CAS (creativity, activity and service) is one of the three essential elements that every student must complete as part of the IB Diploma Programme. Throughout the VI form at MCM students participate in a range of activities alongside their academic studies with the aim to enable students to enhance their personal and interpersonal development by learning through experience. CAS provides opportunities for self-determination and collaboration with others, fostering a sense of accomplishment and enjoyment from their work. At the same time, CAS is an important counterbalance to the academic pressures of the DP (ibo.org).
I believe that although CAS is formally just a VI form element, the basis and principles that underpin the programme are fostered throughout the College. Through games, activities, trips, regular service opportunities and the school farm, there are a huge variety of experiences that students are offered all the way through the school. These extra-curricular experiences develop a sense of self and purpose for some students which actively enables them to flourish throughout their time at school.
Further to this, CAS encourages students to reflect upon their experiences, to think back about the progress they have made, and to think ahead to how they could improve for the future. When students participate in new experiences, especially experiences that are outside of their comfort zone, a lot of learning can take place. This reflection and learning can enhance the student’s experiences and help them truly flourish. I believe there are a large number of benefits to active reflection which include:
- Giving meaning to the experience, creating a positive purpose.
- Improving ethics of service as volunteers examine the effects of their behaviour.
- Improving collaboration and teamwork skills. Looking back on how a team works can make a huge difference and can develop positive relationships.
- Cultivates life-long learning skills in both positive and negative experiences.
- Encourages a broader perspective of other’s experiences.
- Acknowledges gained skills which builds confidence and develops a sense of positive accomplishment.
Each strand in CAS enables students to thrive in a variety of ways:
Creativity – The arts, and other experiences that involve creative thinking can develop positive engagement and emotions. Students are able to take a break from rigorous academic tasks. They are encouraged to learn a new skill or progress skills further. This includes participating in music, drama, art and at MCM it also includes taking part in a variety of cross-culture events including Nations Day, Chinese New Year Fair’s and Burns Night Supper. The benefits of creativity in and outside of the classroom are huge.
Activity – Physical exertion contributing to a healthy lifestyle truly develops positive health as well as positive relationships. MCM students are regularly involved in active experiences through games, PE and swimming lessons. There are also a huge variety of extra-curricular clubs before and after school which complement the programme. Students are encouraged to reflect upon how they are developing during these sessions, not just what has gone well, but also what may not have gone well in some sessions. I believe reflecting on how you are improving makes students more self-aware of their own abilities, as well as others around them.
Service – Voluntary experiences have real learning benefits for students and develop positive purpose and emotions. There are a large variety of service opportunities at MCM from beach cleans, to helping with local orphanages. Service activities encourage students to look at the world in a different light, and can bring students closer to some of the real world issues. Giving your time selflessly to others (or the environment) can have real benefits to wellbeing. Some of the benefits include:
It improves gratitude – students learn to be less focused on personal issues and more aware of things happening in the world.
It improves self-esteem and self-confidence – being a part of a group that makes a difference to others makes students feel good, and even if the experience doesn’t go perfectly, whatever has been accomplished can be seen as positive.
It fulfils a basic need of contribution – every experience that helps someone or changes the world in a positive sense, gives a boost of happiness. That’s because your dopamine is influenced by your altruistic behaviour, so the more you exhibit it the happier and more fulfilled you’ll become (charityjob.co.uk).
Finally, VI form students are also expected to undertake a CAS project where they can demonstrate these concepts of flourishing. The project challenges students to show initiative, demonstrate perseverance and develop skills such as collaboration, problem solving and decision making. Our students have truly shown all these skills throughout the vast array of projects which include setting up and running activity days for the less fortunate in our local community, improving the school farm and reflective garden, helping the estates staff with their English, logging ecological data on the coral reef in Rawa, and a many many more. Each project has a service element to it which helps the students see a real purpose to it, and encourages positive engagement into improving the local environment and others’ lives.
I believe that the idea of CAS should not just be a pigeon hole at the end of a student’s education, something that has to be ‘ticked-off’ to complete the IB Diploma; rather something that is embedded into the centre of every child’s learning. The amount of positives from a broad array of extra-curricular experiences can develop a student far more than just what they learn in the classroom, and here at MCM we enable every child to prosper because we can see the ideals of this programme throughout the entire College.
Matthew Fuller, CAS Co-ordinator