The GAIA Project is an environmental research project created to raise student awareness about local environmental concerns and take an active community-based role working towards a resolution. The GAIA Project is part of the Walworth Barbour American International School in Israel (WBAIS).
Middle and high school students enrolled in GAIA from different schools and socio-economic backgrounds work collaboratively under mentors to identify a specific question about a topic of interest or concern in their local community. Through scientific research, community engagement, and sharing collected data with their local and international network, they work towards developing and implementing a sustainable solution. A typical research question will need 3-5 years of data collection and analysis before the team issues a final summary.
GAIA projects have three stages: Awareness, Investigation, and Action.
GAIA raises student awareness through field trips to local nature reserves, wildlife habitats, and natural ecosystems as well as field experiences through workshops, collaborations with experts and consultants. These experiences build student appreciation and greater understanding for environmental issues both locally and globally. As students become more familiar with the local environment—and the local resources available to them—they begin to ask questions and select one essential question to investigate further.
After students develop essential questions, they begin to collect background information for a better understanding of the problem. Background information includes the basic facts and history, current issues, relevant statistics and local / global impact of your problem or issue. As data is collected, analyzed, and interpreted it is communicated locally to their school community. Once reviewed it is shared globally online. GAIA experts provide students feedback and constructive criticism on their essential questions, monitoring techniques, data collection, analysis and interpretation. As students interact with local experts and GAIA scientists, they begin to construct action plans.
GAIA organizes inter-school research activities to give students the opportunity to work and learn with each other. GAIA also arranges an annual symposium providing a venue for students from enrolled schools to present their research.
The GAIA Research Symposium
Each year, GAIA groups both locally and internationally will meet for The GAIA Research Symposium. This forum allows groups to share and present their research findings, discuss new models and protocols, and prepare the next year’s continuation of research. Action plans will identify potential solution(s) to local and global concerns and propose a time line for action. The GAIA project will adopt and endorse action plans that are considered most realistic, feasible, and practical. This truly involves GAIA students as scientific researchers and policy developers. Presently, there are two GAIA Research Symposiums. GAIA Greece hosts a January symposium at The Attica Zoo near Athens and WBAIS Israel hosts a research symposium in Israel in March.
GAIA founders and mentors believe that if our students are to change the world, they must be aware of the natural world as well as about the people in it, and be involved in local environmental studies. Then, they must act, “Think globally...Act locally.” In doing so, preparing students for global citizenship in an increasingly complex world.
At the end of the first cycle of Awareness, Investigation and Action, students summarize their efforts and then start the cycle over again with Awareness. In other words, after a year of research, what new lessons have been learned? New questions added about their research project, etc. Then the second cycle of investigation and action begin. For any given research project these cycles can repeat up to 5 years.
GAIA projects provide multiple avenues of opportunity for students to learn through its partnerships with universities, environmental agencies, technology/engineering companies, municipalities, and diplomatic connections. Research projects develop step-by-step problem solving and reasoning skills and cultivate curiosity and exploration for answers. Interpersonal and intercultural skills are developed as students collaborate in their communities and across the globe. As instruction shifts from teacher-directed, teacher-assigned schoolwork to student-initiated, goal-driven, independent, intentional learning with an emphasis on knowledge building, students become life-learners and thinkers. Skills developed lay a framework for students to study a number of fields.
GAIA SCHOOLS & INSTITUTIONS
Even Yehuda, Israel
Ramat Hasharon, Israel
El Beironi Junior High School
El Wasfiya School - Nazareth
Kfar Kama, Israel
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague, Czech Republic