Red Lake Middle School

Red Lake Middle School loved the concept of Turnaround Arts: Minnesota, seeing it as a way to bring traditional Native arts traditions into the curriculum in ways that would engage students, teachers, parents and the entire community.

Teachers use iPads in photo project at
Red Lake Middle School is in northern Minnesota on the Red Lake Nation reservation.This Ojibwe homeland is a closed reservation where the land is held in common ownership among all tribal members. The traditional language is Ojibwemowin, however English is spoken both at home and in school daily. 
The school provides an education to 242 Anishinaabeg (Ojibwe) children in grades six through eight. Most of the children live on the reservation where the average household income is approximately $9,000 per year with an unemployment rate near 70 percent. 
Red Lake Middle school, exterior
Challenges and opportunities
The Red Lake School District shares with the whole of the Red Lake Nation a rich cultural arts heritage in song, dance, crafts, contemporary art and seasonal activities. However, prior to Turnaround Arts, the school has not been able to connect with and involve the many local cultural artists in the students’ education. 
The staff at Red Lake, see the potential to positively impact student learning and connect it to the students’ cultural heritage through the arts. They know the arts can be a key tool for building confidence and raising academic performance to the next level. The principal, Mark Benson, leads this charge enthusiastically. The arts have increasingly been a vehicle to build a relationship with the community and families over the past few years, as well as a way to build student health and relationships within the school. 
Citizen Cope works with Red Lake student guitarists
Setting Goals
The arts leadership team is in the process of setting goals for the 2015-2016 school year. Every year they conduct a strategic arts planning process to determine what methods would have the strongest impact on school improvement. For example, the staff adopted the following arts targets for 2014-2015:
  • Integrate the arts into other content areas with a focus on higher order thinking skills. 
  • Increase positive peer relationships and support. 
  • Increase family support and involvement in the school.  
  • Increase Ojibwe cultural knowledge and connections. 
  • Leverage the visual arts to create physical spaces that comfort and heal. 
Red Lake Middle School: Quick Facts


Red Lake Middle School, P.O. Box 499, Red Lake MN 56671


Principal: Mark Bensen


Grades 6-8

Enrollment: 241


SIG Grant 2013

2012 MDE Designation: Priority

2014 MDE Designation: Priority

2016 MDE Designation: Focus


Student Population

100% American Indian

77%   Free and reduced fee lunch

16%   Special Education

7%     Homeless/Highly Mobile

Red Lake Turnaround Arts Mission Statement

Red Lake Middle School is an artistic cultural school environment. Our vision is to develop a healing cultural school environment where the families and community become an integral part of and contribute to the positive relationships with and among students and staff. The school embodies the student’s creative and artistic endeavors and hidden talents to achieve the success of all.