NewBlogTopUpperSchoolNewBlogTopUpperSchoolThis is the second post in our #BuildingBiggerDreams series highlighting our new Upper School campus opening fall 2019. Follow along on our blog and on social media as our community readies itself for this critical, celebratory milestone of us becoming a full preschool-grade 12 learning community. Want the next post in your inbox? Subscribe to our blog.

The GEMS World Academy Chicago Upper School, opening in 2019, reflects the very latest in architectural thought and practice for urban schools. From the lobby on the ground floor to the outdoor student commons on the roof, every space is designed to energize and inspire our learners.

In the second of a regular series of posts about specific features of the Upper School, we look at the two-story library.

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The Upper School library embodies both the traditional and the innovative. It is a place where students can read, check out books and conduct research using the latest technologies and online databases. It also serves as a fully equipped media center and collaborative project space that will inspire and assist students as they progress through the rigorous International Baccalaureate program.

“The library should be the heart of any school,” GEMS librarian Emily Smith said. “It should be a hub where students gather, research, collaborate and learn.

“This Upper School library rivals all the school libraries I’ve seen before, even those at universities. It’s definitely a highlight of the new building.”

The library occupies a prominent space on the north side of the building, with dramatic views of the Chicago River, Lake Michigan and the city skyline. Similarly, people outside the building will be able to see the innovative library space enjoyed by GEMS students; one of the building’s architects referred to the library as a “lighthouse” that will convey the school’s innovative approach to all who pass by outside.

In addition to the robust collection of books that one might expect to see in a well-designed library, the GEMS facility includes team rooms, group project rooms and places for independent study. It also includes a “quiet room,” where students can unplug and work in a distraction-free environment. And the space is networked to provide a full slate of digital research and literary resources.

"The library was designed with an eye towards the 21st-century learner," GEMS Head of School Tom Cangiano said. "Yes, there are books and other physical resources, but there are also areas for collaborative work, quiet reflection, and electronic research."

DqswC_bU8AAaEFWMs. Smith agreed.

“I really like how dynamic the space is,” she said. “In this library, different groups of students will be able to work on totally different kinds of activities at the same time. That adds to the sense that this is ‘their’ space.”

GEMS World Academy Chicago is an International Baccalaureate World School for the Middle Years Program, which serves students in grades 6 through 10. We are a candidate school for the Diploma Program, which serves grades 11 and 12. That means we are pursuing authorization to be an IB World School for that program. 

The IB curriculum framework emphasizes collaboration, projects and research. Ms. Smith believes the Upper School library provides the ideal environment for that kind of work.

“It’s obvious how much thought has been put into the design,” she said. “I see our students viewing this as a vital space in their high school.”

The GEMS Upper School, which opens for the 2019-2020 school year, completes GEMS World Academy’s preschool-through-grade-12 campus. In addition to the library, the building features a state-of-the-art auditorium/media lab, a full-size gym, multiple science & design labs and a rooftop common area. Future posts will explore other spaces in this innovative building.

Related reading:

One Space, Many Uses: The GEMS Upper School Auditorium


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