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Here’s one for students studying the International Baccalaureate diploma program. In my last article, I wrote about my experiences with the IB diploma program, and a little bit about CAS. A subject special to the IB, which requires students to spend the precious few hours they have, not doing school work, doing more school work. That’s right, a program that require students to find creative activities to do outside school, and use the experiences gained from these activities, as a part of their diploma.
In my previous article I wrote about some of the benefits students acquire from CAS, but that said I still remember how tough and tricky it was to think of new things to do for CAS. So, I decided to write a little inspiration sheet to all those students starting CAS and to all those students who are out of ideas as to what they can do to get CAS.
First, there are many restrictions as to what can count as a CAS activity. I graduated in 2016, so some of these restrictions may have changed and may be different regarding where you are in the world.
To me the most important points influencing which activities you can choose are as follows:
You must have a certain number of hours in each activity.
In my school, we were told that we needed 80 hours in each category. This was a way to make sure we got enough hours. Later we learned that we only needed 50 in each, and that those hours could be divided so they were e.g. 60-40-50.
You must have at least one activity that lasts for over 3 months.
One time activities and volunteer work are great, but you need at least one activity in which you participate at least 3 months. These activities are usually the ones you can incorporate into your daily routine, and those you get the most hours out of.
You must have a supervisor.
You must have a person that can vouch for the fact that you were indeed doing that activity, and maybe even write a small statement that you can use for your evidence. And no, the supervisor may not be a friend, fellow classmate, or a close relative.
You must have evidence for your participation and/or preparation of the activity.
If you do not Log your CAS hour in a log book, provide evidence such as pictures, statements from supervisors, planning programs and so forth, the Activity may be passed as inadmissible.
You’re not allowed to earn money from your CAS activities.
Learn a new instrument. - The first and obvious one is music. Not everyone is in to music and that’s perfectly okay, but simply taking lessons once a week will give you a lot of hours. Taking music lessons can very easily be the activity that lasts over three months, without completely ruining your weekly schedule. This activity can also be continued into other activities. Setting up informal concerts, benefit concerts, or forming a band are all ways in which you can use an existing activity to form new ones. Setting up concerts and forming bands will also count as service, as you are organizing events.
Getting evidence for solo lessons is a little more difficult than other activities. If your teacher will agree to be your supervisor (they usually do), you could have them write a statement of your progress after a few weeks. You can upload small recordings of the new songs, melodies, and exercises you have learned, and if you’re not a great fan of people listening to you playing or singing, just remember that it will only be your CAS teacher who will listen to the recordings.
Writing – Start a blog or use Vocal. – To all current IB students: you have the internet, USE IT! There are many places online, where you can start a small blog. This is not something that I personally did in the IB, but something that I have begun later. Remember that there are also sites made for fictional writing. If you have a school newspaper, it could be ideal to join. If you are not much for blogging or fictional writing but you still want to write about a few things I can suggest sites as Vocal. Vocal allows you to write articles in whatever topic you desire, but a word of warning. Vocal allows writers to earn money for their articles, if they get a certain amount of attention. There is a possibility of donating the money earned on the site, so you might need a word with your CAS teacher about the possibility of donating the money to charity. Another trouble with this suggestion is that you need a supervisor. Unless you are part of a school newspaper, where a supervisor might be easy to find, I’d suggest asking your personal CAS teacher. Not all CAS teachers will allow themselves to be supervisors for their student’s projects, so definitely have a talk with your CAS teacher before starting the activity. As long as you have a goal, such as gaining a better understanding of writing in a public forum. And if you can provide evidence for your work, it shouldn’t be a problem.
Providing evidence for this activity, would unlike finding a supervisor, be easy. You could, submit your published writing, but also drafts of your writing, research for a certain article or pictures you may have taken to illustrate the writing.
Participate in school activities. – I cannot stress this enough. During a school year, there are so many both one-time activities and long-term activities that you can participate in. The most notably I have experiences, are the annual school musicals. Whether you’re a stage person, a musical person, or a behind the scenes there is always something to do. This is also one of the activities that can reach over multiple areas. If you’re part of an ensemble or part of the planning/writing/staging committees, you could gain not only creativity but also action and service.
Finding supervisors for school activities is usually quite simple. Simply ask one of the teachers involved and they usually "have to" say yes. Providing evidence for these activities is also quite simple, just remember to take a bunch of photos of you or your group during your work. Big group photos can also be used. If you’re one of the actors or a musician, you could also upload images of your sheet music.
Clubs – This is a big one, that can be used in almost every category. I’m going to suggest two activities that I participated in and organized in these categories.
Creativity: This one might seem like a boring one, but it is during these hours that you can really score some hours. During my last year in the IB, my classmates and I all felt the pressure of mocks and assessments and extra time for CAS activities became limited. So, we created a book club. Yes, I know it sounds super boring and geeky but honestly almost all IB students are a little geeky now and again. Remember, you can get CAS hours simply for reading the book for the book club. In our book club we had a meeting once a week (with cake, of course). The person who had suggested the book for that week had to prepare a small list of questions about the book/chapters we had read. We then discussed these questions and used the answers/debates as evidence afterwards. Now, you can decide in your individual book clubs how long you want to spend on each book, but I’d advice to choose relatively short and "easy" reads. Most IB students are up to their neck in reading as it is, so choose subjects that are "easy" and seem more like a brain break rather than another piece of homework. In our group we read: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S Lewis, Looking for Alaska by John Green, 1984 by George Orwell, Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne and In Stahlgewitten by Ernst Jünger. Just to give you a few ideas.
Now I’m not saying that all IB students around the world must create book clubs, although that could be cool. A club can be about anything you want it to be. It’s a great way for multiple IB students to get a lot of CAS and you can stir it in any direction you want it to be. Remember, if you’re the creator of a club you can get both creativity and service.
Action: Another type of club you can create is a fitness club/group. As I am Danish, I completed the IB diploma in Denmark. In my year group there were about 60% who spoke Danish and the rest only spoke English (or English and another language). I found that many of my friends who didn’t speak Danish found it difficult to join Danish sports teams or go to Danish fitness classes, as they didn’t understand the language. So, a friend of mine and myself decided to form a small pilates class for beginners, taught in English. My friend and I would write the programs for each class, manage room bookings (we borrowed rooms from the school), and instruct the pilates class. The class was only an hour, once a week, but it was one of the most rewarding CAS experiences I have ever had. Not only did our fellow students and ourselves get exercise, but we also had a lot of fun. For this activity, we all had our CAS teacher as our supervisor.
For evidence, we took photos, kept attendance sheets, and the instructors used our workout plans as evidence as well. This was honestly such a fun experience and a great way to gain new friends, gain some leadership skills, exercise, and just have fun. I highly recommend doing this.
Join a sports team. – This is another somewhat obvious one. Most schools around the world have different sports teams you can join, and if sport isn’t your thing, maybe look for a dance team. Just remember that it must be a new sport. So, if you have been playing with the same team for 10 years, you might have to find a way to reinvent your sport. Maybe try it at a higher level, become a coach and participate in big events such as big games, competitions, shows, and such.
For evidence, remember to take a lot of photos of training sessions, games, programs, posters, and tickets.
Sports Days – This one is linked to other school activities. Most schools have annual sports day, or active events. Take advantage of the events that are practically given to you. If you’re smart, you could throw yourself into the planning committee of these events and not only gain action but also service.
Since these events are usually planned by the school, you should be able to get a teacher as a supervisor and as with the other sports events, photos and videos are your best friend for evidence.
Use the elder community. – This activity is very dependent on where you are in the world, and what type of active elder programs are available. Some homes for elderly or disabled people have programs that aim to get the residents outside and moving. In Denmark there is a cycle initiative, that allows volunteers to rent a taxi bike (from the elder home) and cycle around with elderly people. It sounds a little strange, but not only is it a good way for you to get some exercise, it is a way to allow people who aren’t mobile to get some fresh air and to get outside. It is also a great way to connect with your local elder community. Imagine how you would feel, if you had been mobile your whole life and then found yourself chained to a chair in a home where people treat you like a patient. It sounds crude, but this is how many elderly people feel when they’re put in a home for the elderly. Even if you don’t have a program like this, explore your options for helping others become mobile.
This isn’t only an action activity, but also a service activity, and most importantly; a kindness. You could ask one of the elder home’s employees or the manager to be your supervisor, and again photos are your best friend for evidence.
Elder Homes – Continuing in the same line as before. Engage yourself with your local elder community. Even just being a visitor, helping wherever you can once or twice a week for a couple of hours can not only give you a lot of service hours, but also introduce you to a new society. I was a visitor at a home for elders with early on-set Alzheimer’s, and sometimes all the residents need is company. Someone to take them on a walk, to play cards with them, to have a conversation with them, to treat them like a human. If you play an instrument, I can suggest you play a few songs at your local home. It may seem like a small thing, but it may mean more to the residents than it does to you.
When it comes to evidence, you may not be allowed to take photos with the residents. Usually must wear a visitor/volunteer badge in a home so take pictures of that. You can also ask the staff if you’re allowed to take photos with them or get statements from them about your visits and participation.
Volunteer: Concerts, festivals and benefits, races, open houses—This is the easiest way to score some one off, volunteer points. Cleaning up trash at festivals, handing out flyers for concerts, road blocking for races/games and more. Public events usually love, love, LOVE volunteers, so go ahead and dive in. It might not be the most fun events, but if you are looking for service points, these are great places to start. Schools, colleges or others usually also have open houses, these events are usually short, so you can fit them into your schedule.
Organizers will often agree to be your supervisors and evidence wise, use correspondence between you and the organizers, posters of the event, photos of the events and maybe try to get a couple of your IB buds to do this with you. Then it won’t be boring work and might actually be quite fun.
Summer Camps – Thought you could only get CAS during the school semesters? Think again. Become a supervisor for a summer camp, take part in a summer camp (Band camp, Sports camp, Scouts camp, summer festival etc.).
Some camps allow supervisors to be there for free if they lead certain activities and groups and as an IB student you should be an expert in this! There’s also the possibility to do volunteer work during the summer holiday, like building houses. These summer activities can allow you to earn 50+ hours of service (Depending on the place), so you could almost complete a whole section of CAS during one summer. Most camps have organizers that can be your supervisors, and as for evidence go crazy with photos, videos, excursions, plans, schedules, activities, correspondence, badges, and so forth.
Doing CAS isn’t easy. It’s stressful and sometimes you feel as if you just can’t think of something to do. In general, try to make it easy for yourself. The beauty of CAS is that you can tailor it to your own personality and to your own schedule. There are so many loop holes, so use them! A big tip is to try and get most of your CAS done the first year, then CAS won’t distract you when you’re worrying about mocks and exams, keep your eyes and ears open and be creative. I hope there were a few ideas you could use or that inspired you to a new idea. Good luck!