CAS. If that means something to you, you’ve probably heard the term a lot lately. Maybe you’re about to start the IB for the first time this Autumn. Or maybe you’ve already done a year of the IB but want ideas for how to make the most of it next year.
We remember from our own IB experience how easy it can be to run out of steam amongst all the other work. But CAS should be one of the best parts of your IB Diploma experience! This post is designed to help you regain perspective of what CAS is, to inspire you to try something new, and to help you answer that ‘what do I do?’ conundrum.
The CAS Basics
To help us think outside the box, let’s start by reminding ourselves what CAS actually is.
In super simple terms, CAS is a bunch of enjoyable and meaningful experiences which you get involved in alongside your academic studies. They fall into one of three categories (or are a combination of multiple):
Creativity – the IBO defines creativity as something that lets you explore your original thinking and expression. A bit vague, yes, but that’s because it’s supposed to give you the freedom to decide how you will do this. Playing an instrument, acting, creative writing, drawing… all of these fall into the Creativity category, but there’s also so many other things you can do as well.
Activity – this is anything that contributes to your physical well-being. It can include the sports you play in school as well as dancing, running, or anything else you do which counts as a genuine, challenging physical activity. Yes, solitary running or cycling does count as long as you ensure it fits the CAS criteria.
Service – probably the one which the least IB students are familiar with. Basically it’s about contributing to your community and society. Charity work fits, but so does work to support an individual, or group of other people you know. Fun fact: Lanterna itself has its roots in a CAS Service project!
There are specific requirements and things you need to do throughout your CAS programme, but we’ll go into these in more detail during our In-Depth Guide to CAS later on this year. For now it’s best to think about what you enjoy and what you can challenge yourself to try.
Use what you already do
This is the first thing to think about if you’re starting CAS for the first time next year.
- Take a piece of paper and brainstorm all the things you already do outside of your academic studies. For now include even the tenuous ones that don’t seem to fit anywhere, like reading comics or walking to school.
- Go through your list and label each thing according to which CAS strand it ‘could’ fall under.
- Highlight the things you’d like to carry on with in some way throughout the IB. Remember that you don’t have to carry on with it in exactly the same way (we’ll go into this in just a moment).
- Now look at the gaps. Have you got a balance of Creativity, Activity and Service? If you find that you have a plethora of creativity possibilities but nothing whatsoever that gets you off your couch and into anything resembling activity, or vice versa, take note and read on!
Note: Remember that CAS shouldn’t overlap with your course requirements. This means that even if you spend 10 hours a week painting for visual art, this cannot be used for CAS unless you’re doing a separate project. However if you discover that you love charcoal drawings in one of your classes you can then use this discovery to turn it into a CAS charcoal drawing project.
Think outside the box.
CAS is supposed to challenge you to try new things and stretch your abilities. So do that! This is the perfect time to experiment with doing things you’ve never done before. If you wrote ‘reading comics’ in your list of things you already enjoy doing, this won’t count towards your CAS. But creating your own comic book will! Even if you can’t draw you could collaborate with someone who can and write the story. Similarly a walk to school could turn into a timed bike ride to school.
If you’re the type of person who never doesn’t anything you would call ‘creative’, or who never (willingly) does anything you would classify as exercise, take this chance to find a happy compromise. If you hate football and any kind of team sport, what about yoga? If you can’t draw or act or do anything traditionally creative to save your life, think about what you can do to express yourself. One student we know didn’t think of herself as creative until she started combining photography with science, and taking photos of different kinds of plants. Suddenly she was doing something creative while also thinking scientifically! We loved her project so much we even gave her a scholarship to one of our Mid-IB courses.
Combine CAS with what you love
We’ll be honest. We know that sometimes what you really want to do has nothing to do with what might directly be termed a ‘CAS experience’. However it is totally possible to combine what you want to do with what will count towards CAS. It’s all about adding an element of planning and challenges to the mix.
Say for example you love baking. Why not organise a cake sale for charity? To stretch yourself even further you could set yourself a target of how much money you want to raise, which will naturally require you to bake more than you ever have before. Everyone wins!
Or, if you want to be extra sneaky, you can do what you want to do during your CAS activity. Say all you really want to do is catch Pokémon. Organise a lovely hiking trip that will take you to all the fun types of places ideal for creature catching (forests, lakes, you know what I mean), and play the game as you go! You don’t even need to tell anyone that your productive CAS hike was actually to add to your Pokedex.
Maybe we’re just a bit obsessed?
Try something completely new.
You know that thing you always hear about, think ‘that’s so cool’, but never try? Now’s the time to try it. Learn karate. Teach yourself how to direct and edit a film. Go to that local donkey sanctuary and ask to volunteer. Use CAS as an excuse to do the things you always wanted to do! That’s the point, we would argue (plus, as a bonus, it’ll be harder for your parents to say no to if it’s all for the worthy purpose of your Diploma).
Good luck! And remember you can tell us about your favourite CAS project next year to win a scholarship to our Mid-IB Summer Courses!