Philanthropic push brings powerful science platform to thousands of West Michigan students

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (May 19, 2016)—Learning science opens eyes, but doing science unlocks students’ natural curiosity. Generous donations from local philanthropists have made it possible for thousands of West Michigan students to think and act like scientists by providing NexGen Inquiry®—Van Andel Education Institute’s (VAEI) Web-based, interactive teaching and learning platform—for teachers and area school districts.

The Michigan Science Standards are reshaping the K-12 landscape by emphasizing practice-based learning.  The NexGen Inquiry platform supports student learning and refinement of skills essential in all 21st century careers, but most importantly careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) —the nation’s fastest growing occupations. As teachers retool their instruction to meet these standards, NexGen Inquiry provides numerous resources to support their efforts.

NexGen Inquiry combines powerful, intuitive instructional tools and professional development resources for teachers to guide student investigations.  The inquiry-based learning portal is designed to engage students in self-directed, hands-on science investigations by incorporating the use of an interactive online journal.

“NexGen Inquiry is a vehicle that supports both professional learning and student engagement in authentic science practices,” said Jonathan Harper, M.Ed., science curriculum supervisor, Grand Rapids Public Schools. “It helps teachers plan lessons and investigations organized in a way that supports sense making, and deepens student learning through written and oral collaborative discourse. Intuitive and consistent functions support both student and teacher use.”

Several donors, including Nick and Shellie Adamy, Dorothy Armstrong, John Kennedy and Mark Meijer, are sponsoring school districts throughout the area to bring this innovative science investigation tool into classrooms. The districts include: Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids Public Schools, Forest Hills Public Schools, Grand Rapids Christian Schools, Grand Rapids Public Schools and West Michigan Aviation Academy. These sponsorships are critical in fulfilling VAEI’s mission to revolutionize science education in the United States by providing tools and resources for teachers and students.

“By sponsoring our district, these generous donors have not only improved students’ understanding of science, they have initiated paradigm shifts in the classroom that help ensure students are prepared for the future,” said Patti Richardson, biology teacher at Forest Hills Central High School. “The software allows me to integrate all the components of my classroom and encourages my students to analyze and process the believability of their data based on what they have seen for themselves. This, in turn, allows them to take ownership of their investigations.”

The sponsored school districts join more than 20 other districts in Michigan that utilize NexGen Inquiry to enhance their science curriculum. Since its introduction in August 2015, more than 2,000 teachers located in all 50 states and nine countries have begun using the platform.

For more information about NexGen Inquiry, program sponsorship or to begin a free, 90-day trial, visit or



Established by Jay and Betty Van Andel in 1996, Van Andel Institute (VAI) is an independent, research and educational organization based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, dedicated to preserving, enhancing and expanding the frontiers of medical science, and to achieving excellence in education by probing fundamental issues of education and the learning process. Through programs that provide hands-on, inquiry-based learning opportunities across the entire educational spectrum – from elementary through graduate school to the professional development level – Van Andel Education Institute (VAEI), VAI’s non-profit education arm, is dedicated to strengthening science education and preparing and motivating individuals to pursue science-related professions. 100% to Research, Discovery & Hope®