POST BY: Helen Kirkwood, Sixth Form Community and CAS (Community, Activity, Service) Co-ordinator at The British School in The Netherlands

CAS stands for Creativity, Activity, Service and is part of The Core in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme.  IB Students are expected to spend time on CAS in addition to their academic studies during the two years of their course – CAS not only provides them with ‘time out’ from studying, but has many other benefits.

It is my responsibility as CAS Coordinator to convince the students that they will benefit greatly from the CAS programme our school offers. I have been in this role for 7 years now and throughout this time I have enjoyed seeing students mature and gain the confidence to initiate their own CAS experiences. Service is perhaps the most exciting part of CAS, as students often experience Service for the first time.

It is impossible to cover all the benefits of service learning in one post, but it is well worth mentioning some. Service is about addressing a need in a community local to the school or further a field. Students can work with young children, animals, elderly, refugees or disabled. At the start of Year 12, students take part in the ‘Generation Walk’ by taking elderly residents from a local residential home to a Café in the woods, giving them a tour around The BSN and providing them with a high tea at the end of the week. The benefits to the elderly are clear – fresh air, interacting with a younger generation, a change from the usual routine, a topic of conversation and a cherished memory to name just a few.

But what are some of the benefits of service learning for students?

• An insight into lives of others
• A way of stepping out of your comfort zone and using a foreign language to communicate
• Gain hands-on experience (possibly leading to an internship or job later in life)
• Greater understanding of diverse cultures and communities
• Learn about social issues
• Become more flexible and open to change
• Enhance your skills in areas of communication, collaboration and leadership
• Connect with professionals who you can learn from
• Learn to care for others
• Increased self-confidence
• A chance to reflect on your life and the lives of others
• Experience other people’s enthusiasm for a field of work

This last benefit is worth exploring and is also very apparent at school. Enthusiasm for a subject is the very thing teachers can show their students. It may be an interest in foreign languages or in physical geography or psychology, but it can also be enthusiasm for a charity or after school club.

Teachers leading by example are those running BSN’s Project Africa and the Teach Nepal Group and this was very apparent at the recent Talent Show which was held to raise money for the Butterfly Child Day Care Centre in Nepal. Team Teach Nepal’s enthusiasm about improving teaching and teaching facilities in Nepal is creating opportunities at school. It was a chance for students to use their organizational skills and talent in performing arts to raise money for a cause far away from The Netherlands. A chance for students to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and appreciate how lucky they are in comparison. A chance to benefit from service learning and CAS in so many ways – too many ways to write a comprehensive list in just one post.