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Innovation & Design

The broad concept of innovation is as core to the philosophy of GEMS World Academy Chicago as global citizenship. Innovation takes many forms in our program, from teaching design thinking to ensuring our teachers have access to the latest technology to improve learning outcomes and connectivity between home and school.

A Focus on Divergent Thinking

Without a clear, unified definition, innovation can feel like a buzzword in education. At GEMS, the goal of our design and innovation focus is to foster divergent thinking, or the generation of creative ideas by exploring a variety of solutions. Technology, robotics, and coding are all tools we use to foster divergent thinking. They are not a means to an end, though GEMS students regularly work on projects requiring the use of design and programming tools such as Scratch, HTML, CSS, Arduino, Python, and Adobe Creative Suite and become proficient in these tools by graduation.

We’re not looking for our students to just be problem solvers, but problem finders, and learn how to seek things out.

Dr. Greg Wilson, Director of the Center for Innovative Teaching & Learning

Technology at GEMS

Technology is ever-present in our lives today. As such, we are thoughtful about how we integrate it into our classrooms, ensuring that it always fuels and facilitates learning or presents a study opportunity in and of itself. Beyond computers and tablets, to which all students have access, students work with 3D printers, virtual reality devices, artificial intelligence, robots, drones, woodworking tools, Adobe Creative Suite, and state-of-the-art audio/visual equipment.

In the Curriculum

In every grade, at least one unit of inquiry, or in-depth exploration of a concept or big idea contains a physical design element. Design is also a required course for the IB Middle Years Program. In the GEMS Upper School, we focus on three strands of design: thinking, communications design, and product design, and often collaborate cross-disciplinarily with our arts teachers.

The reason behind our students’ work is the empathy that they have for others. Innovation is the language of empathy. We’re teaching them to change the future.

Peg Keiner, Director of Innovation

Faculty Spotlight

Director of the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning

Gregory Wilson

Years at Gems



Leadership, Middle School Faculty, Upper School Faculty


Uncovering unique experiences

Gregory Wilson is the new Director of the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning and the Design Teacher at GEMS World Academy Chicago. Prior to working at GEMS, he was the director of the innovation lab at Ross School in East Hampton, New York. He has developed technology, design and innovation learning environments for a wide range of students ranging from kindergarten to adults.

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