This year, Capital City Public Charter School celebrates 15 years of innovation and excellence in education, and – as the Chair of Capital City’s Board of Trustees – I wanted to take the opportunity to give thanks.
As we reflect during this season of Thanksgiving, there are so many who have supported us in this fifteen year journey. Our work is possible because of the confidence and support with which you have entrusted us, and we are honored to work together to create a high-quality educational experience that graduates young adults who are self-directed, intellectually engaged and possess a commitment to personal and civic responsibility.
Over the past 15 years, we have had the opportunity to educate nearly 5,000 students from the District of Columbia, each of whom has had an opportunity to learn and grow from Capital City’s unique program that emphasizes critical thinking, creativity, and deep learning. Each time I walk through the hallways of the school, I am struck by what a truly special learning environment we have created.
Capital City is a place where:
• Our third graders are learning about the history of gold through the eyes of the Incas and the experience of the Sioux tribe and its relationship with the buffalo in our “Gold, Buffalo, and Identity” expedition.
• Our Middle School students are looking forward to sharing what they’ve learned and accomplished over the semester at their upcoming Celebration of Learning, which reinforces learning and cultivates presentation and public speaking skills.
• All of our high school seniors have mailed at least one college application with the goal of helping to keep Capital City’s college acceptance rate at 100% for the fourth consecutive year. We are also proud that, for the second year in a row, our High School has been recognized as a Tier 1 High Performing School by the DC Public Charter School Board.
We also continue to enjoy the positive learning environment that our new facility has provided us, and are pleased to share that our state-of-the-art facility was recently awarded LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Clearly, we have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, which is a result of the efforts from our entire community—staff, parents, neighbors, volunteers, funders, and my fellow board members.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to personally thank you for your support of Capital City and its mission. We are truly thankful to have you as a member of the Capital City family and look forward to celebrating many more years of innovation and excellence in education.
Board Chair, Capital City Public Charter School
Our school colors may be yellow and blue; however, Capital City is looking a great deal greener these days. This past October, the U.S. Building Council awarded Capital City a LEED Gold certification recognizing our school building for its innovative and sustainable design. By using less water and energy, the building saves money for the school; protects our nation’s water supplies; reduces greenhouse gas emissions; and contributes to a healthier environment for the school community and the city.
The process toward this certification began long before our move to our new building in 2012 . As part of the 7th & 8th grade Green Building Expedition in 2011, students researched sustainable energy sources, “green” materials, and practices that they wanted to see implemented in our new building’s design. They presented their recommendations to our Board of Trustees and Facilities Team and also incorporated their ideas into a book they published called, “Green is the New Black”.
In 2012, working with our building project team that included the architecture firm, Shinberg.Levinas; project management team, Brailsford & Dunlavy; and general contractor, MCN Build; we renovated the former Rabaut Junior High School into our 168,000 square-foot Pre-K3 through 12th grade consolidated facility that currently serves 970 students.
“It was great to see so many of the ideas that were presented by the students implemented into the final building design,” shared Karen Dresden, Head of School. “The recommendations of the students were definitely on my mind when we needed to make decisions in the building process and this pushed us to make greener choices.” Students’ recommendations can be see in many areas of the building, including our energy-efficient, double-pane windows that allow for natural light in our large, bright classroom spaces. Natural light, the students’ research indicated, has the potential to reduce the school’s electricity consumption by 30-45%. Other implementations include the motion-sensor lights, and high-efficiency faucets, hand dryers, and toilets.
"Achieving LEED Gold certification is such an honor and really speaks to the hard work that my classmates put into the Green Building expedition four years ago," says Brandy, now an 11th grader at Capital City. "Seeing our recommendations implemented in our building shows that the school really cares about us and our ideas."
How do we learn to consider other’s perspectives when developing our own identity and values? The 3rd grade expedition, “Gold, Buffalo, and Identity”, seeks to help students begin this process. Through this expedition, 3rd graders study gold through the context of the Incas, buffalo through the eyes of the Sioux tribe, and a local issue of the Washington Redskins football name in three case studies. Rachel Henighan, 3rd Grade Teacher, says that through these studies students will examine the “fundamental questions of how people use natural resources and what conflicts arise over their use.”
To understand different viewpoints, students are learning about how two different groups, the Incas and Spanish, viewed gold and how it defined their relationship with each other. “I learned that the Incas had a lot of gold and thought it was the sweat of the sun,” says Ian, 3rd grader at Capital City. “The Incas used gold to give love to their gods, and the Spanish used it for trading.”
One classroom activity includes a game called, "Who said that?" in which students hear different viewpoints on topics such as government and religion. They then must work as a group to identify which viewpoint is that of the Inca and which is that of the Spanish. This activity reflects our deeper learning approach, teaching students how to analyze different perspectives on the same topic in a non-judgmental manner, notes Henighan.
For their first fieldwork experience, students visited Rock Creek Park. Teachers used this expedition to introduce students to natural resources and how people interact with them. While at Rock Creek, one learning station drew from the work of artist Andy Goldsworthy, who creates art out of natural materials, photographs it and then leaves his art to be re-formed by nature. Students created art out of natural materials they found in the park notes Henighan. “We (3rd grade teaching staff) then posed the question to students of who now has ownership over the art that they created. How would they feel if someone destroyed it? How would they feel if someone added to it?” After reflecting on these questions, Cheyenne, a 3rd grader, decided, “It wouldn’t be mine anymore, because it is part of nature and belongs to nature.”
On October 23rd, Capital City held its second annual Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration with more than 300 people attending. The cafeteria was near full capacity as students and families from all campuses joined together to celebrate the important contributions of Hispanics in the U.S. and at Capital City.
The two hour-long event included traditional food, a flag procession, Spanish presentations and dance performances from High School Spanish I & II students, and a drum circle led by Middle School drummers and Ayanna Gallant, MS Music Teacher. More than 100 students were involved in planning for and performing at the event.
Capital City parents played an integral in helping make the event a success. Some parents hosted cultural tables to share about their home countries. Jessica Gabriel, for example, shared about Puerto Rico. “It was nice to see how the whole school community gathered and enjoyed folklore dishes and dances, cultural tables, and more,” said Gabriel.
Many partners helped make the event possible. Sports for Sharing led lower school students in interactive games focused on global issues, and two professional dance groups, Caporales San Simon Bolivian Dancers and Danzas y Ritmos Panameños, who performed in the Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration, added to the diversity and fun of the evening.
Latino students are an important part of Capital City’s community. Appreciation for other cultures and customs is encouraged and embraced throughout the school, and Capital City places special emphasis on making sure that every student’s culture is respected and valued. Many languages can be heard through the hallways of Capital City, but Spanish is particularly prevalent. All Capital City students take Spanish classes beginning in Kindergarten and classes are offered for all levels including Native speakers.
Karen Dresden, Head of School, shared, “I am grateful to be part of a community with such a rich cultural heritage. This event is a wonderful celebration made possible through the collaboration of parents, students, and staff.”
It is nearly impossible to miss the College Counseling office in Capital City’s High School. College banners fill the room, and college acceptance shout-outs for seniors adorn the adjacent halls.
As part of our college-going culture, Capital City participates annually in the District of Columbia’s College Application week held during the first week of November. Our College Counseling Department leads this initiative that culminates with every senior completing at least one application to a university or college. “It’s about finding the right college for each student,” notes Bridget Jackson, Director of College Counseling and Partnerships, “and making sure they feel supported in and knowledgeable about the application process.”
Capital City has participated in this initiative since having our first senior class in 2011-2012. Each year 100% of Capital City seniors have applied to college and been accepted. This is particularly impressive given that more than 80% of our graduates are the first in their families to attend college and 30% have been first to graduate high school.
This year during College Application Week, seniors spent at least an hour each day working on their applications, crafting their personal statements and application essays. With assistance from the college counseling department, teachers and volunteers, seniors learned to develop their applications to reflect their passions, aspirations, and personality. Tied into this week, students also learned how to research and begin to apply for applicable scholarships. “It was very productive,” says Carolina, 12th grader at Capital City. “The counselors helped us figured out the request and fee waiver forms.” Carolina noted that her class “felt more united as a class through this process. We got to find out where everyone was applying and learn about great opportunities.”
A college going culture begins long before senior year. At Capital City Middle School CREWs are named after colleges and universities that often represent staff’s alma maters. At the beginning of the year the students research the college their CREW is named after and present it to their peers. This gets students thinking about college early and helps to ensure that all students see college as a possibility and probability for them.
During summer orientation for 9th graders, students meet with college counselors to understand how they can prepare themselves for college at each grade. They tour local universities, learning the questions to ask and beginning to see themselves on the campus grounds. They also hear important lessons learned from alumni who are now attending college.
In addition to College Application week, seniors participate in a year-long seminar that serves as a critical component of the college application process. The seminar provides seniors time within the school day to receive the guidance and support they need to research colleges, prepare applications, and explore possible careers. The college-counseling department also holds monthly evening sessions with parents and students to walk families through financial aid, scholarships, and selecting the right college.
By the end of College Application Week, all 76 seniors had applied to at least one college. That doesn’t mean that seniors have stopped applying to college, but rather, were just getting started. As of November 17, the class of 2015 had submitted 339 college applications.
Last year’s event culminated with a March to the Mailbox in which all students from PreK – 11th grade cheered on seniors as they walked the halls of Capital City to personally deliver their college applications to the postal service. The 2014 March to the Mailbox event is planned for December 5th as a way for the entire school community to celebrate our seniors.