Navigator Program

Do you think Navigator might be the right fit for your child?

The Navigator Program serves a small, very unique group of exceptionally gifted students (IQs of 140 and above) in second through fifth grade. Navigator classrooms are located in Excelsior and Scenic Heights Elementary schools, but serve students from across the district and beyond through open-enrollment.

Application Deadline

Applications to the Navigator Program for the 2020-2021 school year are due Sunday, January 12, 2020.

Online Application

Parent Information Sessions

Join us for an informational presentation shared by the Navigator Director and teachers. Learn about the unique mission and instructional design of the program, and hear from parents about the impact Navigator has had on their highly gifted children. Application steps and criteria for placement will be reviewed, and parents will have the opportunity to ask questions.

Open House Events

Visit multiple classrooms and see the Navigator Program in action. Observe teachers and students at work. You are welcome to attend one or both Open Houses:

What is the Navigator Program?

Learners with IQs of 140 and above


For exceptionally gifted students in second through fifth grade, the Navigator Program serves a small, very unique group of learners with IQs of 140 and above. Exceptionally gifted students share many of the following characteristics:

  • Works independently at an early age and concentrates for longer periods
  • Driven to learn for its own sake; insatiable curiosity
  • Perceives connections between seemingly unrelated things
  • Learns new concepts with minimal practice
  • Emotionally sensitive, shows a developed sense of compassion and urgency to bring change
  • Ability to think in an abstract way at an early age
  • Unusually reflective, seeks deeper meaning
  • Large vocabularies, the ability to read deeply
  • May be skeptical, critical and evaluative
  • Maintains a large storehouse of information on many topics
  • Shows persistent intensity in intellect, emotion and imagination

Specialized learning environment

Eighty years of research shows that the academic, social and emotional needs of exceptionally gifted students cannot be met in the regular classroom setting or even in our District's Advanced Learning programs. The Navigator Program provides a specialized learning environment which capitalizes on the unique intellectual strengths of its learners. By providing advanced academic content through differentiated instructional practice, the Navigator Program develops students’ tenacity and cognitive stamina when faced with challenging work. Stimulating social-emotional development, students engage with intellectual peers and work with teachers who understand highly-gifted children.

How do I apply?

Step 1: Attend information sessions and open house(s)

Attend a Navigator parent information sessions (see above) to learn about the program from the Director of Advanced Learning, Navigator teachers, and parents of current Navigator students. Topics include: common attributes of highly gifted learners, application, IQ testing, placement procedures, program design, curriculum, and authentic learning experiences for the highly gifted.

To see the program in action, come to our Navigator open house events (see above). You may visit multiple classrooms and observe teachers and students at work.

We invite you to review the Navigator brochure and parent testimonials on this page to learn more.

Step 2: Applications are due January 12, 2020

IMPORTANT: If your child is not currently enrolled as a Minnetonka student, contact the student enrollment office at 952-401-5012 to begin the open-enrollment process. Your child will be assessed for Navigator after the preliminary open-enrollment paperwork is received. You may complete the Navigator application materials and open-enrollment materials concurrently.

Online Application

Step 3: Achievement data

Provide student achievement data from a standardized assessment (examples: NWEA, MCA, Iowa Test of Basic Skills, Woodcock-Johnson). Data must include scores from the prior school year, and we encourage you to include scores from prior years as well. Achievement data is one component of a student’s overall profile.

Email, mail, or fax achievement data to:

Lynne Ostlund, High Potential Administrative Assistant
5621 County Road 101
Minnetonka, MN 55345
Fax: 952-401-5032

Step 4: Assessment-Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children

Once the application and achievement data have been received (and the open enrollment process begun if applicable), a time and date for the applicant to complete the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) assessment will be scheduled. WISC is an internationally accepted standardized measurement of intellectual functioning that yields full scale IQ, verbal comprehension, perceptual reasoning, working memory and processing speed scores. The WISC will be administered by a school psychologist provided by our District. Students with a Full Scale IQ or a General Abilities Index of 140 or higher will be invited to participate in the next step of the application process: Simulation.


Along with other criteria, students are evaluated and selected for the Navigator program based on their natural aptitudes and strengths as measured by the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-5). Using WISC test preparation materials (e.g., websites like “” and IQ test tutors), is prohibited for Navigator candidates, and using such services will jeopardize your child’s opportunity to participate in the Navigator Program. Psychologists are able to see patterns in student responses that reliably reveal practicing. 

Instead of practicing, it is critically important to let your child’s natural strengths shine through! Students for whom the program is designed will qualify on their own – and there will be no question as to fit. Additionally, please remember that Minnetonka has a multi-dimensional approach to gifted and talented education, and our array of services ensures that every child’s need for academic challenge will be met, even if they do not qualify for the Navigator program. 

Please Note: If your child has been given a WISC assessment within the last calendar year, please email the report to Lynne Ostlund. In some cases, we are able to use those results to qualify a child for the next step in the application process. If your child was tested using another tool, we will schedule a WISC assessment with our District psychologist. Using only IQ scores yielded from a WISC ensures consistency and equity in placement procedures for all children.

Step 5: Simulation

Students in the target IQ range are invited to participate in a morning simulation experience. During simulation, Navigator teachers engage students in math, reading, writing, and critical thinking activities comparable to those they would experience on a typical day in the program. This gives potential students a “taste” of the Navigator experience, and it allows our staff to observe how students work and interact within this unique learning environment.

Step 6: Placement decision

The admissions committee will review each applicant individually to ensure all accepted students are likely to achieve a successful educational experience within the Navigator Program. Once a decision has been made, the advanced learning director will notify parents of results.

What is the curriculum?

Where appropriate, our existing Minnetonka curriculum provides the foundation for learning. Because students progress through it at a much quicker pace, enriched curricular materials are critical for extension and depth. Materials used are specifically designed for gifted learners, or are materials typically used at higher grade levels, which allows us to accelerate content for our advanced learners. Examples include: Mentoring Mathematical Minds, ALEKS math, FOSS Science, Jr. Great Books, Paideia Seminars, and many other sources. Project-based learning, inquiry learning, self-directed study, technology resources and service learning projects are also key components of instruction in the program.

Is there a difference in the teaching method for exceptionally gifted students?

Navigator classrooms are highly differentiated in order to match the level of content to the strengths and needs of the learner. Instructional methods actively engage students in higher-order thinking at a level appropriate for highly-focused, self-directed learners. In addition, the teaching methodology incorporates:

  • Thematic, interdisciplinary instruction
  • Inquiry-based, real-world problem solving
  • Experiential learning
  • Emphasis on social/emotional development
  • Depth and breadth of subjects

Is transportation provided?

Families who live within the boundaries of Excelsior or Scenic Heights Elementary Schools have normal bus transportation. Families who live within the boundaries of other Minnetonka schools may access busing service to Navigator schools through existing bus routes (contact the Transportation Office by calling 952-401-5000 for more details). Families living outside of Minnetonka's District boundaries provide their own transportation to and from school, or they opt to transport their children to existing bus routes designated for these schools.

What if my student is in Language Immersion?

Chinese and Spanish language instruction will be provided to support second language acquisition for students entering from a Language Immersion program. Navigator is an English program; however, our District is committed to supporting the target language acquisition process for students entering Navigator from Immersion classrooms. The Navigator Language Learning Program provides four hours per week of direct instruction outside of the school day. This rich instructional program was developed to continue the goal of language fluency with the possibility of re-entering the Language Immersion experience at the middle level.

How does the Navigator Program impact the existing Advanced Learning program?

In 2007, our District enhanced the Advanced Learning program and increased Advanced Learning staffing at each elementary school. Our District's commitment to that program continues. The Navigator Program provides additional learning materials, knowledge, lessons and expertise to further strengthen the existing Advanced Learning program. In addition, moving exceptionally gifted students to the Navigator program with a dedicated Navigator teacher frees up Advanced Learning staff time for other Advanced Learning students.

Why do we need this program when we already have Advanced Learning services?

The Navigator Program accommodates a small, very unique group of learners. The needs of these students, including academic, social and emotional needs, cannot be met in the regular classroom setting or even in the Advanced Learning programs. Based on extensive research, creating an environment suitable to educate these exceptionally gifted students will lead to:

  • Significant achievement gains
  • Development of intellectual persistence
  • Elimination of student isolation
  • Intrinsic rewards for learning

What do our parents say?

"It wasn’t until we attended a seminar in the spring that focused on perfectionism that we finally realized that although our daughter is intelligent, loves to learn and thrives on lessons and tests, the current classroom atmosphere was unable to meet all of her needs, particularly in the social and emotional areas. We decided to apply to the Navigator program." — Cindy H.

"As parents of gifted children we can’t thank you enough for what you are doing for our children, and quite frankly for our entire family. Having a safe and encouraging, nurturing, educational environment to send our children is like a tall glass of water when you are parched, nothing else can be as satisfying yet so simple. Please know that we will forever keep you updated on the progress of our gifted child. You deserve to know how your efforts have yielded results and your school administrators and board members deserve to know that their courageous decision to serve this population of kids will have profound results in the years to come." — Phil R.

"What a difference we are seeing in our son. I can't thank you enough for being flexible enough to focus on his real needs."

"What a difference we are seeing in our son. I can't thank you enough for being flexible enough to focus on his real needs. Typically, we see that schools have their rules and there is no human element to them. That certainly was not the case with you and you should know what a difference you made for him and us. It was really a life-changing moment for our family to have someone understand his needs and potential. Needless to say, for the first time, we are relieved that he is working with such a high-quality program. I can't say enough about his first couple of weeks and I am excited about how your program is finally beginning to understand and shape his future potential. Thank you to you and the teachers for understanding that our son is very unique/special." — Julie G.

"The Navigator program has provided our son with a teacher who understands his social and academic needs and provides—with sensitivity, balance, and extraordinary patience— opportunities for him to grow in both areas. His friendships and peer relationships have developed in ways we had always hoped he would experience. The Navigator program has been an invaluable and unequivocally positive experience for him and our family." — James M.

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navigator program Contact

Diane Rundquist
Director of Advanced Learner Programs

Submit questions and feedback online and receive a response within one business day through Let’s Talk.

Let's Talk


Contact Us

Enrollment office hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.
General Fax: 952-401-5092

Student last names A-L:
Ashley Kuphal

Student last names M-Z:
Lori Schwartz

*Please note, to schedule a tour you may call the school of interest directly or complete our visit form.

Astronomy Night

Second and third grade Navigator students enjoyed hanging out with high school students from the MHS Astronomy Club on a recent clear night. The high school students planned cool learning activities inside, then headed out for a look at the moon and stars in the night sky.