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Capital City Selected a Winner in the Career and Technical Education Makeover Challenge

Capital City is one of 10 nationwide winners in a competitive $200.000 challenge that focuses on strengthening students' 21st century career skills.

U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr announced the winners on June 17. The CET Makeover Challenge called for high schools to create models for transforming classrooms or other available spaces in high schools into "makerspaces" - places where students learn through making by giving them access to tools and materials that allow for designing and building innovations, ultimately preparing students for the high-skill, high-wage, and high-demand occupations of tomorrow.

“We are thrilled with the tremendous enthusiasm from high schools across the nation for this challenge,” King said.“The makerspaces these schools are building will serve as models for how schools everywhere can create spaces that provide their students the tools to design and make just about anything, and in the process, prepare for exciting futures.”

Director of Library Services and Technology Integration, Chip Chase and the library team prepared the application that  stood out in a competitive application process. In April, more than 640 schools from all 50 states and Washington, D.C. entered a first round submission with their school information and preliminary plans. Next, eligible schools were invited to participate in an intensive six-week boot camp exploring resources, readings, webinars, and assignments on a range of makerspace topics, including designing a makerspace, engaging the community, developing a budget, and creating projects that build making skills. At the end of the boot camp, schools submitted a blueprint to be considered for selection and prizes. The ten winners were recommended by a panel of judges composed of high-profile leaders in making from across industry and academia.

The makerspace at Capital City will be a hub of experiential learning, located in the third floor computer lab of the library. It will include stations for working with electronics, 3D Printing, digital design, robotics, sewing, and more for fabrication. The space will also provide raw materials and tools that students can work with. Additional mobile maker carts will allow for their deliberate integration into classrooms. Middle and high school students will be able to create physical or digital objects that bring concepts to life, thus bridging the divide between education and real world application. In addition, they will be able to experience success even in subjects they typically find challenging.

The winners will receive $20,000 in cash and a share of in-kind prizes from the $378,000 sponsor prize pool to help build or renovate their makerspaces. They will produce and submit a video tour of their constructed models for use in the Makerspace Showcase, to be held at the World Maker Faire in New York City in October 2016.


Ready or Not? 8th Grade Presentations Test High School Readiness

Finishing Middle School is an important milestone for any student. At Capital City it involves an unusual requirement: convince a panel of strangers that you are ready for the next step.

In the beginning of June, our 8th graders shared the outcomes of their learning process and personal reflections on the past school year in a 45-minute portfolio presentation, a requirement at Capital City for completing Middle School.

The students prepared for this moment rigorously all year long, but the work intensified over the last month before the presentations when students started to create their PowerPoint presentations, worked on their outlines, practiced and received feedback on their presentation skills, and organized their portfolios of exemplary work to share with their audience.

In their presentations, students are asked to give evidence of their high school readiness by providing an honest evaluation of their learning process, including the skills they have mastered and the challenges they encountered throughout the school year.

"A lot of it was reflecting on a whole year of work, and it was somewhat hard, because some projects we did a while back and I almost did not remember them," says Isabelle, who presented her portfolio de rave reviews, "but it was really good to go back to the different assignments and to notice how much I improved over time."

Green Ribbon

Capital City Named a U.S. Dept. of Education Green Ribbon School

The Managing Director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Christy Goldfuss joined U.S. Secretary of Education John King in an official announcement on April 29th to award Capital City as a 2016 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School honoree. Capital City was the only school in Washington, DC to receive this year’s distinction. The Office of the State Superintendent for Education nominated Capital City for this prestigious recognition, following a lengthy student-led application process. "This is an exciting recognition," says Head of School Karen Dresden. "It fits with our values of educating the whole child and providing a healthy environment for students and staff."

Capital City students have been leaders in our sustainable practices. In 2012, 7th and 8th grade students, as part of their Green Building Expedition, worked with experts from Alliance to Save Energy and the U.S. Green Building Council to investigate green building practices. They provided recommendations to the Board of Directors on green building designs that were incorporated into our renovation of our current building, such as slanted classroom ceilings that draw in more natural light.

Green Ribbon 2High School Urban Ecology and Honors Environmental Science students themselves were instrumental in completing the Green Ribbon Schools application. They met with engineers Cory Chimka and Emmanuel Laryea from the Sustainable Energy Utility of the District of Columbia to compile school usage and waste data. Students also took photos to document Capital City’s commitment to the three pillars of the Green Ribbon School award, 1. Reduced environmental impact and costs, 2. Improved the health and wellness of students and staff, and 3. Effective environmental and sustainability education.

“It was really interesting learning about that part of our school and understanding the amount of energy we use. We really use our energy wisely considering how many kids attend this school,” says 11th grader Jesamil, who worked on Capital City’s application.

In meeting the three pillars, Capital City was recognized for its LEED Gold-certified building design, school garden program, and hands-on expeditions that engage students with their natural environment, such as the 1st Grade Bee Expedition and the 11th Grade Food Justice for All Expedition. Expeditions are a key component of EL Education’s curriculum, and a defining feature of how Capital City engages and deepens students’ learning.


In total, across the country, 47 schools, 15 districts, and 11 postsecondary institutions were honored for their innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness, and ensure effective sustainability education. The schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions were confirmed from a pool of candidates voluntarily nominated by 27 state education agencies. The list of 73 total selectees includes 41 public schools and six private schools. The public schools include three charter and eight magnet schools. The schools serve various grade levels, including 27 elementary, 18 middle, and 14 high schools, with several schools having various K-12 configurations. Fifty-one percent of the 2016 honorees serve a disadvantaged student body. A report with highlights on the 73 honorees can be found on the U.S. Department of Education’s website.


5th Graders Study Local Ecosystem

5th graders visited Bladensburg Waterfront Park for their spring expedition on improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

On Friday, May 27, Captain Chris from the Anacostia Watershed Society (a close partner of Capital City) guided the students on a pontoon boat trip along the Anacostia River to help them better understand their immediate environment and human's impact on it. The students observed turtles and ospreys and explored the habitat of the surrounding areas of the river. In addition to the boat ride, they participated in a scavenger hunt that taught them more about the local ecosystem they had been studying as well as the work that is being done to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Students themselves did their part to "Save the Bay." Earlier in May, they had visited Kingman Island and helped with restoring the watershed by planting native wetland plants, such as wild rice and arrow arum, they had grown in their classrooms.


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.