By Colin Jun
All IB Diploma students must work on their CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service) experience and CAS projects. For some of you, CAS will seem like a huge burden to carry on for eighteen months. It is not an easy task for IB students to achieve while completing all their homework, internal assessments and preparing for their tests. However, it is also not impossible to succeed in CAS.
1. Finding the CAS activity or CAS project.
When I first heard about CAS, I had no idea what I had to do for eighteen months. Some of the school club activities fit well with CAS, but they were not enough for me to continue for eighteen months. I also had to start thinking about my CAS project so that I can complete it in my first year. The problem was that I did not know where to find the activities. I was not very fluent in Chinese nor did I have prior connections with any outside organizations in Shanghai. Interestingly, the solution to this struggle was not far away from me.
The first solution was the school itself. For my CAS project, I was able to get a great opportunity from our middle school. Through the announcement, I heard middle school is looking for students to decorate the MS Band Wall. Fortunately, I could obtain that opportunity and finish my CAS project in my first year. Similar to my experience, there are many opportunities for CAS projects and CAS activities in our school. Not only in our high school, reaching out to the middle school and the elementary school is also an important strategy to get an opportunity.
The second solution was to use the Internet. I was able to get in contact with the local volunteer group Hands on Shanghai through the internet search, my activities with Korean organizations could also be achieved through the internet/email advertisements about them. I visited the websites of many volunteer groups and non-governmental organizations and sent emails to people to ask for opportunities. I also looked for possibilities from my home country, Korea.
Overcoming hesitation is also essential. When I first joined Hands on Shanghai and informed to participate in the first volunteer activity, my halting Chinese made me worry about communication with Chinese people at the hospital. However, on my first day, I learned that my fear was groundless. My limited Chinese skills still allowed me to communicate with people and other volunteers also helped me to interact with people. People outside of school are also interested in our CAS experience and are kind enough to provide the opportunity to the students, help us in our activities and offer CAS supervisor review. Only when you break your shell, can you gain a great experience.
2. Writing the reflections and keeping up with reflections
There are various ways to write CAS reflections. The first method is to write both descriptions of the day (activity) and commentary about goals for every reflection. In many cases, this is reflected as the extended reflection – and takes longer time than usual – but it lessens your burden as you get closer to the end of the CAS experience, since most of the content is already included in each reflection. The second method is to write a description of your day of CAS experience in your reflections and write a lengthy commentary about the goals at the end. This method is good for people who struggle with time management. However, in this case, it is crucial for one to take the notes about their feelings/goals during the CAS experience.
Some people have difficulty with content, and some others have trouble on the path of uploading their reflection. For the former problem, I recommended to bringing a small notebook to their activity. I usually carry the small notebook or a piece of paper to the activity so that I can write what I have done today and how I feel about the activity today. These notes also assist you in writing a lively reflection. For the latter kind of people, it is essential to find a time in a week that you will only work with CAS. For IB students, checking Managebac every day may seem like writing the reflection every day may not be the best use of their time. If this is the case, find a time of the week you can concentrate only on CAS reflections. Since you have made a note about activities and your feelings, writing the reflection will not take a long time.
I prefer to write my CAS reflections in a structure of an essay. As my introduction and hook, I write a short reflection about my goals, what I’ve prepared to participate in the activity so far. As soon as I join in the experience, I write my body paragraphs based on PEE (Point, Evidence, Explanation) structure. As my point, I describe the work I’ve done that day, and for the explanation, I analyze how the activity is related to achieving my CAS experience goals and how I felt about this experience. The evidence, in this case, will not be included in the form of photos, documents, and websites. At the end of my experience, I provide the overall conclusion. It often comprises whether I achieved the personal CAS goals and answered the guiding questions on the CAS reflection page. Following the essay structure, it was easy to meet all the requirements for CAS reflection, and the narrative/logic in the reflections was naturally developed.
CAS experience and CAS project is a unique and yet complicated task for IB students to achieve. It took time for me to get used to it. However, CAS is not impossible. Use CAS as an opportunity to have a meaningful experience at your high school!