A new way to critically think

Advanced academic program sure to push students

AP Capstone

Photo Courtesy of College Board

Each year of the AP Capstone program, students must complete a set number of projects and exams in order to progress.

Leah Pickhinke, Staff Reporter

Advanced placement classes have always been available for students who want to push themselves and work at a college level, but AP Capstone is something fairly new to students. From the start of the 2021-2022 school year, students have had access to a course called AP Capstone, a two-year long process that starts junior year with AP Seminar and ends with AP Research in senior year.

AP Capstone was created to help provide students with skills that are needed for school and life beyond the classroom. It teaches students how to critically think and navigate through possible situations while evaluating and engaging in different points of view.

“AP Research runs two years long and has several components,” AP Capstone teacher Megan McEnaney said. “The outcome is a 4,000-5,000 word academic research paper and a 20 minute presentation and oral defense.”

The rigorous two year long program starts with AP Seminar which is a class that allows students to evaluate issues from different perspectives, make logical arguments and make justifiable recommendations on a certain topic that they will carry onto the next year. Once progressing onto AP Research in senior year, students will take their previous knowledge learned from seminar and apply it to their research project.

“AP Research consists of finding a gap in existing research, making a research question about that gap, analyzing research methods and creating your own,”  senior Sam Clegg said. “We then collect data and draw conclusions and then write an entire paper about our research.”

The beginning of the AP Capstone program first became an idea in the fall of 2019 when teachers and administrators recognised that we needed a program that teaches students how to critically think, collaborate and learn life skills that will set them up for future success. 

“The implementation of AP Capstone came from our School Improvement Team action steps,” AP Capstone teacher Kara Radtke said. “The SIT decided that Millard West needed a program of choice to draw students in. Millard South has Early College and Millard North has IB. We haven’t seen enough data to say that this program has brought students into MIllard West, but we are hoping that through publicity and over time, people will have a better understanding of what the program is.”

The AP Capstone program is a rare opportunity for students to learn the process of research and carry on their knowledge and understanding into their post-secondary education. One main goal for students is that they hope to gain a diploma by the end of the program.

“I knew I wanted to join the AP Capstone program because I didn’t want to miss out on the things i’m learning in this class now,” senior Sania Azhar said. “I’ve learned a method that has been carried on from last year taking a seminar that aligns with my discipline and research question. Using this method, us students conduct our own original research (which can be experimental or non-experimental) and analyze our findings. Like AP Seminar, we present our findings to a panel and complete an oral defense, it’s a lot but totally worth it in the end.”

Sophomores who attend Millard West or are planning on transferring are eligible to apply for the AP Capstone course after filling out an application including your common transcript, skills and a teacher recommendation. Applications must be turned in by December, 2022.