BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ- Beginning in the 2017-2018 school year, a new course, AP Capstone, was introduced to Governor Livingston High School. The college board program is designed to challenge qualified students, and allow them to improve their presentation skills and learn how to conduct research. AP Capstone is split into two courses: AP Seminar for juniors and AP Research for seniors. Anyone with the desire to improve their communication skills or research ability can apply to be placed in the Seminar for junior year and continue to take AP Research the following year. The number of students in this course is generally low, providing for a more intimate and effective learning environment.
AP Seminar teacher Sharon Leahy described her main goal in teaching AP Seminar to be teaching students to explore different ways of presenting and how to better communicate with one another through group projects and conducting research. Leahy wants to “give students the opportunity to explore topics of [their] choice while working together and developing oral presentation skills.” AP Research teachers Dr. Meredith Morgan and Lindsey Gismonde described one of their goals as providing insight for students who are taking part in a detailed individual study throughout the year.
Since the program is still new, it is constantly being adjusted to best fit students’ needs. Leahy tries to make each day different. Two fundamental topics she focuses on in the course are line of reasoning and the breakdown of arguments. Leahy wants her students to be able to think on the fly and “pick topics to argue about and closely examine each side, while trying to contact line of reason.” AP Seminar prepares students for what will come senior year in AP Research. In AP Research, students pick a topic, examine it from all sides, and conduct research to write a paper. The teachers of AP research are there to guide students as they take on individual projects, as little to no group work takes place.
While one course focuses on collaboration, the other enhances individual research. Current senior Sarah McRae took AP seminar last year and said one of the most striking aspects of the course was how involved Leahy is. McRae also mentioned that lessons and activities were common in AP seminar, making each day exciting and unexpectable. Senior Mikayla Sanchez likewise took AP Capstone, and described Leahy’s creative and fun methodology. She said, “To improve my eye contact during presentations, Leahy taped smiley faces around the room and I had to look at each of them as I made my presentation. Activities like these allowed me to become a well rounded student while taking the course.” In AP research, McRae, Sanchez, and the other AP research students are now each working on detailed research papers for which they each chose a topic. They receive guidance and insight from the AP research teachers and classmates, but each study is mainly individual.
Current junior Conor Pierce is taking AP seminar. He described the course similarly to McRae, in that the course is structured very well and there is a good amount of group work. He enjoys being able to collaborate with his classmates and feels that he has greatly improved in discussions and oral presentations. Positive results are not only prevalent in AP seminar, but Connor mentioned that he feels “much more confident and willing to participate in his other classes.” The skills that are built upon in the AP Capstone program are important not only in other classes, but especially in everyday life.
AP Capstone helps to develop better communication skills. These skills are applicable in preparing for college and in the real world, whether one is interacting with others or going through a job interview. Even though AP Capstone is a fairly new program, it will definitely be at GL to stay due to the first hand experiences and opportunities it impacts on students.