Don’t worry, we’re happy
Does getting out of the classroom help you de-stress? Caroline Ferguson, Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) Leader at Bangkok Patana School looks into CAS and stress levels.
As teachers and parents, we often push our students or children to do more, get more involved and challenge themselves, but does this additional burden on time and energy result in heightened stress and anxiety?
I decided to conduct some research into IB Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) to establish not only whether CAS significantly added to the IB students’ workload, and therefore stress levels, but also whether students felt that their experiences in CAS added to their feelings of self-worth, through increased confidence levels. I also wanted to find out whether they felt it helped them establish support networks through positive collaborative relationships with their peers and teachers. In all, 124 Year 13 students responded to the survey. What they had to say was not only very interesting, but also incredibly positive.
Range of activities
As a requirement of their IB Diploma programme, Senior students are required to show that they have been engaged in creativity, service and activity experiences for the duration of the diploma programme. At Bangkok Patana School the students are lucky to have an incredibly wide range of experiences to choose from, from competitive sports such as volleyball to performing in a theatre or music production, to engagement in an issue of global importance through one of our Community Action Teams (CATs). The majority identified Activity or Service as the strand of CAS in which they were primarily engaged while 13.7 percent were engaged in a creative activity and around 20 percent were equally engaged.
As part of the CAS programme students are required to maintain a portfolio that contains detailed reflections on their experiences and evidence in the form of photos and videos. My first question was whether maintaining this portfolio represented a significant increase in workload for students and whether this meant increased stress levels. It was clear from the students’ answers that this was not the case. Although 23 percent of students acknowledged that CAS significantly increased their workload, only 8.9 percent felt that this caused any stress.
In fact, 53 percent of students reported none or very low levels of stress, with the lowest levels reported by students who were most involved in the creative strand of CAS. The majority of those students who stated that they experienced a level of stress through CAS cited their busy schedule as the reason why they found it difficult to balance academics and their extra-curricular experiences.
So are CAS students happy and self-fulfilled?
When asked if their CAS experiences gave them personal satisfaction, an overwhelming 73 percent stated that they experienced high or very high levels (see Figure 3 above). The highest levels of fulfilment were, in fact, cited by students who had a balanced programme which equally incorporated all three strands, or those who were most passionate about service. Three quarters of all students questioned stated that “being involved in service has made me feel good about myself”, while 67 percent felt that through CAS they had found their strengths and so become more self-confident. In terms of maintaining healthy support networks, over 65 percent of students agreed that “the friendships and relationships I make through my CAS experience(s) mean a lot to me”.
Happier and healthier
Although their commitment to their CAS experiences does mean that Bangkok Patana students have to work on maintaining balance with their academic studies, the overwhelming evidence is that any extra workload caused is by far outweighed by the positives. Senior students are clearly happier and healthier because of their involvement in CAS.
One Senior student reported, “CAS is a great way to relieve your stress from schoolwork, so it is important you enjoy what you are doing and having FUN is the main objective of having this programme.” Another student added, “CAS gives you a really good opportunity to try out new things and helps you improve on existing skills. Approach this ‘subject’ as something that will enrich you as an overall person and have fun because if you have learnt things and gained experience from your activities, you have done well in CAS.”
Caroline Ferguson joined Bangkok Patana School in 2011 as the IBDP CAS Coordinator. Previously she taught Geography at St. Andrews Scots School in Buenos Aires and was Head of Geography at Harrow International School, Bangkok. Caroline is also a qualified yoga teacher and enjoys teaching classes for adults in her spare time.
All Images: kindly provided by Caroline and Bangkok Patana School.