The middle-school years are a unique time in the development of each learner. This is a time of tremendous intellectual, physical and emotional growth, when young people begin to wrestle with questions in more profound ways — questions about themselves, the world and their place in it. The Middle School at GEMS World Academy Chicago nurtures this deepening curiosity and growing sense of self through our inquiry-driven and academically rigorous curriculum.
GEMS is a candidate school for the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program (MYP). The MYP builds upon the inquiries completed in the Primary Years Program, enouraging students to make connections between their studies and the real world, preparing them for success in further study and in life. The MYP aims to develop active learners and internationally minded young people who can empathize with others and pursue lives of purpose and meaning. The program empowers students to inquire into a wide range of issues and ideas of significance locally, nationally and globally. The result is young people who are creative, critical and reflective thinkers.
The MYP helps students develop both subject-specific and interdisciplinary understanding. The overall framework of the program consists of the following:
Approaches to learning (ATL): Helping students learn how to learn by developing skills for research, critical and creative thinking, communication, collaboration and self-management
Key and related concepts: Helping students explore big ideas that matter
Global contexts: Helping students understand the relevance and importance of their study for understanding their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet
The MYP organizes teaching and learning through eight subject groups. The program promotes interdisciplinary study that helps students make important connections between the academic subjects. Integrated teaching and learning helps students analyze complex issues and develop the habits of mind they need to participate in our increasingly interconnected world. The subject groups are as follows:
Language and literature: Language is fundamental to learning, thinking and communicating. It provides an intellectual framework to support conceptual development, and it plays a central role in developing critical thinking; cultivating international-mindedness; exploring and sustaining personal development and cultural identity; and participating actively in local, national and global communities.
MYP language and literature courses equip students with linguistic, analytical and communicative skills that help to develop interdisciplinary understanding. Students develop skills in six domains — listening, speaking, reading, writing, viewing and presenting — both independently and with others. MYP language and literature courses include a balanced study of genres and literary texts, including a world literature component. Students’ interactions with texts generate moral, social, economic, political, cultural and environmental insights. Through their studies, students learn how to form opinions, make decisions and engage in ethical reasoning.
Math: The framework for MYP mathematics outlines four branches of mathematical study — number, algebra, geometry & trigonometry and statistics & probability.
The study of mathematics is a fundamental part of a balanced education. It promotes a powerful universal language, analytical reasoning and problem-solving skills that contribute to the development of logical, abstract and critical thinking. The MYP mathematics and extended mathematics courses promote both inquiry and application, helping students to develop problem-solving techniques that transcend the discipline and are useful in the world outside school. Mathematics in the MYP is tailored to the needs of students, seeking to intrigue and motivate them to want to learn its principles. Students should see authentic examples of how mathematics is useful and relevant to their lives and be encouraged to apply it to new situations.
Sciences: With inquiry at the core, the MYP sciences framework aims to guide students to independently and collaboratively investigate issues through research, observation and experimentation. The MYP sciences curriculum explores the connections between science and everyday life. As they investigate real examples of science applications, students discover the tensions and dependencies between science and morality, ethics, culture, economics, politics, and the environment. Scientific inquiry fosters critical and creative thinking about research and design, as well as the identification of assumptions and alternative explanations. Students learn to appreciate and respect the ideas of others, gain good ethical-reasoning skills and further develop their sense of responsibility as members of local and global communities.
Language acquisition: GEMS offers Mandarin, French and Spanish for study in Middle School. The ability to communicate in more than one language is essential to the concept of an international education that promotes intercultural understanding, and it is central to our mission at GEMS World Academy Chicago. The study of additional languages in the MYP provides students with the opportunity to develop insights into the features, processes and craft of language and the concept of culture, and to realize that there are diverse ways of living, behaving and viewing the world.
Individuals and societies: The MYP individuals and societies subject group incorporates disciplines traditionally studied under humanities and social sciences. This subject group encourages learners to respect and understand the world around them, and it equips them with the necessary skills to inquire into historical, geographical, political, social, economic and cultural factors that affect individuals, societies and environments.
The study of individuals and societies helps students to appreciate critically the diversity of human culture, attitudes and beliefs. Courses in this subject group are important for helping students to recognize that both content and methodology can be debatable and controversial, and for practising the tolerance of uncertainty. The IB’s approach to this subject area includes a strong focus on inquiry and investigation. Students collect, describe and analyse data; test hypotheses; and learn how to interpret increasingly complex information, including original source material. This focus on real-world examples, research and analysis is an essential aspect of the subject group.
Design: Design, and the resultant development of new technologies, has given rise to profound changes in society, transforming how we access and process information, adapt our environment, communicate with others, solve problems, work and live. MYP design challenges students to apply practical and creative-thinking skills to solve design problems; encourages students to explore the role of design in historical and contemporary contexts; and raises students’ awareness of their responsibilities when making design decisions and taking action.
Inquiry and problem-solving are at the heart of design. MYP design requires the use of the design cycle as a tool, which provides: the methodology to structure the inquiry and analyse problems; the development of feasible solutions; the creation of solutions; and the testing and evaluation of the solution. In MYP design, a solution can be a model, prototype, product or system independently created and developed by students. MYP design enables students to develop not only practical skills but also strategies for creative and critical thinking.
Arts: In MYP arts, students function as artists as well as learners of the arts. Middle School students at GEMS explore the visual arts and music.
Artists have to be curious. By developing curiosity about themselves, others and the world, students become effective learners, inquirers and creative problem-solvers. Students create, perform and present arts in ways that engage and convey feelings, experiences and ideas. Through this practice, students acquire new skills and master those developed in prior learning. Development in the arts is a dynamic process, and not necessarily linear. Students move freely through a creative process towards a deeper understanding of the arts. The process of creating artwork, as well as the product, demonstrates what students have experienced, learned and attempted to convey.
Physical and health education: MYP physical and health education aims to empower students to understand and appreciate the value of being physically active while developing the motivation for making healthy and informed life choices. To this end, physical and health education courses foster the development of knowledge, skills and attitudes contributing to a balanced and healthy lifestyle.
Students engaged in physical and health education will explore a variety of concepts that help foster an awareness of physical development and health perspectives, as well as positive social interaction. Physical activity and health are of central importance to human identity and global communities, creating meaningful connections among people, nations, cultures and the natural world. Through physical and health education, students learn to appreciate and respect the ideas of others, and develop effective collaboration and communication skills. This subject area also offers many opportunities to build positive interpersonal relationships that can help students to develop a sense of social responsibility and intercultural understanding.
GEMS World Academy Chicago launches its Upper School program in the fall of 2017, providing students an inquiry-based, college-prep curriculum that will prepare them not just for success at top colleges and universities, but also for leadership roles in our increasingly connected world. Upper School students complete the MYP, which runs through 10th grade and then leads into the rigorous International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (DP).
To complete our preschool-through-Grade-12 learning community, GEMS plans to add an Upper School to its downtown campus. The Upper School building, located adjacent to the Lower School, will provide a state-of-the-art learning environment for GEMS students in grades 9-12.