CONNECTING WITH PEERS TO MAKE THE WORLD SMALLER
Read the news headlines on just about any given day, and the need for global education becomes clear. The social, political, economic and environmental problems that today's students will face in the not-to-distant future require nuanced and empathetic thinking to solve.
Because GEMS World Academy Chicago is part of GEMS Education, a global network of schools that serves more than 250,000 students from more than 170 countries, our students enjoy unique access to travel experiences that build a truly global mindset, one that will help our students overcome next-generation challenges that we can't even envision yet.
"Experiential travel provides learning opportunities to understand another place, different people and the uniqueness of self through challenges to the cultural framework we use to make sense of the world," Andrew Sherman, interim head of school at GEMS, said.
In November, a group of our Middle School students embarked on just such an experience — a 10-day learning expedition to Nepal. While there, our students worked with students from a local Nepalese school and peers from GEMS World Academy Dubai.
The GEMS students from Chicago and Dubai painted rooms in a new school that was built to replace one that had been destroyed in a devastating earthquake in Nepal in 2015. The new building was located on a different, and safer, site.
Deb Lasala, the Lower School STEM & innovation leader and Middle/Upper School design teacher at GEMS World Academy Chicago, accompanied and supervised our students on the trip. She said that as meaningful as their work on the battered Nepal school building was, the basic experience of being in another country — talking to the local students and learning about their lives — was just as valuable.
"You could see our students asking questions, considering different viewpoints and and learning about different experiences," Ms. Lasala said. "That happened as they spent time with the students from Nepal and the students from Dubai."
The Chicago students saw both urban and rural areas during the trip, and they met people from widely disparate socio-economic backgrounds. During the course of the experience, they discovered differences and similarities between themselves and the students they spent time with.
"We drew out our life stories and shared them with each other," a GEMS ninth-grader said, speaking about the Nepalese students. "We noticed that even though their lives were much different than ours, what they wanted in life, what meant the most to them, was very similar to our own thoughts."
GEMS World Academy Chicago is a premier private school that uses the International Baccalaureate curriculum framework. We are committed to an academic program that encourages students to take risks and be empathetic, engaged global citizens. Travel experiences like the trip to Nepal offer a key way to develop attributes like empathy, which is in high demand in today's workplace.
The school continues to develop collaborative travel opportunities with the four GEMS World Academies overseas in an effort to sustain a truly global education experience for its students.
"Students who had the opportunity to go on the GEMS trip to Nepal experienced the real value of international travel — establishing authentic connections with people in the host country through collaborative projects, socializing and shared experiences," said Tracey Wood, head of Upper School at GEMS World Academy Chicago. "International travel that allows students to move out from behind the tour bus windows to connect with others creates life-changing experiences."