Strengthening Skills for Life

The AP Capstone program is, perhaps, one of the greatest secrets at our Senior School.

AP Capstone is a unique offering from the College Board, which oversees the Advanced Placement program, and was designed to improve critical thinking, academic writing, research and presentation skills. Those Senior School students who choose the program, comprising AP Seminar (taken normally by Grade 11s) and AP Research (taken by Grade 12s), swear by it. They feel it challenges them and is a passport to helping them with the rigour of university academics and beyond. Current Grade 12 student, Amalia Mairet, said, “Ultimately, I had an incredible experience with this program.”

Other students, not in the program, may be somewhat mystified by the fact that AP Capstone students don’t have to learn anything content-wise for the course; instead, the courses focus on and enhance skills that will serve them well in post-secondary.

Above all, though, the program needs to be seen for what it has achieved and continues to achieve. AP Capstone helps students develop a variety of academic skills: questioning and exploring current knowledge; understanding and analyzing arguments and claims; evaluating multiple perspectives; synthesizing ideas into an argument; and communicating their argument.

In practical terms, the students become adept in the critical evaluation of texts, research, group collaboration, academic writing, multimedia presentations, and original research with the direct support of Senior School teacher librarian Joan Tweedie and us, their AP Capstone teachers.

It is not just the AP scores that matter. For the AP Research students, the process of picking a focus of study, reading scholarly literature within that focus, finding a gap in the scholarly literature, and then trying to fill the gap with their own research method is powerful and enriching. The diversity of topics covered astounds us each year.

This year, the AP Research students demonstrated how resourceful our students can be, while coping with the pandemic restrictions on how they conducted their own research.

Here is a small sample of this year’s 26 topics:

  • Death education
  • Toxic video gaming
  • Racial microaggressions in Grades 6-9 students
  • Perceptions of feminism
  • Digital media affecting Buddhist teachings
  • Ocean acidification in the northern Strait of Georgia
  • Sexual education curriculum in Thailand

The AP Research students started in AP Seminar back in pre-COVID times in September 2019, so to see the improvements in all the aforementioned skills in 18 months is rewarding. Soft skills involving time management, meeting soft and hard deadlines, dealing with setbacks (and there were plenty of these this year with COVID), support for each other, and even dealing with anxiety before their 15-20 minute filmed presentations are all elements that will prepare them well for university and life beyond.

You can watch two of this year’s filmed AP Research presentations, “Machines, Morals, and Community” and “Perceptions of Feminism,” at the top and bottom of this story.

The dedication of this exceptional group of AP Research students has been particularly impressive, especially with the current split semester timetable which makes continuity problematic in skills-based courses like this one, as well as dealing with all the uncertainty of the learning process due to COVID-19 during the last 15 months.

Recently, a Grade 8 parent sat in on a few of the AP Research presentations and shared the following with us: “Sitting in on three recent AP Research presentations, I was amazed by each presenter’s poise and confidence; the extensive subject knowledge of each presenter; and by the sophisticated research methodologies each employed. Although each of the three presentations was different in topic, all three presentations were highly engaging, relevant, and original. The three students appeared confident, knowledgeable, and prepared; they presented and answered questions with grace, intelligence, and confidence. There was genuine passion and enthusiasm on the part of each presenter for the material and subject matter he or she was speaking about, and each student exuded a sense of academic integrity. I felt excited for each presenter, and for whatever he or she goes on to pursue in the future!”

As teachers in this program, in both AP Seminar and Research, we applaud our students for their resilience, their commitment, and their accomplishments.

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