Grantee Corner  |  School District of Lee County

Students sit around a table with handwritten blueprints and popsicle sticks
Lehigh Acres Middle School students follow their student-designed blueprints to create a bridge during STEAM camp

A display of student artwork includes a large painting of a fish.
Oak Hammock Middle School students display art at the Art Walk. This piece features collaborative art created using repurposed computer discs.

A male student paints a red and blue vase
An Oak Hammock Middle School eighth-grade art student finishes his vase before it is fired.

Students line up at a barre in front of a mirror.
Harns Marsh Middle School students engage in dance class

A teacher leads a group of students in playing the violin
Harns Marsh Middle School students learn the fine points of the violin

Four students sit and desks and wear virtual reality goggles
Lehigh Acres Middle School students take a virtual field trip to Hawaii with virtual reality goggles to get inspiration for the creative writing class

Terri Kinsey, MSAP Project Director

The School District of Lee County (Lee County) on Florida’s southwest coast serves more than 93,000 students and is one of the fastest growing school districts in the country, adding 1,800 new students each year. The student population is 40 percent Hispanic, 39 percent White, 14 percent Black, 6 percent Two or more races, and 2 percent Asian. 

Lee County is using its Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) grant funds to create three middle school arts magnet programs where students excel in academics and are enriched through a variety of programs offered within each magnet school. 

Oak Hammock Middle Schools supports 1,500 students in a whole-school arts integration magnet program that enhances rigor. Oak Hammock has partnered with a nonprofit art gallery and the City of Fort Myers to feature student work at the city’s monthly Art Walk. Oak Hammock students have a designated place in the art gallery and their work is featured regularly. Student collaborative artwork is sold, and proceeds support the arts at Oak Hammock. Students from Oak Hammock also participate in a monthly Music Walk to showcase their musical talent. 

Harns Marsh Middle School, a magnet academy for the arts and academics, combines the arts with the internationally recognized Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education for its 1,300 students. Harns Marsh partnered with a nearby high school to perform a musical for local elementary students and families in the community. This was a great way for future students to see the talents of Harns Marsh on stage. Harns Marsh has added keyboarding and a full orchestra to the school program. Afterschool enrichment is provided in chorus, dance, band, and orchestra so every student has multiple opportunities to engage in the arts. 

Lehigh Acres Middle School, a STEAM magnet school, blends science, technology, engineering, and mathematics with the arts for its 1,350 students. Lehigh Acres hosts a STEAM camp for incoming sixth-grade students; the engaging camp program has received positive comments from students, teachers, and parents. Recently Lehigh Acres added FUSE Studio, which uses a studio environment in computer labs and classrooms to ignite STEAM exploration through innovative project challenges. Each student can choose a challenge that interests him or her and whether to work independently or in a group. Teachers receive FUSE training and serve as facilitators who support student work. Students log in to the FUSE website to progress through their selected challenges. Popular challenges include designing a solar car, printing 3D jewelry, and building a dream home. Lehigh Acres teachers also use virtual reality headsets to enhance learning through virtual museum tours or virtual field trips to locations around the globe. 

Project director Dr. Terri Kinsey oversees the three Lee County magnet schools. She has worked as an educator for 25 years, most recently as the grants coordinator who developed the MSAP grant project. Her involvement with magnet schools began as a teacher in a high school International Baccalaureate Programme. She is thrilled to be part of the implementation of this magnet grant to reduce minority group isolation while increasing student engagement and academic performance.