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The Applied Learning of AP Capstone


KIS is proud of its AP program. With nearly thirty advanced placement options, the majority of KIS high school students take at least one AP course. This spring, 324 students sat for a total of 824 AP exams. High school associate principal Brian Voeller believes that the rigor of AP classes provides students with the opportunity to push themselves in a variety of subjects. “You can design your own path,” Mr. Voeller says, “This allows for both discovery and specialization.”

KIS also offers the AP Capstone program, a unique two year academic commitment. Eligible sophomores and juniors begin with the seminar course before completing the research course. AP Seminar helps students establish basic research and analysis practices through the study of existing scholarly work. Students scaffold writing and presentation skills throughout AP Seminar to prepare for the individual work of AP Research. This year’s AP Research juniors reflect on their experience. 

The first challenge of AP Research is to choose an area of inquiry, formulating an original research question. “What makes this class special is that students are into their own things,” Justin says. Michelle plans to pursue journalism so she investigated fake news and political conflict in the US, prompting her own family to change their view of digital safety. Amy wants to study architecture but took the AP Research year as an opportunity to dig into another interest, chemistry. Jaeyoung applied an academic lens to her Korean culture storytelling project. And Seoho merged two of his passions – computer science and music – to analyze how extraversion affects musical taste. A narrow focus of study paradoxically confirms the expansiveness of a single topic. 

The autonomy of AP research is empowering. Because the scope of the assignment is so great, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Lauren remembers not having time to worry about the process and counts personal growth as one benefit of AP Capstone. “You learn to manage and become independent,” Lauren says, and her classmates agree. Letizia shares her strategy of completing tasks as quickly as possible, knowing that a big part of the work is ongoing problem solving and revision. “You realize what you’re capable of,” Letizia says, “You conduct research, put together a paper, know what you’re talking about. This is attainable.” 

Throughout the year, students develop important, transferable skills. Eric reflects that the Capstone program is about more than acquiring information. “Capstone builds writing confidence,” he says, “And advances your ability to analyze and talk in depth about your research.” Sandra agrees and says, “Public speaking is frightening. But we’re given multiple opportunities to improve – seeing myself improve was the most rewarding thing.” By the close of the Capstone program, each student is confident of their knowledge and skill set and their presentations to KIS faculty reflected that foundation. 

So do this year’s AP research juniors recommend the Capstone program? Absolutely. Lucas says the courses are great for “people who want to see how things are interwoven.” Mr. Voeller would like the program to grow too. AP Capstone underscores the value KIS places on applied learning. 

Thank you to the AP Research students who shared their experiences here, and to AP Research teacher Max Fazio.