Students Design, Teach, and Take their own AP Course

Jan 5, 2016 | Impact, Maker, Upper School News

IMG_1931Two Mount Vernon juniors are halfway through what they have called a life-changing experience. As members of the School’s Innovation Diploma program, Anya Smith-Roman and Emmy Schaeffer have developed an AP (Advanced Placement) Language course, one in which they created the syllabus, learning benchmarks, and the assessments. While this is a course many students take during their junior year, Anya and Emmy are taking it, too but in their case they are the students AND the teachers.
The idea came about during their first year of the Innovation Diploma program, when they realized much of the work in ID relied heavily on making observations, synthesizing information, and writing. As they reflected on their experience, Director of the Innovation Diploma program Meghan Cureton suggested they might take the work in ID to another level by developing their own course, one ultimately requiring the approval of the College Board.
After spending countless hours last summer doing research, meeting with faculty members, and developing the components of the course, it was important for Anya and Emmy to create a class that would be as rigorous if not more so than the AP Lang course their peers take. Needless to say, a couple of weeks into the semester their course was wholeheartedly approved by the College Board. And while the class has not included traditional grading, tests and assignments, these two innovators will be assessed at the end through the final AP exam.
Their experience so far as students and teachers came to life at the halfway mark of the school year when each shared a MoVe (moment of visible empathy) talk before a room full of School faculty and administrators. You may watch their presentation HERE. Additionally, they set up a gallery walk of artifacts which included their writing samples, course texts, diagrams, and reflections. One of the best ways to see into their experience is through their blog writing, Life of Pinya.
While creating this course certainly fulfills course requirements towards graduation and college admission, both Anya and Emmy have discovered a lot about themselves, and their interest in education design (especially from a student’s perspective) is taking them to levels they never dreamed were possible.
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