Landscape As Learning: A New View of Field Studies


Education for a World Without Borders

For students to become global citizens, they must explore, ask questions, observe, empathize and act in the world without borders. During the year at GEMS World Academy - Chicago, a minimum of four hours each week are dedicated to Field Studies, in which students actively explore cultural institutions, neighborhoods and natural landscapes throughout the city of Chicago. Our extensive Field Studies program allows students to be self-driven researchers who see their world as a learning laboratory. It also helps them make connections between their local environment and those of other cities and cultures.

Our Field Studies challenge students to engage in an active way with the world — to observe, record, question and share. Students use iPads and other methods to collect data that can lead to new avenues of exploration. Learning in the real world helps broaden students’ collective understanding of where and how learning can happen. We believe that seeing and studying the world as it is, and working on how it might be otherwise, is at the root of community-based learning and global citizenship. To date we have facilitated 75 unique field studies with iPads into the city of Chicago.

Case Study

Grade 1: Field Study to Wooded Island

The first grade took a Field Study to Wooded Island in Chicago to observe the ecosytem and collect data for their biodiversity unit. During the week prior to the field study, students researched biodiversity through

  •        books,
  •        online resources,
  •        borrowed exhibits from the Field Museum,
  •        play
  •        a guest speaker who researches the birds of Chicago.
  •        classroom exercises conducted on Windows 8-embedded surface boards mounted on the wall

This research is essential for contextualizing the Field Study itself. On the day of the Field Studies, students travel by bus to Wooded Island, a nature preserve in the heart of Chicago. The students are in the field for four hours and use their iPads to record observations in different ways so that they can analyze their many findings back at school. Most children take photos and annotate over them with the Application Skitch or use the Application Evernote to capture audio field notes of flora and fauna. The students also collect live samples from the lake with field science equipment.  Back at school and throughout the weeks ahead, students analyze and synthesize the data collected, connect the Field Study to their unit of inquiry through writing and math as they create models and simulations of food webs. As a capstone to their Field Studies the students process their experiences through a Ornithologist challenge. Using all of the multimedia created, they began to  interpret, edit, and upload projects such as a student field guide to the birds of Chicago to share with the world.

In the News

The Fulcrum Blog: Mobile Learning With GEMS World Academy - Chicago