First Class of Capstone Seniors Reflect on the Research Process


Cheryl Collins

Students Sarah Ray, Miranda Van Doren, Maddie Cox, and Avery Deen presented their Capstone Seminar group project last year and it was filmed to be sent to College Board as part of their AP exam score.

Avery Deen, Reporter

The Capstone program consists of two years of classes, AP Capstone Seminar and AP Capstone Research, in which the students learn the research process and get to explore topics of their choosing with an in depth study. Last year was the first time Seminar was offered at CPHS, and this year’s seniors graduating with their AP Capstone diplomas are the first to graduate from the program in LISD.

Many people are not aware of what students in Capstone do or what the benefits of taking the class are. Senior Aubrey Minix explained what the class meant to her and what she got out of it.

“I really liked exploring a topic in depth freely and having the ability to learn how to research something,” Minix said. “The most helpful thing I have learned is how to find dependable articles and sources, because an academic study is highly dependent upon scholarly sources and does not leave room for googling random topics. Instead, I became well versed in JSTOR and scholarly search databases and I can feel I can more adequately research anything now.”

The two year commitment can seem daunting, but students are rewarded with a student led academic environment in which they are given the freedom to explore any topic of their interest. Ideas explored by the group of graduating seniors through their two year experience range from perceptions of the disabled to how one would go about constructing an underwater city. Such as senior Maddie Cox and her friends did for their Seminar group research project.

“I took Capstone because I wanted to have the opportunity to research what I was interested in, because often times normal course curriculum doesn’t match the things that I am interested in,” Cox said. “I loved having the freedom to work completely independently on material of my own choosing. I had a lot of opportunities to be creative and explore things that I could not have known about otherwise, like underwater cities. This course is really helpful for teaching independence and self management. The teachers really don’t babysit you, and you get out what you put into it. It is definitely a good class to take before college.”

While the AP Seminar class is slightly more teacher led, students still have the second semester to complete two research projects, one individual and one group, on their own. Seminar serves to teach students how to go about the research process which better eases them into the entirely student led AP Research class.  

“I took Seminar because I thought it’d be a good opportunity for me to expand on the academic experience because it’s a really different course which you can receive AP credit for,” senior Gabe Villarreal said. “I think it was really cool that they reward you for being able to research something. I took Research because I really enjoyed Seminar and because I found out Research is more of a year round thing where you get to research a topic of interest and you get a lot more freedom with it. One part was the diploma, but mostly it was to research something in depth. It was a lot of work and it was a struggle but I think the reward is greater than the struggle because you’re able to go in front of people and speak about something that you’ve spent so much of your time on and show off what you did.”

Over the course of the year, Research students choose their topics, explore them in depth, and conduct their own study over a previously unexplored aspect of the field. The final paper is around 5,000 words and is submitted to College Board in late april. The submissions include their paper as well as a video of them giving a presentation over their research and findings which is 20 minutes long and filmed in front of a panel of three judges from the CPHS staff who asked questions at the end from a predetermined list. This is far different from most AP courses and students had to develop time management and organizational skills to keep them on track.

“I definitely think it’s important that sophomores consider Capstone because it’s really different from other classes and i think it’s a lot more interesting than other classes,” Villarreal said. “I think it’s a really cool way to get an AP credit. It’s a really cool way to expand your vision of AP classes because usually AP classes are coursework and then a test, and some of them seem like test prep and I think it’s cool to see a different type of class. My favorite part about being in Capstone is being around people who have the same motivations I do, like wanting to research things and put in the time commitment, but also being by myself and being able to research something that I care about.”