Field Studies

For students to become global citizens they must explore, ask questions, observe, empathize and act in the world without borders. During the year a minimum of four hours each week is dedicated to learning outside of the school building in local landscapes. Through GWA-C’s pioneering landscape as learning initiative, students closely engage their local community through field study based mobile learning labs. Through multimedia data collection using iPads and other tools, students experience the sensory aspects of their community while learning about systems, empathizing with others and contributing through engaging projects and meaningful service. This learning in the real world, looks and feels like the real world thus creating the conditions for a fundamental expansion of where and how learning happens. We believe the disposition of seeing and studying the world as it is and working on how it might be otherwise, is at the root of global citizenship, community based learning, internship and entrepreneurial studies.

– GEMS Innovations


A quick glance at GEMS World Academy’s #GWAfieldstudies Twitter stream provides a window into one of the nations most extensive Field Studies programs. GEMS distinguishes field studies from field trips by the level of planning and curricular connection, use of technology in the field,  and the direct connection and networking of the studies.  Faculty and students are passing from school building to a city campus daily in Field Studies. As they do, they develop an understanding and ability to act on direct connections between their academics and the world around them.  Our faculty and students are seizing the opportunity available to them as they continue the inquiry process in real world settings.

Field Studies

Planning and Curricular Connection

GEMS World Academy-Chicago success in Field Studies is the fruit of purposeful vision, mission and planning.  The school building is in Lake Shore East, upon the shores of Lake Michigan and within the city of Chicago to pioneer this new vision of mobile learning  and field study. The school schedule provides ample time for interweaving the city and its many communities, landscapes and cultural institutions directly into the curriculum.  The result is that teachers and students see Field Studies as opportunities of extended observation and data collection into the social and environmental systems they are a part of.  Field Studies are deeply scholastic and weave the sciences, engineering, reading, writing, art, mathematics, history and geography as students:

  • explore and contribute to urban design through re-mapping sections of pedestrian thoroughfares,
  • observe and collect data on the health of  biodiversity of city habitats such as woodlands, marshland and prairie,
  • study and ask questions about social systems in the city through drawing and photography.

GEMS faculty think as researchers and continuously grow new curricular pathways for our Field Studies program. As the program looks to 2015 the number of partner organizations, universities and individuals ready to support us also grows.

Technology Rich

Faculty and students use iPad Minis as a primary tool in support of our Field Studies to capture and create a multimedia media record and set of artifacts that tie directly into the inquiry based and project based learning process.  An “application bundle” focus the iPads use toward field based scholastic endeavor. Well past the important camera and recording functions of the iPad Mini,  students use apps like Fulcrum to create multimedia field-notes and participatory maps, Paper by 53 to sketch, draw and paint landscapes and Skitch to annotate images. With the iPad Mini, classes are also able to collect and contribute increasingly sophisticated sets of data for contribution to global citizen science projects. To ensure that our iPad Minis are used well in the Field they are encased in weatherproof, impact resistant cases to ensure device safety across the many landscapes students learn in.

Connection and Networking

GEMS World Academy-Chicago employs Field Studies to support and inspire our students as they become global citizens. Our Field Studies program is student centered and transdisciplinary, fostering the integration of subject disciplines directly and engaging outside organizations, business and community partnerships in the learning process. Ultimately, our Field Studies create “translocal understanding” as they explicitly develop the key dispositions in students necessary to learn, live and work in extended partnership with others across the world. GEMS World Academy strongly believes that using the city as our campus for these studies intensifies the real world applicability of curriculum and provides our students with critical 21st century skills.


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