Andrea is researching whether photography can help cure depression.
Chidinma is studying whether students prefer home-cooked meals or fast food – and why.
Daniel, who wants to be a rocket engineer someday, is researching whether space exploration should be done by government or private industry.
They are among a dozen students making history at Natomas High this year as the first Nighthawks to complete the school’s AP Research class, the final step in the prestigious AP Capstone program launched last year.
To graduate with an AP Capstone Diploma, Natomas High students must pass two linchpin courses, AP Seminar and AP Research, plus four other AP academic classes of their choosing. The program allows teens to earn college credits while acquiring key skills for college and 21st century careers.
The AP Capstone program, like International Baccalaureate at Inderkum High, is recognized for its rigor by top colleges and universities nationwide.
“I wanted to get involved in AP Capstone because I wanted to challenge myself,” Chidinma said.
Sonia said she applied for AP Capstone because “I believe it will benefit me when I’m applying for colleges, and I wanted to get the feeling of what it’s like to research and do my own reports.”
Names of Nighthawks receiving AP Capstone diplomas this year are not yet available pending review of AP end-of-course test scores. But students nearing the finish line of the rigorous academic program say they’ve learned valuable research, analysis, and critical-thinking skills.
“AP Capstone will definitely help me with writing research papers in the future and helping me get ready for college,” Daniel said.
“I know a lot more about how to research scientifically and how to find out about something you’re interested in,” Andrea added.
“I’ve learned how to find a good source, how to know if source is credible, and how to pick out the right information,” Chidinma said. “I’ve learned how to write a good essay, the structure of a good research project, and how to create a data table (reflecting) my results.”
Participants in the program’s final course, AP Research, are known around campus for distinctive white lab coats they often wear while gathering data.
“It’s wonderful, the amount of growth I’ve seen in these students,” said Leonard Finch, who teaches the research course. “They have skills that are impressive to all staff … It gives them kind of an unprecedented opportunity to become researchers.”
Here’s a closer look at the rigor of AP Capstone’s two linchpin courses:
AP Seminar, targeted for 10th– or 11th-graders, engages teens in a cross-curricular exploration of academic and real-world topics. Students investigate topics from multiple perspectives; gather and analyze information from various sources; develop evidence-based arguments; collaborate in teams; and communicate using appropriate media. The course involves both a team project and individual research, the latter leading to a 2,000-word essay and 6- to 8-minute oral presentation.
2). AP Research, taken after the seminar class, requires students to complete a 4,000- to 5,000-word academic paper and deliver a 15- to 20-minute oral presentation on a research question of their choosing. Students learn to synthesize information; explain their research method; analyze and interpret evidence; develop a cogent argument from evidence-based research; reflect on the implications and limitations of their research; document their inquiry process; and acknowledge and cite sources.