond the traditional neighborhood attendance zone and improve the school’s performance. In the ten years since, Glacier Hills’ population has doubled – it now boasts 760 bright students from a wide array of backgrounds. Once a school that was often overlooked, GHESAS has transformed into an in-demand center of learning, with a waiting list that has doubled over the past four years.
Glacier Hills thoroughly embodies MSA’s belief that diversity is a central pillar of what makes a strong magnet school. Fifty-two percent of the school’s population are students of color, and a remarkable 48 languages are spoken by the student body. The school’s demographic makeup reflects the realities of our modern global world, and provides students with the many known benefits of learning in a diverse classroom. In addition to GHESAS’ academic focus, the school has social justice standards that foster tolerance and acceptance among people from many different backgrounds. GHESAS’ curriculum is inclusive and culturally responsive to the school’s growing and diverse student population.
GHESAS has a unique theme-based curriculum that centers on music, science and visual and multimedia arts. All students take Multimedia Art for 50 minutes a week, where they combine traditional art methods such as drawing, painting and sculpting with newer technologies like digital animation and green screen photography.
Glacier Hills also has the unique philosophy that art is at the heart of a strong math and science education. Each grade level has engineering challenges that promote communication, creativity and collaboration. For example, after learning about the artist Louise Nevelson in art class, first grade students were asked to use the engineering design process to make a replica of a Louise Nevelson piece using wood and cardboard. Meanwhile, students in other grades studied seed engineering, observations of soil, weather, animals, plants, environments, the human body and machines, often incorporating art into these traditionally left-brain subjects.
Glacier Hills does not accomplish these impressive feats alone. The school is exceptionally proud of its community partnerships, which provide students with innovative out-of-school opportunities to learn new things and gain real-world context for their studies. These partnerships have included 3M, Caponi Art Park, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, the Science Museum of Minnesota, CLIMB Theatre, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art. The school is also regularly evaluating and considering new and exciting partnerships.
Glacier Hills’ unique approach has earned the school national acclaim and attention. GHESAS teachers and students have been featured in national publications such as NEA Today and the Minnesota Science Teachers Association. It’s clear that Glacier Hills’ rigorous curriculum ignites students’ passion for learning, and that its faculty work every day to provide a positive place for students to learn and grow.
Glacier Hills Elementary School of Arts & Science deserves recognition as a stand-out magnet school; one which will continue to help each child reach their full potential through a deeper understanding of arts and science. Adriana Henderson, principal of Glacier Hills, sums up her school best: “Glacier Hills is a school where educational dreams come true. We offer a rigorous curriculum that focuses on creativity, curiosity and innovation. The vibrant smiles of our students remind us the importance that teachers have in the lives of children.”