Giving truth to Memphis youth
By Emily Burkhead (White Station High School)
When words like “research” and “argumentative” are used to describe White Station’s newest course, the Advanced-Placement (AP) Seminar, it doesn’t appear to be as significant when compared to AP Biology or AP Language and Composition.
However, juniors at White Station High are discovering there is much more to this new program than simply researching for reports and citing sources; it’s a new way to prepare for college and understand how to view worldly topics through more than one lens, allowing students to think more extensively about problems in the local or global community.
AP Capstone is a program developed by CollegeBoard, and it is in its first year of being offered to high school students in general. White Station was chosen as one of three schools in Tennessee to participate in this start-up year. The program is composed of two classes, AP Seminar and AP Research. Students are offered AP Seminar their junior year, so long as they commit to take AP research the next year, and graduate with a total of four other AP classes.
AP Seminar is a course dedicated to helping students use information correctly to form an argument in either a verbal debate or a written paper. According to the CollegeBoard website, students are taught to “synthesize information from multiple sources,” then use that research to create papers and “oral and visual presentations,” individually or sometimes in a group.
The course is just about as complicated as it sounds. The teacher chosen for this program at White Station, Lori McFalls, said that because there is no textbook for the class, she is always “on the hunt for things.”
“…because I have to show the students how to detect bad sources, I’m not always on the hunt for the ‘best’ things, I’m always on the hunt for things that look good.” This method of using materials is to exercise students’ ability to identify validity and authenticity of sources they come across, essential for creating a well-written research paper.
Students like Makaree Lomax find aspects of the class to be challenging as well. “Research writing is very new to me… While writing I have to keep in mind the differences between what I was taught and what I’m learning in seminar.” Even so, Lomax is ultimately pleased with her decision in taking Seminar, as the focus of the classroom setting “isn’t so much on grades as it is the research process.”
Fellow classmate Caitlin Lloyd agrees that the AP Seminar class is more than just a class. “Each day is a different adventure, whether it is analyzing a Technology, entertainment and Design (TED) Talk or discussing music surrounding the recent outburst of ebola.”
Not only is this class an excellent source for intellectual stimulation, it also provides many beneficial skills for students to carry with them day to day and to take to college and beyond, according to McFalls. She said learning the valuable skills of researching and writing can help future undergraduate students jump ahead to special opportunities, such as assisting a professor on a research project.
“…those opportunities sometimes come to [students]… and I think that this paves the way for students to be a part of that; that you have experience with sustained research, not just writing a report for history class.”
But with only three chosen Tennessean schools, what is next for this program? Since the program is generally succeeding, it is expected to grow even more starting next year. CollegeBoard is opening up the class to an application process for any school interested in participating the AP Capstone Program.
If you are interested in bringing AP Capstone to your school for the 2015-16 school year, visit www.collegeboard.org/apcapstone for more information.