The guidelines for what does make a CAS experience are:
It must be one, or more, of creativity, activity or service.
You should be interested in it and expect to enjoy it.
It should provide an opportunity for growth and allow you to develop the IB learner profile.
Normally you would be able to address a CAS learning outcome.
However, there are several things a CAS experience can not be. These include:
It can not be paid work. For example, if you get paid to be a lifeguard, then it is not CAS.
It can not be part of your official IB Diploma Programme study. For example, if you are undertaking Dance as a Group 6 subject, a performance you are using for the IA is not CAS. Likewise, if you are involved in Model United Nations (MUN) as part of your Global Politics IA, then it does not count.
Of course, if a dance performance or MUN is not part of your IB Diploma Programme assessment, then it can count as CAS. You may also come across something in class which gives you a great idea to develop a CAS experience or project. For example, you might learn about pollution and undertake water testing in Biology, and this may motivate you to start a clean up project at your local beach, river or stream.
The following diagram provided by John Cannings in IB Review may help you figure out whether an experience can or can not be used for CAS.
Image: Cannings, John. Planning your CAS experience. IB Review. November 2015.
Many of your CAS experiences may be things that you already do. Perhaps you play for a team, act in school plays, help out somewhere or are in the scouting movement. All these experiences could meet the criteria above for CAS. However, CAS also gives you the opportunity to undertake something new that you’ve always dreamed of doing. It doesn’t have to be extreme, like rock climbing, but it could be. It could be learning to sew, helping someone or promoting a cause you care about.
Some examples of this are:
Initiating a project to visit or help elderly people in your neighbourhood to alleviate loneliness.
Starting a reading club at a local primary school.
Teaching a language class to immigrants.
Promoting water saving methods in your local area.
Some CAS experiences are a series of events, like training with and being in a team, rehearsing for and performing a play, or being in a club. Some are one-off events like helping at an event or undertaking a hike.
If you are continuing an activity that you already undertake you are encouraged use the CAS stages and learning outcomes to look for opportunities for growth and development, as CAS is about improving and extending, not just repeating.
If you have something that you want to count as an experience and your CAS coordinator does not agree that it is suitable, then consider extending it. For example, walking your dog every day is not a suitable CAS experience; you are not showing any growth nor reaching a learning objective. However, if you extend it to training your dog and entering agility competitions, or training from walking to running a 10km race it then becomes CAS - for you and your dog! All it takes is your imagination, and will make you a far more interesting a person.