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Food Justice Begins with Me!

On April 7th, 11th Graders hosted the 2nd Annual Food Justice Youth Summit to build awareness about food justice issues. The event held at Friends Meeting of Washington, featured keynote speaker, Lauren Nixon, a Food and Wellness Educator, and more than 20 student-led sessions on topics ranging from GMOs and food labels, to factory farming and the intersection of food and race, with such creative titles as “Don’t Eat it! Just Beat it!” and “Can You Taste the GMO?”

Along with Capital City's student-led workshops, partner organizations Mighty Greens from Eastern High School, the University of the District of Columbia, Senzu Juicery, and American University also led sessions, which included “Launching a Successful Youth Cooperative Business” to “Bees and Your Dinner Table.”  This was the first year that multiple organizations joined Capital City students in leading workshops.


“This event was very powerful,” said High School Principal Belicia Reaves. “The students’ presentations were authentic, well researched, and of very high-quality. Adults and students were fully engaged, asking questions and even furiously taking notes about what they learned. I was very impressed."

Mary Lord, At-large District of Columbia State Board of Education member, observed on Twitter that the event demonstrates, “What deeper learning looks like, [as] students use unequal obstacle course to show food injustice.”

This year’s event attracted nearly 200 attendees, including students from Cardozo High School, Eastern High School, Friendship Technology Preparatory Academy, Latin American Youth Center, and Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter School.

“In one of the sessions I attended,” said Aleghzia, a 9th grader at Friendship Tech in Southeast Washington, DC and a member of Tech Prep Greenhands (her school’s urban farming club), “the presenters told us about what is in fast food and showed us food that three days later looked the same. I did not know that! I never want to eat fast food again.”

The summit would not have been possible without the amazing work of our 11th Grade Team and partners -- DC Greens, City Blossoms, Dreaming Out Loud, and MLJ Event Management.

About Capital City Public Charter School's Food Justice Expedition


The 11th grade Food Justice Expedition is an interdisciplinary study (a key component of the EL Education model) of the impact of food on our community--both locally and globally. Three essential questions guide the students’ investigation: How does what I eat reflect who I am?, Where does our food come from?, and What food choices must we make to secure our future?

The expedition began with an exploration of students’ families and the significant role food plays in dictating cultural identity. The students worked with volunteers from 826DC to then create their own recipes and stories. Students then examined today’s food sources and the journey from farm to table by visiting local farms in the DC area with support from DC Greens and OSSE’s Farm Field Trip grant. During the third and final component, students evaluated the impact individual and policy-level decisions have on the future of our world. After gaining an in-depth understanding of why our food system is broken, students discovered alternative paths that ensure healthy, sustainable, affordable food for all, and then presented them at the Food Justice Youth Summit.


5th Graders Learn to “Know Your Rights”

This year’s presidential campaign has not been lost on Capital City 5th graders. Coincidentally, the year-long theme of their expedition is activism. Through their humanities classes, students have been studying the origins of our government, and the role that the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights plays in defining our political identities as part of a “Know Your Rights” unit. Within this context, the students chose to focus deeper on immigration and racial bias, two highly debated issues, to learn more about how government creates laws and policies that can seem contrary to our rights. Through this study, students gained important background knowledge to discuss people’s rights and how people can affect change in their community.

However, they wanted to know more. What is you think that a law is contrary to the Bill of Rights or you do not agree with it? What can a 5th grader do?

To better understand what it means to be an activist, Ms. Hull’s humanities classes met with Dr. Robert Ponichtera, Executive Director of Liberty’s Promise, a nonprofit that provides civic engagement and job skills training programs for immigrant youth, and Dr. Timothy Jenkins, a Teaching for Change board member and civil rights activist.

As part of Dr. Ponichtera’s visit, he encouraged the students to get involved in their school and “to listen for leadership” when making decisions that affect their community. He shared his belief that the United States is still a country that immigrants seek out, and if that’s the case, then there must be something good about the United States. He then decided to help immigrant youth learn about and get involved in their community through his civic engagement afterschool programs that now serve more than 800 immigrant youth in the Washington, DC metro area each year.

Dr. Jenkins shared how he first became politically active during the civil rights movement because he saw the importance of voting to help amplify the voice of persons of color.  The students had many questions, from asking Dr. Ponichtera, how could the U.S. claim to be a nation of immigrants and then turn immigrants away, to asking Dr. Jenkins, if racial issues have improved since the 1960s.

The students were not the only ones learning about American history and activism this semester. “I feel so grateful to be teaching in a city and a school where my knowledge of the world is being pushed. […] my students have taught me so very much,” noted Fifth Grade Humanities Teacher Rachel Hull in a letter to Dr. Jenkins.

To culminate their study on “Know Your Rights,” 5th graders will present their documentary that explains the role of activism through their study of the U.S. Constitution and interviews with Drs. Jenkins and Ponichtera on Thursday, April 7th from 6-7:30pm in our cafeteria. Please join us for this world premiere, and expect to be challenged to become an activist in your own right!


Two Capital City Seniors Selected for Posse Scholarships

Two seniors were awarded the prestigious Posse Scholarship in an award ceremony on Wednesday, January 6th. This full-tuition scholarship includes on-going mentorship & internship opportunities for awardees.  This is the first year that Capital City has had TWO Posse Scholars. Danny will attend the University of Rochester to study engineering & Mesgana will attend Sewanee: The University of the South to study biology & pre-med. Previous Posse Scholars now attend Sewanee: The University of the South (alumni from Class of 2012, 2014, & 2015) and University of Wisconsin - Madison (Class of 2013). Congratulations to these students, their families, & teachers for this incredible honor & opportunity!

A student admires a freshly harvested sweet potato during the annual fall harvest of the White House Kitchen Garden with First Lady Michelle Obama, Oct. 6, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

4th Graders Attend White House Garden Harvest with the First Lady

Six Capital City 4th graders participated in the First Lady’s White House Kitchen Garden Harvest on October 6th.  The students were randomly selected and 4th Grade Classroom teacher, Katie Korinek, and School Garden Coordinator, Ryoko Yamamoto, accompanied them to the White House.

The students helped the First Lady pick vegetables from the White House Kitchen Garden and feasted on culinary dishes prepared by the White House Chefs with their harvested vegetables as part of the Let’s Move Campaign.  The White House invited Capital City based on the impressive reputation of our school garden program.  Our garden program is currently in its fourth year of operation; a large focus of which is to create a school culture in which students seek out healthy, local foods when making meal decisions. The school’s 2,400-square feet garden includes an outdoor classroom, eight vegetable beds, five fruit trees, and an in-ground pollinator garden. We also offer farm-to-table cooking electives for students that use resources from the garden to teach kids how to cook simple, healthy meals.

OBama lightened

Students also met Bo Obama, one of the First Family's two dogs.

Students also met Bo Obama, one of the First Family's two dogs.


WH group


Into the Woods: Capital City forges unique partnership with PATC

It’s that time of year. Summer is ending and students are heading back to school. This year, though, instead of lamenting the end of warm days and hunkering down for the onslaught of colder weather, Capital City and The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) are embarking on a unique partnership intended to provide urban youth and their families opportunities to engage in year-round outdoor learning, community service and recreational activities.

On Thursday, August 27th,  PATC volunteers joined students, parents and staff from Capital City’s Lower School in Rock Creek Park for a back-to-school fieldwork experience, a key component of Capital City’s Expeditionary Learning approach, that included a picnic dinner, family hikes and other activities designed to celebrate families and encourage them to spend more time together outside. This marked the first official event of this important partnership after a year’s worth of planning.

“It was great to have our families out enjoying nature in Rock Creek,” said Amy Wendel, Capital City Lower School Principal. “What a great way to set the tone for the new school year. It gave families a sense of how we try to make use of the natural areas around us as learning environments. I think it encouraged them to get out and enjoy nature as a family, too.”

The relationship between Capital City and PATC developed from a shared commitment to address barriers that typically discourage people--young people and families in particular--from developing meaningful relationships to the natural world. Together , the two organizations are working to address issues of access to natural environments, lack of experience or confidence in nature, and persistent misperceptions that hamper families from getting outdoors.

Though in its early stages, Capital City and PATC expect that the partnership will become a model for other like-minded schools and nature-focused organizations. The participation of PATC volunteers, activities, and resources help build upon Capital City’s long commitment to providing all students with nature-based experiences through its Adventure program, which is an integral component of the school’s curriculum.

“As the population of the region grows and demographics change, PATC is making an effort to get underrepresented groups involved in outdoor activities,” said Dick Hostelley, President of PATC. “We want everyone to know about the natural wonders around them, and to be comfortable taking ownership of these resources that have been protected and created for them. Working with schools like Capital City will help us begin to develop the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts and lovers of nature.”

Written by Todd Kutyla, Adventure Coordinator, Capital City PCS