A New Year of Possibility


This January 2015 marks almost four months since GEMS World Academy- Chicago  opened our doors to an amazing set of families and the world. The bar was set high as the first North American offering of the internationally recognized GEMS Education network. We have successfully met our goals of providing a one of a kind experience that immerses students in the city and world they live through a highly academic, technologically rich, experiential and inquiry based curriculum. Our school offers a new vision for innovation in education that prepares students to be self determined learners and a new generation of global citizens and leaders. This vision of education is manifest in all we do:

Our Signature Field Studies Program

The city has become our campus, allowing us to create an expansive program of over fifty unique Field Studies across every grade. Through this pioneering curriculum design, students have closely engaged their local community while developing the dispositions necessary to see and study the world and create solutions that have impact and meaning– here is a snapshot….

Pre-Kindergarten students explored “hearing” and their senses through the Chicago Kids Symphony. This Field Study was a transdiciplinary effort between our music and arts specialists, homeroom teachers and the community…..

Kindergarten students tied their study of biology to medicine and “being a doctor”. They developed thoughtful and essential questions for their Field Study to a pediatrician’s office. They interviewed a doctor and staff for their study of who they are in place and time….

Grade 1 students became sociologists  and collected visual and audio observations in Millennium Park.  They analyzed and mapped this data with iPads and further developed questions for their unit of inquiry on “families”. These questions informed international collaboration between our GEMS Network schools for sharing data across cultures and countries….

Grade 2 students started to extensively re-map the Chicago Pedway to make the routes pedestrian friendly. Using iPads, students took multiple field studies to map the existing Pedway System and identify problems.  They then created a “map of suggestions” for city leaders to consider in remapping the Pedway.  Their initial work will serve as a foundational source for continuing to better the city for pedestrians….

Grade 3 students studied the mathematics and science of design the iconic nature of structures through multiple field studies.  From atop the tallest buildings in Chicago, to underneath the multiple bridges that surround the Loop, they sought to understand what makes a structure sustainable, appealing, and a contribution to the worlds architecture….

Grade 4 integrated the study of mathematics and arts in Field Studies across public gardens, the Art Institute and in the museum of science and industry. In an enormous range of transdiciplinary field work,  students created multimedia field science journals with iPads, tying science mathematics, history and civics into the study of place….

Grade 5 explored culture across the city through transdisciplinary Field Studies that took them to cultural rallies, international celebrations and to study the artwork of Latin American communities.

Grade 6 pioneered an enormous range of Field Studies in almost every discipline. Their transdiciplinary work integrating with Phonar Nation, the largest open photography course for youth in the world is still ongoing and noteworthy.  Students traveled the city in Field Studies using their iPads to “see the unseen” and “look for light”.  In this project our sixth graders discovered and critiqued the systems of the city through photography, deliberative discussion and writing….

This is just a sampling of the Field Studies program we have built in four months. Through multimedia data collection using iPads and other tools, students experienced the sensory aspects of their community while learning about systems, empathized with others and contributed through engaging projects and meaningful service. We know that Field Studies are at the taproot of global citizenship, community based learning, internship and entrepreneurial studies. This is learning in the real world, it looks and feels like the real world and creates the conditions for a fundamental expansion of where and how learning happens and how the world connects to academics.

More Signature Endeavors

As our students weave experience and academics together in Field Studies, they are also involved in our other signature innovative endeavors.  In the coming weeks, we will write more on each of the following parts of our curriculum design that are integral to the GEMS World Academy experience.

Global Connection is at the root of GEMS Education. Through our global collaboration, we look forward to expanding the work we have done thus far with the January launch of CONNECTED: The GEMS Education World Course, and expansion of interaction and collaboration with our GEMS Network and other schools. The focus of our work is to continue and enhance multi-sited project based learning between classrooms and schools to create a global laboratory for learning.

Blended and Connected Learning is essential for the development of 21st Century Citizens.  Our early success with bringing our classrooms online with Canvas LMS will enjoy a significant expansion and tie into our global connections.  Our school is a DIY.org school, with nearly all of the Lower School Grade 1 to 6 participating actively in the largest and safest network of kids making, creating and social networking in the world.  Our DIY Classrooms Initiative continues to be integrated in the curricula and studied by a core group of teachers, administrators and parents looking at the cognitive and non-cognitive benefits of  this amazing connected learning platform.

Our world class STEM Program is interwoven into the fabric of the school.  With the New Year, we look forward to building on our Hour of Code month to offer ongoing integration of Coding across the grades. We are also looking forward to the continued expansion of our field science program focused on rearing trout and watersheds, and deploying sensors and probes to monitor air and water quality while exploring how data works in the Internet of Things.

We also look forward to unveiling our MakerSpace in the New Year and announcing an The Emerging Technologies Academy, an exclusive and accelerated program of science study for our students and students throughout the city of Chicago.

Into the New Year

We are excited about continuing to grow all of our program offerings this year and for years to come.  We will continue to offer a curriculum second to none, taught by teachers second to none that features technology and innovation interwoven across a demanding academic offering. To all of the families, friends and community members who have made our program the most incredible start-up imaginable — a sincere thank you.  For those interested in learning more and collaborating with our school, please reach out–we would love to hear from you.

Warm wishes for a new year,

Thomas Steele-Maley, Director of Innovation


Submit this form to request information about GEMS World Academy Chicago.