Inside Our Schools
ColoradoBoulevard.net recently spoke with Public Relations Coordinator Felita Kealing of Pasadena’s Marshall Fundamental Secondary School about its deepening of the existing Advanced Placement (AP) classes, designed for college-bound students.
Previously a test-heavy course, AP at Marshall has expanded into a Capstone Diploma program, as well as Seminar and Research Certificates. AP Social Studies Chairperson Joshua Tornek explains that these new offerings “…seek to tie together many of the learning experiences from individual classes. The historical topics of the Cold War and the African-American Civil Rights Movement are being used to explore themes of power and democracy in the modern world.”
Below is Capstone student Minke Bartholomew‘s ground level report on how the coursework has transformed her critical thinking skills from memorizing the ‘right’ answer to seeking real ones.
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This past year Marshall introduced a new class for juniors, AP Seminar. It’s the first course in a two class program called AP Capstone*. At this time last year, a group of my peers and I had been told that information and not much else. We knew there would be essay writing, and eventually a whole class in which we’d get to decide what we learned. That’s about it. I chose to take the class.
By Minke Bartholomew
AP Seminar was definitely not what I was expecting. The whole class revolves around two essays and presentations, which are sent to the College Board and make up about half of a student’s total AP score. Anybody who is familiar with AP classes knows this is an ideal change from the usual AP practice, so your whole score doesn’t hinge on the end of course exam. Students spend practically the whole course crafting the assignments that the College Board will actually see and score them on. No other AP class that I know of can boast of that.
It is now
No other class in high school, AP or not, is quite like AP Seminar. It’s unlike any class I’ve ever taken, and there’s really nothing to compare it to. It’s not about a singular subject; students get to choose their topics according to what they’re interested in and what they want to research. The teacher, Mr. Tornek, is one of the most competent and intelligent people I’ve ever met. However, in AP Seminar he acts less as a teacher and more as an overseer, assisting us and keeping us on track, but allowing us to take the wheel and go where our passions take us. There is an element of academic freedom in this class that mirrors what will actually be expected of students in college, and isn’t replicated in any other high school classroom.
What I, and the rest of the students enrolled in the class, have taken from this course though, isn’t so much the information we chose to learn. That is a part of it, but it really has been about the skills that we’ve developed. I look back now on the academic writing I did even just a year ago, and it is so clear how much I’ve improved. It is now second nature for me to question the credibility of anything that I come across. Multiple page research or academic essays are significantly less daunting, and even easy. I feel much more confident giving presentations and speaking professionally in front of people. In all honesty, the workload is immense, but it forces students to learn to effectively manage their time and prioritize. At the end of it all, my peers and I have made it through unscathed, and now have an extremely valuable skill set that most people don’t get to develop until they are in college.
We went in blind, not knowing what to expect, but it was so worth it. The future juniors are being given an opportunity that is rare and valuable. The present Seminar class is about to enter into the second leg of the journey, AP Research. Next year we’ll have a class in which we get to spend the whole year focusing on one topic of our choosing and conducting our own research on that topic. We basically get to make up a class and then teach it to ourselves. Future juniors will only get this opportunity if they take advantage of the one before them now. And now they know what to expect.
Minke Bartholomew is a senior at Pasadena’s Marshall Fundamental, Class of 2019. She’s enrolled in the Academy for Creative Industries, a member of the National Honors Society, and named AP Scholar with Distinction.
*The AP Capstone is a new class that was first offered during the 2017-2018 School Year. It is also newly offered by the College Board.
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