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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

Capital City ALF March 11-2

Learning to Become Leaders

The Washington Informer, in a recent article, highlighted the Alpha Leadership Project (ALP), a program implemented at CCPCS to help young men of color succeed socially and academically.

Sekenia Welch, Capital City's DC College Access Program (DC-CAP) advisor, helps students apply for the DC- CAP to help students cover college costs, and Capital City ALP participants were  interviewed about this unique leadership program that prepares youth for high school success, manhood, and college access. Additionally, ALP engages the young men in discussions about politics, popular culture, and current events. Students, who become part of the program through teacher recommendations, receive mentoring, attend personal development workshops, and are eligible for scholarships and other incentives if they and their families participate actively in program requisites. Find out more about the program on the ALP website.

Molly Whalen cropped

Meet Molly Whalen, our new Chief Development & Communications Officer

Molly Whalen, a Capital City parent, joined our team this summer. She brings a wealth of communications and development experience. In a short Q & A, Molly shares her vision for Capital City.

What were you most excited about in coming to Capital City?
I have been active as a parent and community member in DC public education for over a decade, with a big emphasis on special education.  As a DC resident and public school parent, I had been wanting to find a place to work more in-depth in the DC education environment and Capital City’s focus on personalized student education, not to mention the committed and simply brilliant team at the school, were all I needed to say YES to the position.

What are your top priorities in your first few months on the job? 
Communication!  While a big focus area for my position is fundraising and development, I believe that success here lies in relationship building, and all great relationships must have strong communications.  I’m excited about streamlining and focusing all of Capital City’s communication efforts - internally: newsletters, emails, backpack mailings, and even the “popular” robo-calls, and externally.

What is your long-term vision for school communications and development?
Success for me will be when the entire parent, family, staff and student community has a clear picture of the educational day of students and can tell any stranger three great things about Capital City in a conversation.  My job as a chief communications leader at the school is to make sure all the various areas at Capital City (and there are many!) are connected; and that we are sharing that far and wide in DC.  I want people to always have Capital City on their short list of high performing public charter schools - and we do that through strong communications; and then the funds will follow!

How did you become involved in the education field, and specifically, in development and communications?
I’ve worked for nonprofits in communications, development, public relations, and leadership management for my entire career.  I never thought I’d be in education, but it found me in a way.  I have two children with Autism, and living in DC where the environment for special education and disabilities has been more than challenging for decades, I had to become well versed in special education and DC’s public education movement - along with negotiation, mediation, communications, etc.  The more I learned, the more vocal I became, as I found that I needed to speak not just for my family, but for the many, many DC families who are just so overwhelmed with the process and system.  I finally started putting my professional skills to work and became an education advocate, focusing on development and communications for schools, which led me to my previous position as Director of Development & Communications at The Ivymount School & Programs.

Get to Know Molly:

Teachers sometimes use getting-to-know you games, such as “Two truths and a lie,” to get to know their students. We asked Molly to tell us two truths and one lie about herself.

Which do you think is false? She’s got us guessing!

(1) I lived in Tehran, Iran as a child.

(2) I was the MVP on my track team as a HS sophomore.

(3) I learned to drive a stick-shift (manual transmission) car at age 14.

Think you know which is false?  Email Molly at to find out if you are correct.

Save the Bay2 copy

5th Graders Help Save the Bay!

Our 5th graders have made important steps to better understand and appreciate their immediate environment thanks to the “Save the Bay!” Expedition that they completed during the spring semester. They now have a keen understanding of their own impact on the environment as they explore the outdoors, their city, and the District’s natural surroundings during the summer months.

The expedition challenged students to identify the ways in which human activities have an impact on the environment and to research and propose solutions to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Students also learned to see the Bay and the Anacostia River as drinking water sources, home of a variety of wildlife, a place that pollution has drastically affected, and a place in need of protection.

As is typical for Expeditionary Learning, students engaged in a broad range of learning activities around this topic to develop multiple perspectives on the issue and deepen their learning. For instance, in Jessica Harrington’s Math and Science class, students discussed different factors that harm the Bay and researched scientific data that they then presented through infographics. In preparation for this assignment, graphic designer Bob Villaflor led a session on how to create effective and visually appealing infographics and showed some of the real-world examples he had created through his work at the Human Rights Campaign. The products of this exercise were compelling, as one can see with 5th Grader Mahlet’s infographic example that suggests how to reduce individual water use and how water conservation positively impacts the health of the Bay.

In Rachel Hull’s Humanities class, students read the book Flush by Carl Hiassen. The novel, set in the Florida Keys, has an environmental focus and served as a starting point for learning more about the key components of storytelling. Next, students wrote their own narratives and were challenged to incorporate dialogue and take on the point of view of an animal from the Chesapeake Bay. One student, for instance, narrated a story from the viewpoint of a blue heron that faced a problem of pollution in its habitat. The blue heron problem solved with other animals, such as a horseshoe crab that had experienced the negative effects of pollution or over-harvesting of their environment as well to propose a solution.

This was the first expedition for 5th grade Humanities teacher Rachel Hull, who joined Capital City this past February. She notes, “It was exciting to see the EL model at work,” and was impressed with how students incorporated facts into different contexts and used them to create different products (e.g. infographics, persuasive letters, and fictional narratives).

The “Save the Bay!” Expedition was developed in close partnership with the Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS), a nonprofit that works to restore the health of the Anacostia River and protects the environmental needs of the river and its watershed communities. In coordination with AWS, students grew various watershed plants at school and planted them during a later field trip to Kingman Island to gain first-hand experience of the environment that they were studying. They also took a boat trip on the Anacostia River to see the native flora and fauna, including many invasive species, about which they had learned.

The amount of garbage, specifically plastic bottles, in the water and shore became sadly apparent to the students. As a result of this experience, the students took action and sold reusable water bottles with the CCPCS logo at the school. They informed buyers about the environmental harm that disposable plastic bottles cause through student designed flyers that were included in the bottles to advocate for reducing plastic bottle usage. (See 5th Grader Keyri’s letter example). As a “pay it forward” moment, all the funds raised were donated to the AWS.