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AP Capstone: A Two Year Journey

AP courses are plentiful at GBHS, but a relatively new one is being piloted to a select number of schools in the country, including Grand Blanc, and feedback has been positive. A class of about 14 students has almost completed their two-year commitment with teacher Mrs. Bleicher. AP Seminar is a prerequisite for AP Research and the two together make up AP Capstone. This year Mrs. Endicott has joined Bleicher to co-teach the two courses.

According to their website, the College Board says AP Capstone "equips students with the independent research, collaborative teamwork, and communication skills that are increasingly valued by colleges." It's designed to complement study in other AP courses, and Grand Blanc students agree, this course has helped them in many other areas with time management, presentation, writing and identifying trustworthy sources of information. Grand Blanc AP Seminar student, Blake Spencer said after his final presentation for the year, "It prepares me for college very well." He said no matter what field he goes into, the research and public speaking skills will help him succeed.

The AP Seminar students have a class of about 24 this year, and Bleicher and Endicott say they have a full class for Seminar next year at approximately the same number, meaning the program will basically be at capacity next year. Students are required to apply for the program, but there haven't been any students prohibited from taking the class yet. This may change if interest continues to grow.

In AP Seminar students investigate real-world issues from multiple perspectives, gathering and analyzing information from various sources in order to develop credible and valid evidence-based arguments. Student Jennah Changezi said it is teaching her self-discipline. Jennah did her Individual Multi-Media Presentations and Oral Defense on "A Warming Earth".

In the second year, students are told to explore an academic topic, problem, or issue that interests them. They are challenged to design, plan, and conduct a year-long research-based investigation to address it. In AP Research students must produce and defend a scholarly academic paper of 4,000-5,000 words and give a presentation with an oral defense, during which students answer questions from a panel of evaluators. The next step, after choosing a topic, is to determine their research methods. In some cases, they surveyed students, teachers, or relevant community members. Another method is to conduct interviews. They also sort through research, papers and academic sources for data to support or disprove their hypothesis, in the process, learning how to identify credible sources. The class is very collaborative in that peer-review is used heavily. For parts of the course, teachers aren't allowed to correct the student's work at all, to comply with AP assessment regulations.

Student Matthew Bush's parents came to observe their son's final presentation on Friday, April 26 in the Flex Lab. Bush's mom said, "more than any other class, this class has taught them how to be in college." Matthew did his presentation on "Incel Community Shared Beliefs & Indicative Traits", a topic he found interesting because of the unique combination of social isolation and an almost exclusively internet-based population that identify as Incels.

Other topics of final presentations/papers for AP Research included "Intergenerational Culture Clash in Immigrant Households" by Shreya Rao and "Feasibility of Bright Classrooms as a Prospective Method to Inhibit Myopia" presented by Catherine Huang. Marcella Petiprin presented to an audience that included members of the library board on "Action Research for School Libraries", a topic that will help Grand Blanc staff remodel the high school library space in the near future to best suit student needs.

Students must earn scores of 3 or higher (out of a possible 5) in both of these courses and on four additional AP exams to receive an AP Capstone Diploma, which signifies outstanding academic achievement and attainment of college-level academic and research skills. If they earn scores of 3 or higher in AP Seminar and AP Research and less than four other AP classes, they will receive the AP Capstone Certificate.

Last year, 2018 GBHS graduate and National Merit finalist, Veronica Sikora, was one of only 111 students in the WORLD to earn a perfect score on her presentation, oral defense, and paper.