Studying Together


FLOTUS at Capital City

First Lady Michelle Obama Joins Seniors in their College March

First Lady Michelle Obama: "With the education you're getting here at Capital City, you have everything you need to follow every last one of your dreams."

“At Capital City, every student is college material, and the goal is to get the very best education possible,” declared First Lady Michelle Obama, “And this should really be the model for every school in this country.”

First Lady Michelle Obama, as part of her Reach Higher initiative, visited Capital City on December 5th to congratulate seniors on completing college applications and motivate underclassmen to graduate high school and pursue post-secondary education. “Every young person in this country,” said the First Lady, “should have a team of teachers, and counselors and school leaders pushing them and supporting them like you all have here at Capital City.”

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The First Lady’s visit coincided with Capital City’s College March in which all 75 seniors mailed college applications cheered on by the entire Capital City community. The seniors started by marching through the Lower School led by the drumline & moving into the gymnasium where 4th – 11th grade students, staff, senior family members, & representatives from Capital City’s Board of Trustees, Office of the State Superintendent for Education, DC Public Charter School Board, & Expeditionary Learning continued to cheer them on as they delivered their applications.

photo copy Gerson Quinteros, a 2012 Capital City alumnus who was featured in an articlelast year, had the distinct pleasure to introduce First Lady Obama to the packed gymnasium.  In telling his own story, Gerson noted, “College isn’t easy, but Capital City and Expeditionary Learning prepared me.”

 High School Principal Belicia Reaves commended the Class of 2015, saying “I predicted they would indeed ‘make history’ at Capital City […] I told them, they possessed the potential to exceed their own expectations for what they could accomplish this year.”  With more than 500 collective applications submitted and a total $542,000 in merit scholarships to date, Ms. Reaves noted, “they have proven me correct.”
HugCapital City’s High School, a Tier One High Performing High School designated by the DC Public Charter School Board, is committed to supporting every student in getting to and through college. Our school has a dedicated college counseling staff and alumni coordinator that works with students and their families during and after their tenure at Capital City.

Our college focus and preparation is working.  100% of seniors from Capital City’s first three graduating classes have been accepted to college.  Capital City also has the highest number of 2014 graduates with in-seat college attendance of any public high school in the District of Columbia. As First Lady Michelle Obama noted, "If I am you, and I am here, then you will be just like me one day.”


Tools of the Trade Blog Features Capital City’s Physical Fitness Program

NPR's Tools of the Trade blog recently featured Lauren Horton's MS Fitness class and how she gets kids active.


Sharing Our Gratitude

Dear Friends,

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.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Anne Wallestad

Board Chair, Capital City Public Charter School


Capital City receives LEED Gold Certification

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."

3rd grade inca clay

3rd Grade Expedition – Gold, Buffalo, and Identity

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.”

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Student poses by her artwork created from natural materials found in Rock Creek.

And even parents have taken notice of their students learning. Henighan noted that during parent-teacher conferences, many noted that students were reflecting and continuing the conversations at home. Students are becoming their own experts, developing critical thinking skills and a deeper curiosity for the world outside of their classroom. In some cases, students have made personal connections. As Henighan tells it, a student whose family is from Bolivia, made the connection between a gold family heirloom and the Andes Mountains where the Incas lived. The student realized that Bolivia itself was located in those same Andes Mountains, and she was able to reflect on why Quechua and Spanish are both spoken in Bolivia.

Students’ future fieldwork will include a trip to the National Museum of the American Indian to learn about the diversity of cultures and see first-hand Native American artifacts. With the background knowledge and fieldwork in place, students will finish the expedition examining the debate over the Washington Redskins’ name. One can be certain that the students will approach this debate with thoughtfulness, consideration for others’ views, and a historical context in mind.