FHC will implement new AP Capstone program this coming school year

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In the midst of the ever-flourishing era of the mad dash to stack up as many AP classes as humanly possible, or  “AP Farming,” FHC will be welcoming in a new program next school year– a program that just so happens to be preceded by those two coveted letters. Titled AP Capstone, the young program was developed by the College Board, consisting of two one-year courses, AP Seminar (taken in grade 10 or 11) and AP Research (taken after Seminar). In AP Seminar, students explore and construct an argument about a relevant topic in which they have an interest. Then in AP Research, students continue to develop their research and enrich their newly learned skills.

“They look at those [challenges to our world] from a multidisciplinary approach,” Principal Steve Passinault said. “So they might look at homelessness, [for example], through an economic lens; they might look at it through a social lens, a religious lens, and all these different lenses of how they would look at that topic.”

Those who complete and pass the two classes and their respective evaluations will receive the AP Seminar and Research Certificate; those who achieve not only passing scores on the AP Capstone classes, but also on four other AP exams, will receive the AP Capstone Diploma, which is said to be very impressive to college admissions.

The AP Seminar assessment will involve a team project/presentation, an individual research essay/presentation, and an end-of-year exam, more similar to traditional AP classes. As for AP Research, students’ AP score will be based on a 4,000 to 5,000 word academic paper accompanied with an oral defense, which would be a presentation. Though the promise of a prestigious diploma and GPA boost seems to suggest that AP Capstone will be yet another AP class blindly signed up for by the masses in an effort to elevate one’s GPA, many are enrolling in AP Seminar for different reasons.

“I think that [AP Capstone] will help me a lot to prepare for some of the college classes I’ll have to take in the future,” said sophomore Chloe Grooters, who is signed up for AP Seminar. “And it’ll further advance some of the major skills I will need in the future.”

These “skills” are a major selling point for the program. Because of the unique nature of the class, many students are attracted to the idea of cultivating their research and communicative abilities, among other learning opportunities.

“The courses are designed to really incorporate some skills of students working together in groups, doing a lot of research put together as a group, and researching current issues,” Passinault said.

The research aspect, especially, drew many students in.

“When I’m older, I want to do something in the science field, and I think researching is an important part [of that],” said sophomore Rachael Yoder, another future Capstone student. “I’m hoping that with this class I can gain information, not only about what we are researching, but [about] how to become better at communicating with others, listening to other opinions, and how to research more diligently.”

With the combination of real-world issues, research, College Board standards and evaluations, presentations, a 4,000-5,000 word research paper, and more, the caliber of the course is expected to be high.

“The [program will] be rigorous in the fact that it’s going to require a lot of critical thinking,” Passinault said. “Students [will] really have to take into account a lot of different viewpoints and then critically analyze how those things all fit together.

In terms of the workload, a major aspect of the class is a collective effort, as Passinault discovered when he observed AP Seminar and Research classes at nearby schools.

“The students in the class really develop a good camaraderie with their classmates,” Passinault said,   “because they’re having to work together, present together, and rely on each other for the research pieces. I’m excited about and what I think is good about [AP Capstone,] as it does mimic the workplace. Those [collaborative] skills are not always taught in every classroom.”

Kristy Butler, who has been a part of the planning process of AP Capstone and will most likely be one of the teachers of the two courses, also came along on some of the visits to neighboring schools with the program. Her observations echoed the positivity of Passinault’s.

“The students are reporting that it is a lot of work but [also] that they have gained a lot of confidence and that their writing and communication skills have improved,” Butler said. “They like working in a nontraditional setting as well. The teachers are reporting that the students are gaining valuable skills and that they are seeing their students interact with each other and the material as they would in an upper-level college setting.”

Regardless of the conceivable difficulties, many students are eager to see AP Capstone coming to FHC.

“I am very happy to see this program coming to FHC,” said sophomore Will Clancy, who will be enrolled in AP Seminar next year. “It’s nice to see FHC continuing to improve on the academic offerings it provides to its students.”

Passinault, too, is excited to see the effect this new program will have on the school and the students involved, especially when it comes to students who may not be accustomed to AP classes or those who are not interested in the traditional STEM subjects.

“What we’re hoping to do is attract a real diversity of students in terms of students who are really interested in the arts, students who are really interested in science, students who are really interested in English, language arts, and other subjects,” Passinault said. “The course, I think, is going to be most successful when you have that diversity of opinions on different things, and you have people that can bring the lens from all those different areas. I know sometimes when people look at [the course], people get intimidated by the ‘AP’ label. We’re hoping to avoid that. We’re hoping that students who might not take too many other AP courses could still take this, still benefit from it, and be good contributors in the classroom.”

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