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Upper School Experience-Centered Seminars Life-Changing for Students

Upper School students engaged in Experience-Centered Seminars (ECSs) this month with topics ranging from the ancient process of prepping and pouring molten metal to create art to learning firsthand about the Emberá indigenous people in Panama by immersing in their culture.

The three-week ECS program each March is an integral part of the CSS Upper School curriculum, providing students with the necessary skills to conduct large-scale academic investigations that will set them apart in college and beyond.

Students write blogs to share and reflect on their experiences, which may be viewed here for this year's ECS offerings below:

The Great Iron Pour

The Great Iron Pour


CSSI: Crime Scene Investigators


Broadway & Arts in New York

The Panama Canal & Embera Indigenous People

The Panama Canal & Embera Indigenous People


Sustainable Development in Cambodia

The Cambodia ECS included a four-night homestay with families where students and family members didn't share the same language and communicated through gestures and by pointing to words in a Khmer-to-English dictionary. The students did everyday tasks with the families such as going to the market and cooking meals. They also visited the local pagoda and received a water blessing together.

Senior Alex H. ‘24, one of 12 students on the Cambodia ECS, said he’ll remember the experience for the rest of his life.

"One of the biggest takeaways is how much you can learn from traveling to a different country. There's no way I would have learned nearly as much about Cambodia from reading about it in a book or hearing about it in a lecture," Alex said. "I think being able to experience the country was a great way to learn about a different part of the world and see what their lives are like."

Please join us on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, for ECS Presentations at 6:30 p.m. in the Louisa Performing Arts Center. Students will share what they learned during this transformative experience. Art pieces from the Great Iron Pour will be on display.

CSS alumni often recall their Experience-Centered Seminar years and even decades after graduation. Sometimes they even help students choose career paths.

Audrey Barber, who graduated from CSS in 2022, plans to become a physician, a career she narrowed in on as a sophomore participating in the Wilderness Emergency Medicine ECS on Santa Cruz Island in California. She and other students learned to apply life-saving techniques to patients during simulated exercises.

“That ECS specifically allowed me to discover if I was actually passionate about medicine or if it was more of an ‘Oh yeah, this seems cool’ feeling,” Audrey said. “That overall experience showed me this is really what I want to pursue in my future. It changed my life.”

Learn more about Experience-Centered Seminars, a continuum of Lower School and Middle School seminar programs, at