White Station offers a variety of AP classes, but a hidden gem in the world of advanced placement is the AP Capstone program, which consists of two classes–AP Seminar and AP Research. The former focuses on critical thinking and research skills, while the latter provides interested students the opportunity to conduct research on a topic of their choice.
Understanding how to research properly is something Tinaya Ware (12) wanted to accomplish, since she dreams of becoming a doctor. AP Research will give her the advantage over future classmates who did not learn advanced research skills earlier.
“As I’m taking it right now, I see like my weaknesses [in researching] and in the future I [will] know not to repeat those,” Ware said.
Amalie Vacanti (12) was inspired by her older brother to partake in the Capstone program. Vacanti aso has an interest in careers involving research and wanted to give it a shot early in her academic career.
“He was like ‘It’s really hard when you’re in it, but it pays off and you get experience that most people don’t get until they’re in like graduate school or their senior year of college.’” Vacanti said. “So, I was like I might as well challenge myself and do something that will pay off in the long run.”
Because the program is done through the College Board and tests students’ grasp of skills rather than subject matter, AP Research students are not guided by their teachers as much as in other classes. By the end of the course, students will demonstrate their newfound knowledge in a culminating research presentation.
“You’re told that you need to create an original piece of research that … addresses a gap in the existing body of literature and you need to, at the end, produce a new understanding,” Vacanti said.
Despite the virtual circumstances, students are still expected to collect information from others for their research. Ware is researching how students with learning disabilities are being affected by the virtual circumstances.
“It’s actually very hands on,” Ware said. “So, we’re actually having to send out the survey, do interviews and put all the information together… [and write] the research paper.”
Vacanti’s topic focuses on students’ experiences with corporal punishment and its correlation with their views on academic dishonesty. Due to the online setting, Capstone students have needed to take the true identities of survey takers into consideration.
“Now I’m kind of just trusting that on social media whoever clicks on the survey and puts that they are from White Station are telling the truth about the fact they’re from White Station,” Vacanti said.
Staying focused, meeting deadlines and experiencing the challenges of the research process were definite struggles for Ware. Students had to delve into prior texts about their topics before starting their own research.
“The hardest thing about research would have to be the actual reading and interpreting [of] previous research in our fields,” Ware said. “It was hard for me to find research that actually … was … similar to [my topic].”
Being highly involved in a project is a first for many AP Research students, and has shaped their appreciation for hard work.
“I’ve just been like shocked at how much goes into a research project,” Vacanti said. “When you’re in the middle of it, you really see how much detail and effort goes into every step.”
Researching prior sources and creating surveys are only a few of the steps AP Research students have been taking towards their final products. Ware’s research project experience granted her skills that she will keep with her for many years to come.
“I don’t think I’d even be the person that I am today if I didn’t take this class,” Ware said. “It taught me how to just expand my thinking and just continue to reach to be better.”