BY NUHA ISLAM
Hours of hard work and practice have culminated into a ten-minute group presentation last week in the form of a PowerPoint slideshow. And while most students are familiar with this format, the amount of research and preparation that goes into each project behind the scenes is astonishing.
“I’ve learned so much about how to research, cite, and put together arguments,” CCHS sophomore Ashwin Mathi said. “I also learned self-restraint because I haven’t strangled anyone yet.”
Mathi worked within a group of four, just like other first-year Capstone students. To stay within the ten-minute speaking limit, each person had two and a half minutes to speak.
“It was imperative that we weren’t a second overtime, and that none of our partners were either,” CCHS sophomore Simran Anand said. “The whole group receives the same grade, so everyone had to pull their own weight.”
The presentations are 20% of the class grade for Seminar students. With this in mind, the students have been pouring in hours of work, many showing up in full three-piece suits.
Classrooms, libraries, living rooms and study halls soon became fair ground for practice in the weeks prior.
“I see a lot of kids coming in and sacrificing their lunch to practice their speeches,” media center supervisor Marti Aylsworth said. “I also watch many of the final Powerpoints, and I’m blown away by how professional they seem.”
During the week of 2/14 and the following, the two eighth hour Seminar classes gathered in the media center to watch their fellow coursemates.
Topics ranged from decriminalization of drugs to the red meat industry. Regardless of the message, all groups had to present an argument, backed with evidence and analysis.
AP Seminar is the first class of a two-part program known as Capstone. Completion of the program along with 4 other AP courses leads to the Capstone diploma.
The Capstone programs break a lot of the traditional norms for AP courses, with the exam in May having only three questions.
Hannah Riggott, a junior who is now in AP Research, advises first-year students to work their hardest in class.
“The AP score you earn isn’t only from the exam, but from the major projects that you do over the course of the year,” Riggott said. “I view it as a good thing, because your entire grade isn’t riding on one test. But it also means you need to put in effort constantly.”
The first part of the year is spent working on these group projects. The next part is an individual project and research paper.
Major collaborative projects are not something AP classes are typically associated with, and neither are self-chosen topics of study, but it allows for a level of freedom in their work.
What returning AP students will find familiarity in is the rigor and work quality expected in other Advanced Placement subjects.
“The curriculum given to the teachers is a lot more flexible in Seminar, so we are looking to see how high schools adapt in the second year of the program,” BCPS county-at-large board member Robin Bartleman said. “Students I’ve discussed with like how different it is from the AP courses they’ve taken previously.”
So who should take the course?
“I recommend Seminar to any college bound student who wants to work on their public speaking ability, as well as writing skills and argument development,” teacher Loretta Coyne said. “The skills you learn are ones easily put to use in college, no matter which you go to.”