Studying Together


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Educators: Register for the Developmental Designs Summer Institutes

Each summer, The Origins Program, an educational consulting organization based in Minneapolis, conducts Developmental Designs™ professional development programs around the country.

Hundreds of middle-level educators attend these programs and learn how to strengthen students’ social-emotional skills, build inclusivity, and increase academic success.

Capital City Public Charter School has been chosen as a host site for one of The Origins Program’s Developmental Designs Summer Institutes, July 14-18.

Educators throughout the area will join us for this interactive professional development. Gathering many voices from many schools and backgrounds enriches these workshops. Together, we can:

  • Explore the power of social-emotional learning for adolescents
  • Acquire new knowledge about positive behavior techniques
  • Weave consistent teaching practices throughout our schools
Register here by June 13, to receive the early registration discount.

  1. For those  new to the Developmental Designs approach ,join us for: Developmental Designs 1 (DD1)
  2. For those ready to expand your practice, take advantage of advance study in: Developmental Designs 2 (DD2)* *Prerequisite: DD1 week-long
For more information about the institute, click here.

If you have registration questions, contact The Origins Program’s registrar, Sarah Biros at Sarah@OriginsOnline.orgor 612-822-3422.

Developmental Designs looks forward to working with you this summer to advance the social, emotional, and academic growth in adolescents throughout the Washington DC area.


Family Campaign

The 2014 Family Campaign Blossoms

Thanks to the support of our Capital City families, we raised nearly $53,000 in one month during our annual Family Campaign! This annual giving campaign, held every year in March, began as a parent-led initiative to help financially support Capital City’s unique program.

The support has demonstrated to foundations, organizations, and prospective donors that our families are willing to monetarily invest in their own child’s education.  The community takes notice and recognizes that if families are willing to financially contribute to their child’s public school education, where fundraising is a minimal part of the school’s overall budget, then providing additional funding to Capital City must be worth the investment.

The main goal of the Family Campaign is participation. Families are encouraged to give whatever amount they can to help reach the 100% participation goal. Prior to the campaign, parents volunteered to assist in various capacities including being co-chairs, class captains, Grand Day volunteers, and challenge donors – parents who challenge the entire school or individual classes by pledging to give based on participation.

Thanks to the leadership of Lower School parent co-chairs Alice Speck and Meg Greene, our Lower School had the highest level of participation reaching over 90% overall! Four classes in the Lower School even reached 100% participation. In the Middle School, thanks to the leadership of parent co-chairs Molly Whalen and Olayinka Akinola-Hadley, the Middle School’s overall participation was nearly 60%, an increase from 51% last year.  In the High School, thanks to the leadership of parent chair Sarah Gaudreau, the students took responsibility for the fundraising efforts during the campaign. Instead of their parents giving, high school students contributed what they could to increase their participation to 42% - a significant increase from only 17% participation last year.

In addition to parents and students volunteering their time and financially contributing to the campaign, grandparents and special friends known as “Grand Friends” also joined in to help support the mission of Capital City during Grand Day held on Wednesday, March 19th. Grand Day started over 10 years ago in the Lower School in conjunction with the Family Campaign. The purpose was to give the “Grands” an opportunity to show their support for their grandchild’s Capital City education while also allowing them a chance to experience learning for themselves. During the day, the Grands were given an opportunity to engage in service projects, take a tour of the school, visit classrooms, and mingle with other Grands during a brunch hosted by the PSA and parent volunteers.

In appreciation for those who contributed to the Family Campaign and in the spirit of the spring season, the names of the families who contributed to the campaign are displayed on a Cherry Blossom giving tree in the school’s front lobby. Families who contributed were also given a Capital City car magnet. If you contributed to the campaign and did not receive your car magnet, or have questions, please email Crystal Rucker in our development office at

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The Kindergarten Expedition takes Flight

“Do you like pigeons?” That question was one of many asked in a survey conducted by Capital City kindergarteners as they gained first-hand knowledge about pigeons during their expedition in November 2013. The kindergarteners first surveyed Capital City faculty and then community members in the Columbia Heights neighborhood to assess their feelings toward Rock Doves, also known as Feral pigeons.

Through the survey, one kindergarten student, Nathaniel, learned that some people presumed that pigeons have “dirty” feathers when in fact, “a pigeon’s neck changes to purple and green when they fly,” he says. “Their feathers are dark, not dirty.” In addition to revealing people’s opinions about pigeons, the expedition also helped students learn about a pigeon’s environment through observations, research, fieldwork, and documentation panels.  Students explored what an ornithologist does by observing the pigeon’s behavior and by creating their own scientific drawings to help them better understand the pigeon’s anatomy.

“What amazed me most was how intrigued each child was throughout the entire expedition,” says Kindergarten Teacher Stephanie Schey. “The students used binoculars to observe pigeons as they flew into the sky, so when it was time to sketch the scientific drawings to be used in the informational pamphlets, they wanted to make sure it was perfect. If they thought the drawing didn’t quite look like the pigeon they observed, they wanted to do it over and over again until they got it right.”

Kindergarteners kicked off their expedition by releasing homing pigeons.  They made predictions about whether the pigeons would find their way home. Following this experience, children shared “what I think I know” about pigeons and brainstormed questions about birds.

Students then compiled information about pigeons through a Mental Files chart. They shared what they thought they knew about pigeons, and teachers read books related to pigeons or birds through interactive read alouds. Throughout the reading, teachers asked students, “What new things did you learn?” Student’s answers were then recorded and posted on the Mental Files chart. Students were also able to post any questions or thoughts they developed afterward about the pigeons. The Mental Files chart was posted in each classroom throughout the expedition learning process to symbolize the importance of ongoing discovery and exploration.

As a result of the expedition, the kindergarteners returned to their fieldwork site in the Columbia Heights neighborhood to pass out pamphlets with information about pigeons and their benefits to our environment. In January, students held a showcase for their families at Capital City in which they shared their learning process and received replica hatched pigeon eggs to take home with them.


7th Graders’ Expedition focuses on immigrants in DC

D.C. is comprised of many immigrants from the Capitol Hill neighborhood to Manor Park, the neighborhood home to Capital City. At Capital City alone, 11 languages other than English are spoken at home.  In the 7th grade humanities class this past fall, teachers Alyssa McClorey and Richard Richardson developed an immigration expedition that allowed students to explore how immigration has defined the past and the present of the U.S. “It’s a very timely topic in terms of political and social issues,” says Ms. McClorey, “It’s very specific to D.C., because we’re a city of immigrants.”

Through this expedition, students learned first about the historic push and pull factors of immigration through analysis of the immigrant groups that came through Ellis Island.  Students then looked at nationwide data on how immigrants have contributed to the economy and read articles about the immigration debate. “They were taking hard data and analyzing it,” says Ms. McClorey, “They did a great job with this part -- a difficult skill to develop.”

Students then met with immigrant experts to learn about the challenges they face today.  “Students were very well-informed and articulate,” says Dr. Bob Ponichtera, Executive Director of Liberty’s Promise, a nonprofit based in Alexandria, VA that provides after-school and mentoring programs for immigrant youth in the DC area.  Dr. Ponichtera provided students with background knowledge about immigrants living in the U.S. and connected students to immigrant entrepreneurs for their interview projects. “Immigration is an interesting topic for young people,” says Dr. Ponichtera.  “A couple even asked if Liberty’s Promise would come to their school!”

Empowered with background information and the opportunity to meet with experts, students in small teams interviewed more than 20 local immigrants to learn first-hand about their experiences.  They visited immigrant-owned businesses, such as El Rinoncito in Columbia Heights. “Again and again the idea of ‘resilience’ came up to the students,” says Ms. McClorey. “The idea of what it takes to get up and leave your home and start in a new place resonated with them.”

For their final expedition product, students produced informational articles about immigrant entrepreneurs and personal memoirs taken from interviews of local immigrants or even family members in some cases. “I was surprised to find out my mom had to come twice to the U.S. before she could stay,” says Sarah, whose mother is from Trinidad and Tobago. “I was impressed that my mom was able to create a life in the U.S., get married, and have my brother and me.”

The memoirs, which students shared at their Celebration of Learning, a biannual event in which students present their semester-long work to Capital City staff, students, and family members, “gave students a different perspective,” says Ms. McClorey. “[In some cases] they were able to interview a family member and make connections from their expedition to their own family and learn about the variety of ways that immigrants have come here.”

During the Celebration of Learning, teachers noticed that a great deal of the students who selected to perform their memories were English Language Learners or more introverted students. “They were able to perform in front of an audience, demonstrating a significant amount of growth,” says Ms. McClorey. “All the different stories I learned about and the stories my classmates acted out were really interesting,” notes one 7th grader.

The Middle School’s Final Celebration of Learning for the school year will occur on Wednesday, June 11th from 9:30-11:30am and is open to the public. For more information about this event, please contact our school at 202.808.9800.

food justice 1

Food Justice for All

A successful expedition requires three essential ingredients, notes 11th Grade English Teacher Jill Weiler.  It needs “strong guiding questions, engaged experts, and an authentic product.”  With this in mind, the 11th grade teaching team designed an expedition that would allow students to become experts on the issue of food justice.  They established the guiding questions that then fueled the students’ exploration -- 1. (Past) What is the historical connection between food and cultural identity?; 2. (Present) Where does our food come from today?; 3. (Future) How do food policy decisions and our personal food choices affect the future?

“What was the purpose of this activity?” students asked.  Why did it matter if they became experts on the subject of food justice?  Unbeknownst to the students, their questions would change from “Why do this?” to “How do we teach others?” within a few short months.

Using the guiding questions to start the expedition, students read articles about food justice topics, such as obesity and food desserts. They took part in a writing teach-in and brainstormed topics around food justice that interested them.

As students delved deeper into the Food Justice for All expedition, they met with experts including Dr. Thomas Sherman, associate professor of pharmacology and physiology at Georgetown University Medical Center, and Sam Ullery, OSSE School Garden Specialist.  They participated in fieldwork at The National Museum of American History’s visiting the History of Food exhibit. They read Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and learned how to analyze his work and create persuasive arguments.  They participated in mini-lessons about how individuals learn and how to engage persons with varying learning styles.

With this ability to analyze data, write critically, and understand how we all learn, the students then dug even deeper into the topic of food justice for all.  What did Food Justice mean to them?  What were the topics that peaked their interest to the point that they wanted to educate others about it?

The students, themselves, were slowly becoming food justice advocates and with this increased civic engagement, they were becoming experts eager to share their knowledge with the community.

The culminating project for this expedition, the students learned, would be to convince their peers, the larger school community, and visitors about the food justice topics that impressed upon them the most. It would not be a stand-alone project with a presentation to their classmates, but rather a half-day Food Justice Teach-In in which they could share their knowledge with the community.

During the teach-in, in which more than 100 students from Eastern High School, Paul Public Charter School, and Capital City Middle and High Schools attended, students presented their persuasive projects on their selected food justice topics.  Presentations included Fast Food Monopoly, how to make a vegetarian burger, and can you grocery shop in your ward?

“Students took ownership of the products,” says Ms. Wieler. “I was impressed by their passion and commitment to persuading people to think differently about their topics.”

Students, just as the attendees, felt empowered by the teach-in. “We gave information to change the world,” says one student. “We made the audience have different perspectives and epiphanies,” notes another.  One student took this experience of becoming an expert even further noting, “We need to reach out to younger kids to teach them earlier.”

This idea of providing students with the tools to develop their own research questions and using the student-designed questions to guide their learning reflects back to the core of Expeditionary Learning, Capital City’s approach to education.  It is as one expert visitor noted at the Teach-In, “This is the way education should be.”