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TABLE OF CONTENTS Letter from Head of School


School Overview 8 Differentiators 10 International Baccalaureate


Lower School 16 Middle School 20 Upper School 22 World Languages 26 STEM 28 Field Studies 30 Encores 32 Faculty 36 GEMS Global Communities


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Encouraging Students to Ask Big Questions GEMS a leader in transformative education Welcome to GEMS World Academy – Chicago, a state-of-the-art learning environment where students and teachers are at the heart of everything we do. Our world-class STEM facilities allow entrepreneurial, forward-thinking teachers from around the globe to engage students in real-world, hands-on problem solving in order to prepare them to navigate the world beyond our classrooms. Educators today are required to be futurists, grappling with and anticipating the exponential nature and scope of change, while also being immersed in the here and now with the students in our classrooms. Our teachers empower students by embracing the questions that make teaching such a rewarding and challenging profession. What are the essential skills that our students must have in order to be successful not only in college, but in their lives beyond? How must our definitions of traditional disciplines change as our students solve interconnected, global problems? How have the roles of student and teacher evolved, and how might that evolution allow for collaboration, reflection and creativity? Equipped with the knowledge that many of our graduates will enter and embrace fields of endeavor not yet imagined or defined, how do we ensure that our students are capable of the deep reflection that is required to navigate an increasingly complex world? At GEMS, exceptional teachers challenge students with an inquiry-based, rigorous interdisciplinary program in order to develop the habits of mind that allow innovation to flourish. We also value and support a strong partnership between school and parents, ensuring a warm, nurturing community of adults who care about the well-being and intellectual and emotional growth of children and adolescents. I invite you to visit our beautiful downtown campus, unsurpassed in the city of Chicago, to learn more about how we support each and every student in reaching his or her fullest potential. Warm regards, Kim Wargo Head of School

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Our Award-Winning Building • Award of Merit, 2015 Engineering News Record Midwest Best Projects Competition • Subject of feature profile in Architectural Record, January 2016 • Featured site: Open House Chicago architectural tour, 2015 and 2016 • Honor Award, American Institute of Architects, Illinois chapter, 2016

GEMS World Academy – Chicago has provided our kids with the attention, academic rigor and nurturing environment that we as caring parents want them to have. We see GEMS World Academy not as our school, but as a natural extension of our family. – Bala Ragothaman, Parent

Providing a New Perspective on Learning Each day, we prepare our students to become intelligent and principled global leaders Academic success is just a starting point at GEMS World Academy – Chicago. Our International Baccalaureate curriculum approaches core academic subjects from a uniquely global perspective, one that helps students develop an intuitive sense of their connections to other people and cultures. As a result, GEMS students are engaged to apply what they learn to transform the world. Our colorful, award-winning building, equipped with state-ofthe-art technological resources, is purpose-built and designed to nurture students’ curiosity and inspire them to ask questions. We provide regular opportunities for students to engage with Chicago’s rich array of cultural institutions, neighborhoods and people, reinforcing the idea that learning happens everywhere. GEMS World Academy – Chicago is part of the GEMS Education network of schools, which has been providing quality education to children across the globe for 60 years. The advanced learning environment and real-world experiences offered at GEMS World Academy – Chicago prepare students to design solutions to next-generation challenges.

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Standing Apart in Chicago The six key components of our program add up to a uniquely powerful education experience GEMS World Academy – Chicago stands at the forefront of emerging thought and practice in education. Our global network provides students a unique “one school, many campuses” experience, along with a nuanced preschool-through-Grade-12 program that cannot be matched by any other school in the Chicago area. World of Innovation: Our inquiry-based philosophy, personalized instruction and creative use of technology prepare today’s young people for next-generation problems. Every aspect of our curriculum, from social studies to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), encourages high-level thought and a design-thinking approach to solving problems. World Languages: An emphasis on world languages begins with our youngest learners. We provide students with the skills needed to communicate in their choice of Mandarin, French or Spanish. Daily language instruction for all students is enhanced by additional language opportunities after school. Our approach acts as a catalyst to enhance cultural understanding. World Culture and Exploration: The International Baccalaureate curriculum that forms the basis of our program helps students develop a deep knowledge and understanding of region- and country-specific histories, perspectives and challenges. The technology embedded into our facilities allows students to co-learn and co-create with peers at GEMS Education schools around the world.


World As Our Campus: As part of the innovative Field Studies program at GEMS, students regularly move outside the school building to explore the people, institutions and neighborhoods of Chicago. Students apply what they learn on these focused expeditions to global issues. Our Upper School includes an international travel experience as part of the core program.



World Leaders in Education: GEMS has assembled a team of exceptional educators to bring our curriculum to life. Our distinguished teachers have studied and/or taught on six continents, and they bring a unique combination of expertise, energy and compassion to the classroom. We partner with global education leaders from colleges, universities and industry to ensure our faculty has access to cutting-edge research and pedagogy. World Citizens: The education program at GEMS ensures that our students understand the world’s diversity and complexity. Our students are inspired to take action, and to design solutions to problems of inequality and injustice in the world. We prepare students to be true global leaders.







As parents, we dream and plan to provide the best opportunities for our children. Our family is grateful to GEMS for partnering with us in raising our daughter to be a person of good character, a lifelong learner and a risk-taker. – Andrea and Stephen Saenim, Parents

Education with A Global Focus At GEMS, tradition meets innovation to provide an unmatched experience

The International Baccalaureate curriculum is acclaimed worldwide for its academic rigor and global focus. GEMS World Academy – Chicago is one of more than 4,500 schools around the world that offer at least one IB program. Teaching and learning at GEMS is built on students’ individual knowledge and interests, emphasizing “learning how to learn” and “how to discover.” We teach core subjects through transdisciplinary units that illuminate and reinforce the connections between academic disciplines. Our rigorous academic program, focused on STEM concepts and application, ensures that students develop the higherorder thinking skills necessary to succeed in college and beyond. Primary Years Program: This is the first step in students’ IB journey. Our program begins with our 3-year-old preschool students and continues through fifth grade. The PYP prepares students to be tireless, engaged and enthusiastic learners. In 2016, GEMS was accredited as an IB World School for its PYP — the only private school in Illinois to be so accredited. Middle Years Program: The MYP guides students in grades 6-10 through challenging inquiries of increasing depth and complexity. Students continue to seek and discover practical connections between what they learn and the “real world” around them. GEMS is a candidate school for the MYP. Diploma Program: The final program before our students begin college is the Diploma Program, which explores academic disciplines through three core elements — Theory of Knowledge, Creativity/Activity/Service and the Extended Essay. GEMS launches its high school in 2017 with a ninth-grade program and construction of an Upper School. Research shows that DP graduates are significantly more likely to attend highly selective colleges and universities compared to other students.




Curiosity and Discovery Our Lower School unlocks each student’s innate love of learning The Lower School at GEMS World Academy – Chicago creates the foundation that allows our students to succeed throughout their time at GEMS and beyond. Our compassionate teachers bring a hands-on, inquiry-based approach to the classroom, empowering students to ask questions and take ownership of their learning. From early childhood through upper-elementary grades, the student experience is grounded in the interdisciplinary Primary Years Program, the first phase of the International Baccalaureate curriculum. The program is further enhanced by the integration of Writer’s and Reader’s Workshop, Singapore Math and daily instruction in Spanish, French or Mandarin. Lower School students experience the joy of discovery through PYP units of inquiry, which are supplemented by the creative use of state-of-theart technological resources and regular opportunities to explore the rich variety of people, neighborhoods and institutions found in the city of Chicago. Lessons repeatedly ask students to consider alternate cultural perspectives, leading to a growing appreciation of diversity. Every day, students deploy a range of digital tools, like Keynote to collate and share data, GarageBand to record and edit podcasts, Evernote to collect audio notes in the field and iBooks Author to design and print books. By the time students are ready to move into the Middle School, they’re well on their way to becoming principled global citizens.








Our Middle School nurtures and develops each student’s emerging sense of his or her relationship to the world community.

Exploring Complex Questions Middle School students learn to approach problems with a designthinking mindset

The middle school years are a key time in a student’s personal and educational development. This is the period when students begin to grapple with large questions — questions about the world, identity and personal responsibility. Our Middle School, using the IB’s Middle Years Program, nurtures and develops each student’s emerging sense of his or her relationship to the larger world community. The MYP guides students through rigorous explorations of core academic subjects, including language arts/literature, math, science, world languages, social studies and the arts. Service learning and design are key components of our Middle School program, helping students develop a deep understanding of the way the world works and a passion for creating solutions to local, regional and global problems. The Middle School teachers at GEMS World Academy – Chicago focus on the whole student, helping students with social/emotional challenges as well as the academic and intellectual ones. Our students leave Middle School well prepared for the sophisticated inquiries that await in high school.


Building Leaders for The Future Our Upper School program prepares students for college and life beyond The Upper School years form the final phase of a student’s journey at GEMS World Academy – Chicago, representing the beginning of a new chapter in each student’s life. After completing the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program (MYP) as sophomores, Upper School students advance to the Diploma Program (DP), a sophisticated, challenging, well-rounded and internationally acclaimed curriculum. Through the signature experiences of the Theory of Knowledge course requirement and the Extended Essay, students transcend traditional explorations of core academic subjects. The DP requires students to pose sharper questions and develop a finely tuned cultural awareness. Students move beyond amassing factual knowledge to reflection on how they know what they claim to know. Research shows that IB graduates are significantly better prepared for university-level critical thinking and are more likely to complete their college degrees than counterparts from other programs. One study showed that 72 percent of DP graduates attended colleges and universities around the world that are known to be highly selective. In Upper School, students deploy technology to develop prototypes and create models of systems. The tools enhance the entrepreneurial mindset we seek to develop in our graduates. In keeping with the global focus established from the beginning, GEMS Upper School students engage with the larger Chicago community, creating authentic connections with local businesses, universities and cultural institutions. With an international experience embedded in the program, every student is a global citizen, prepared for success at the university level and beyond.










Language As A Key to Cultural Understanding Students receive daily instruction in a world language At GEMS World Academy – Chicago, we believe that intensive study of world languages is an important part of our mission to develop global mindsets in our students. We offer daily instruction in Spanish, French or Mandarin for all students, starting with our youngest learners in preschool. Our program allows students to achieve fluency in reading, writing, speaking and comprehending their chosen language. Our expert world language teachers enhance their pedagogy in partnership with Harvard University’s Brain.Experience.Education (BEE) Lab and other experts. By creating lessons that resonate across disciplines, our teachers help students develop high-level cognitive skills, such as interpretation and critical analysis. We approach the study of language as an important vehicle for intercultural connection and understanding. During the course of the year, students consider the role that language plays in cultural identity. They explore how their values and experiences differ from those of people across the world. Attitudes about the world become more nuanced, which in turn leads to greater empathy and an understanding and appreciation of global diversity.







Teachers encourage students to view technological resources as tools to enhance or expand their world.

Learning through STEM The tools for being a world-changer are part of the everyday life of students at GEMS

At GEMS World Academy – Chicago, we understand we are preparing students for an increasingly networked world. Our STEM program – an interrelated web of inquiry and skill-building in science, technology, engineering and math – develops a creative, problem-solving mindset in students, which in turn prepares them to be global leaders and worldchangers in the future. Starting with our earliest learners, technology is a key component of students’ daily lives. Students use iPads to collect and share data, take and edit photographs and create works of art. Our older students use MacBooks for research and communication. Robotics and coding are threaded throughout science, math and other parts of our academic program. Our Design and Innovation Lab, filled with 3D printers, laser cutters, engineering software and construction tools, ensures that all students develop a design-thinking approach to problem solving. Science, math and art teachers work closely together at GEMS to weave a STEM mindset into the curriculum. Our pedagogical approach is based on research and partnership with such institutions as Carnegie Mellon University, Northwestern University and Tufts University, providing our teachers and our students the very latest in integrated STEM theory and practice.



Redefining Where Learning Happens Field Studies turn Chicago into a hub of exploration, discovery

At GEMS World Academy – Chicago, the world is our classroom. As part of our innovative Field Studies program, students regularly venture outside our walls to explore institutions, neighborhoods, people and environments throughout the city of Chicago. Students use iPads and other data-collection tools on these excursions, transforming the city into a giant mobile-learning laboratory. Field Studies allow students to adopt multiple roles. They explore the city as scientists, researchers, engineers, designers, artists, anthropologists and sociologists. They develop an awareness of the systems that underlie societal structures. They derive inspiration from the professionals, civic leaders and change agents they interview out in the field. They discover the importance of asking deep questions. In keeping with our larger mission, GEMS students collaborate with students from around the world, applying what they learn in Chicago to global issues and contexts.



“Our children’s experience at GEMS has been exceptional. The teachers and specialists have been fantastic and they’ve truly made the city of Chicago their classroom.” –

– Matthew Wendorf, Parent





Enhancing The Learning Experience through “Encore” Opportunities Music, Art and Physical Education complete well-rounded academic program The intensive study of music, art and physical education deepens our academic program at every level. Music GEMS students learn musical theory and history through both choral and instrumental instruction. Weekly assemblies provide Lower School students with opportunities to explore culturally diverse folk songs and other traditional music, all with a GEMS twist. All students have multiple opportunities to perform for an audience, including the Lower School’s annual Winter Program concert and the one-act plays produced and performed by Middle School and Upper School students. Art Students at every grade level study a rich variety of artistic media, styles and forms. Students explore and create through drawing, painting, sculpture, photography and textiles. As students grow, they delve deeper into digital art and design. Our program examines the role that art plays in society past and present, and our teachers make it a priority to integrate art into other academic inquiries, including science. Regular trips to the Art Institute of Chicago and other cultural institutions encourage students to find artistic inspiration in the world around them.




Physical Education Challenging minds as well as bodies, physical education encompasses traditional sports and games while teaching students lifelong wellness lessons and the value of teamwork. Our gymnasium space is perfect for Lower School students. Middle School students make use of the city’s resources such as Lakeshore Fitness. Upper School students will have extended access to external facilities as our campus grows. Our after-school programs such as New Music School, Bollywood Groove, fencing, tae kwon do, language clubs, chess, student newspaper, GEMSCast and more are also available for additional enrichment.





All of our head teachers hold master’s degrees or the international equivalent. Our teachers have studied and/or taught on six different continents. They have earned the Heart of the School Award for Early Childhood Education, a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching and the Virginia Technology and Engineering Educators Association Teacher of the Year Award.

Bringing Our Program to Life The teachers at GEMS bring passion, creativity and expertise to the classroom

Skilled teachers are at the heart of any educational program — they make the program come to life. At GEMS World Academy – Chicago, we’ve assembled an exceptional group of caring, creative and passionate educators. Our teachers know how to challenge and inspire young people. They make it a point to take the latest best practices in the field and apply them in new ways in the classroom. With creative lesson plans that nurture passions and adapt to student needs, our teachers are role models as well as top-tier educators. Through a rigorous commitment to professional development, our teachers model the value of lifelong learning.


Making A Difference Across The World The GEMS Education network and the Varkey Foundation tackle global problems GEMS World Academy – Chicago is part of the GEMS Education network of schools, which educates more than 250,000 students from more than 170 countries around the world. One of the main priorities for the GEMS network is to develop an engaged social conscience in all of its students. The Varkey Foundation, the philanthropic partner of GEMS Education, puts that effort into action, advocating for children all over the world and organizing events that promote and support teachers and the important work they do. One of the keystone efforts of the Varkey Foundation is the Global Teacher Prize program, which was started in 2014. The program awards a $1 million prize each year to a teacher who elevates the profession with his or her work. The 2016 winner was Hanan Al Hroub, a teacher from Palestine who uses education to overcome the conflict and violence in her part of the world. These and other Varkey Foundation programs serve as a powerful example to students at GEMS World Academy – Chicago of the need to be a force for positive change in today’s complex world.




Viewbook 2016 9x12 web digital  

GEMS World Academy-Chicago viewbook, 2016

Viewbook 2016 9x12 web digital  

GEMS World Academy-Chicago viewbook, 2016