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Learning through change-making: CAS
Michael Huber, Experiential Learning Coordinator at the High School

Parents at ISZL and other international schools will probably have come across the acronym CAS and have some an understanding of it as community and service work. CAS in Grades 11 and 12 and service learning in Grades 9 and 10 is so much more than that.

The three letters C, A and S stand for Creativity, Activity and Service and CAS is an integral part of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma programme. Students are required to engage in creative, active and service-orientated activities during the final two years of their IB experience. This may require students to take part in athletic activities like sports clubs or creative experiences like art clubs. This can be experiences offered in or outside school and they can also be student-initiated.

The heart of the CAS programme is the CAS project. This is a creative, active or service-oriented project which students initiate and carry out in collaboration with other students, teachers or an outside entity over the course of at least one month. Advanced Placement (AP) students carry out two service projects and students in Grades 9 and 10 work weekly in service learning groups.

The CAS or service learning project is often referred to as community service involvement, but it entails a lot more. The idea behind the project is that students learn through involvement in authentic, real-life situations. This involves research to identify genuine needs and extensive preparation before taking action. It also requires regular reflection on the successes and areas for improvement and students are required to demonstrate project outcomes at the end.

Through CAS and Service Learning, students learn to initiate projects, show perseverance to see them through, engage with issues of local and global significance and their ethical dimensions, as well as growing as learners and human beings. Even though many students at first see this programme as an add-on to the large amount of academic work which they have to complete during their final years, they soon realise that CAS allows them to use the knowledge gained in their subjects and adapt it to areas of personal interest. Hence the projects vary thematically and in the kind of service which is provided. While some students focus on service, which engages with issues of global significance, others have a much more individual focus. The service itself often takes various shapes and forms from indirect service like fundraising to awareness raising or direct contact with local or global non-governmental organisations (NGO).

One successful project initiated by two Grade 11 students this year was the collaboration with the refugee centre for unaccompanied minors in Immensee. A group of ISZL students go to the centre once a week to help these young refugees with their homework, their acquisition of the German language and their integration. The preparation for this project involved research of the situation of the minors as well as a discussion about the ethical implications of building and upholding relationships with the refugee children.

A more globally focused project is the Ghana Aquaponics team. Students in this group researched the opportunities of urban farming through aquaponic systems and the possibility of implementing it at their Personal Development Week (PDW) project in Ghana. Currently, they are installing an aquaponics tank at the Riverside Campus.

These are just two of the many CAS projects currently being carried out in the High School. Even though these projects often take more perseverance and work than assignments for their academic subjects, our students deeply value these learning experiences.

Feedback from our students:

CAS helped me to understand the importance of being able to step outside your own mind-frame to consider other perspectives and I believe that this is important wherever you go.
Megan, Grade 12

I enjoyed everything I did for CAS because it was what I liked to do in my free time. It allowed me to get to know people from other grade levels and it pushed me to try new things.
Nao, Grade 12

I like how CAS allows you to use your strengths and interests to organise a service project. It allows me to put the theoretical knowledge from my academic subjects into practice. 
Joey, Grade 11

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