AP/ CAPSTONE—A New Way of Learning
By Tania Romero
The American School of Guadalajara has been chosen to pilot a new educational program in Latin America. The College Board in New York and Cambridge University in England has combined to offer a two-year course called AP/Cambridge Capstone at the local school. The class is mentored by Dr. Michael Hogan, a well-known historian and long-time teacher. As senior student Luciana Mendez noted, “The Capstone Program is different from other advanced classes because we get to experience self-directed learning. We actually choose an area in science, technology or the humanities that we are interested in to research.”
Principal Gabriel Lemmon explains, “This program is not based on a particular curriculum of content but on skills. The most recent studies about education are saying that even though content is important, it is not the goal. The goal is how you use the content and how you come to understand, analyze, synthesize and cite it.” This class requires fully committed students who question assumptions and expand on analytical and research skills through self-direction.
The students spend a year in an intensive series of seminars developing research, writing, and presentation skills with their mentor. They choose any two interdisciplinary and challenging topics to investigate during the year and then write a research paper on each. They can be as varied as the how to solve pollution problems with the Rio Lerma, to the influx of Central American immigrants. Additionally, two presentations are videotaped and expected to be of exceptional quality. A year later, during their senior year, students complete a multidisciplinary investigation, which results in a 5,000 word paper, and a practical demonstration or outcome in the community.
These two courses, combined with four AP exams in science, math, English and humanities will result in the Advanced Placement Diploma. Prestigious U.S. colleges in conjunction with Cambridge University in England were involved in the planning for the AP/Cambridge Diploma to ensure that it will be recognized by universities around the world.
The students in this class learn the importance of making themselves useful. They discover that education shouldn’t be limited to the classroom or personal development, but should involve service and the community. The hope is that each student will become a committed, perceptive, problem-solving, human being.
AP/Cambridge Capstone emphasizes the value of investigation, especially in a world in which people are constantly exposed to dangerous or untrustworthy information. Einstein once wrote, “If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?” In the end, the new course fosters humility, openness to new ideas and solutions, and approaches based on solid and reliable evidence which the students will take into their communities.
Author’s bio: Tania Romero is a junior at the American School of Guadalajara involved in the Advanced Placement/Honors Program. She volunteers as an English instructor in a public school, as stage manager and co-director for theater productions, and helps out in a local orphanage. Tania plans to major in Non Profit Administration with a minor in Women’s Studies at Rutgers University.
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