AP Seminar, an Exploration of American Wilderness

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AP Seminar, an Exploration of American Wilderness

Photo by Kaitlyn Keesee

Photo by Kaitlyn Keesee

Photo by Kaitlyn Keesee

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Recently, a new class was added to Blacksburg High School course registry that caused some to stop dead in their tracks. The words “AP Seminar” meant nothing to the puzzled students as they signed up for their classes early in the spring of 2018. Some took a leap of faith and added the course to their schedule blindly; some heard about it from their Chemistry or Environmental Science teachers; some might have been forced to take it; some scratched their heads in confusion and ignored it altogether. But in the end, the question we’re all really asking is: “What is AP Seminar?”

“I would say that AP seminar is a class designed to help AP students get ready for actual college classes,” said Adam Rotche, the seminar teacher. “A lot of skills that you’re expected to know when you get to college — including how to do research for a database, read difficult books quickly, and work well in groups — you’re never actually taught, so the idea is that this class helps you to develop those skills before then.”

He specifically recommends the class to upperclassmen preparing for college, or even sophomores who want some extra help getting through their other AP classes. He then goes on to describe the focus of the class: American Wilderness.

“It’s based on a couple of MY favorite classes I ever took in college. We discuss, read about, and research how wilderness shapes what it means to be an American.”

So far this year, the class has begun to analyze the book “Wilderness and the American Mind,” by Roderick Nash. As the students delve into each chapter individually and discuss it as a group during class, they begin to understand how religion, history, and society has shaped the way we view the wilderness around us.

While Mr. Rotche has put his own personal spin on it, this class takes many different shapes and forms all over the world. It is only one of thousands of AP Seminar and AP Research courses adopted by public schools, and its versatility in the classroom allows it to become whatever the teacher wants or needs it to be.

In the course description provided by the creators of AP Seminar (AP Capstone), it is described as “a year-long course that has students investigate real-world issues from multiple perspectives.” It goes on to say, “Students learn to synthesize information from different sources, develop their own lines of reasoning in research-based written essays, and design and deliver oral and visual presentations, both individually and as part of a team.”

The AP Capstone program is currently being implemented in over 1,100 high schools all over the world, including schools in the U.S., Africa, East and Central Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

“I think it’s pretty exciting we get to have this class at Blacksburg High School because it’s a super new class worldwide,” said Rotche. “There aren’t many classes like it in Virginia, or even that nation, so we’re lucky it’s being offered here.”

After hearing words from a few of his current students about the class, everyone should consider taking such a course at some point during high school.

“There’s a lot of open discussion, and he makes it easy to talk freely,” said Sidd Ekkad, an AP Seminar student.

Klaudia Kanska agrees:  “I like how the class digs deeper into topics we don’t normally discuss at school. It’s never boring.”

There’s not much more to ask from a class than to be interesting and open. So, keep in mind when registering for future classes the growing reputation of a class built from the ground up by Mr. Rotche.

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