IB CAS: staying active through quarantine

Katina Grigoraskos

The IB CAS guide defines activity as “physical exertion contributing to a healthy lifestyle, complementing academic work elsewhere in the DP”. In a technological age where students are spending more time sitting at a computer, hunched over, activity has become an essential mental and physical wellness asset.

As educators, it is imperative that we send the message to students that they have to take good care of both their minds, and bodies, in order to thrive academically, physically, and mentally.

Encourage students to take initiative

When life is uncertain, individuals naturally yearn for stability. Taking the initiative can be an empowering tool in finding a personal anchor and a feeling of security in the unknown. As one example of how an IBDP student reacted during her stay-at-home phase of the pandemic:

“I decided to take this crisis as an opportunity to get back on the workouts I’ve missed as an IB Diploma student…I committed this time to regain my healthy habit of sparing time for workouts on a regular basis as I have relatively more free time these days.”

Learning how to take the initiative may take some effort at first. Students can be encouraged to take initiative and create their own workout plans with some inspiration from YouTubers or using the free templates offered online. The challenge is becoming committed to daily or weekly goals. There are abounding resources on YouTube and various 30-day challenges, from yoga to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to martial arts. Given some examples, and some time to try out different videos to discover their personal fitness interests and styles, students can find suitable activities for them to develop physical wellness. Once the inspiration is there, initiative naturally follows.

Persistence is an important asset for the future

When students were under lockdown or staying home in self-quarantine, many of them learned the power of persistence. Especially as students move towards an uncertain future, they will need to learn how to continue moving forward in the face of adversity. When they make something a daily ritual, it is easier to develop their grit muscles.

Learning how to keep going and not give up can be built through the small steps of sticking to a 30-day challenge, as an example. As the CAS Coordinator who was always recommending these challenges to students, I decided to “walk the walk” and try out a 30-day yoga challenge during my own quarantine period. I learned a lot of valuable lessons through my experience, and ones I hope that students can gain benefit from. Firstly, I had to learn to motivate myself, especially when laziness or lack of motivation became obstacles. Secondly, I saw my attitude transform from an unwilling one to one that became conditioned to look forward to the new energizing start to my day. The more I stuck to my new routine, the more I felt the rewarding return of my investment of time and energy. I was able to “show perseverance and commitment”, as the CAS learning outcomes encourage our students to do. And lastly, I was able to recognize my own physical and mental growth and feel a sense of accomplishment. By the end of the 30 days, I was ready to keep going!

Think outside of the box, and put Creativity into Activity

If students have limited resources, they will have to be creative with their own environment. As a unique example of this, one student took advantage of the many stairs of her condominium to aid in her physical fitness:

“I went up all the stairs from the 4th floor (lowest) to 25th floor (highest) and took the elevator down. Even if I want to give up in the middle of the workout time, I am not able to open the door except for the 4th floor and 25th floor. Therefore, I could force myself to go up all the stairs to the 25th floor. I repeated this three times a day for 7 days, and I’m planning to continue this activity!”

In the same regard, students may have certain limitations that potentially make them feel as if they cannot fully participate in the ‘Activity’ part of CAS. Whether this is an intellectual, emotional or physical disability, it is important that the first message we are sending to students is that they can achieve what they conceive. Sometimes, it just takes a little thinking outside the box and find possibilities that are both suitable and accommodating. Activities can be modified or adjusted to meet all diverse needs and thus, we need to shine the light that illuminates this path for students to be creative in embracing their differences. Set a good example by offering creative solutions to students or helping them devise unique twists on activities. 

Benefit from the sharing of knowledge

With YouTube tutorials, students can learn their favorite K-Pop dances, or a new exercise outlet such as yoga, pilates, or Muay Thai, or they can take their favorite pre-recorded or live dance classes. To contribute in sharing knowledge, they can also create their own Activity resources, whether it be workout tutorials, dance choreography, or virtual live lessons for peers or the elderly. They can keep an updated blog of their weekly nutritional plan, healthy recipe ideas, workouts and exercise plans. Results can be shared with peers or a local community through vlogs or YouTube channels, also giving students the opportunity to learn video editing skills, develop communication skills, and gain confidence in their abilities. This teaches them how to wisely invest their time in giving back, or spending it with family and friends:

“I decided to do some activities at home so that I can also stay in shape and be fit. Once a week, as a family we go out and do fitness training. I am the coach of the fitness training, in this training we have different sections of exercising techniques.”

Dr. Katina Grigoraskos is the IBDP CAS & Events Coordinator and IBDP TOK Coordinator at Wells International School in Bangkok, Thailand. With ten years of international teaching experience and a PsyD in Human & Organizational Psychology, she is also an instructional facilitator for European International University’s Master of Education programme and a workshop leader at teacher conferences in the Asia-Pacific region.

Read part one in this series, which focuses on Creativity, here. And you can also read part three in the series here.

Looking to learn more about how you can support your IB students with CAS? Our student guide is provides advice and guidance on how to select a suitable CAS activity and how to approach the task: from planning and time management to what makes a successful and positive CAS experience. This resource is also helpful for CAS Coordinators and those involved in planning student CAS projects in their school.