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.