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Conard's AP Capstone Program

By: Rebeccah Fleischmann

Conard High School is one of the approximately 1,800 schools in the world to offer the AP Capstone diploma - an innovative program that enables students to develop writing, speaking, and researching skills. The program consists of two courses taken sequentially - AP Seminar and AP Research. Students who take both courses, four other AP courses and receive scores of 3 or higher on each AP exam, earn the AP Capstone diploma. 

AP Seminar is a project-based course, where students choose and research topics through analysing different perspectives and lenses. AP Seminar includes research papers and group and individual presentations. At the end of the year, students take a written exam.

In AP Research, students design and execute their own study on a topic of their choosing. After writing a research paper on their findings, they present and defend their results. This year, there are 11 students taking AP Research and I am one of them. My study analyzes the impact of meditation on working memory capacity, a type of short term memory, on Conard high school students. Results reveal a 30% increase in working memory capacity after a week of daily meditation. Another study conducted by one of my peers found that running resulted in a decreased heart rate, which is correlated with lower stress levels. Other topics of research projects included crystals, food habits, and health education. AP Research is unique from other classes as it provides the freedom to choose what topic one wishes to research and dedicate their year to (within reason).

As a large part of AP Capstone courses consists of learning how to write formal essays, there continues to be a debate over if these courses qualify for English credit. However, it is clear that these courses offer tremendous benefits on speaking and writing skills as a recent study conducted by College Board found that AP Capstone students were more likely to have higher freshman college GPAs than non AP students. From my personal experience and that of my peers who have taken Capstone courses along with me, we highly recommend taking AP Seminar and AP Research to learn skills-writing, reading, public speaking and conducting research-that you will continue to utilize for life.

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