New AP courses offered for students

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The AP Human Geography textbooks help students review for tests and quizzes. Photo courtesy of Georgia Evensen.

Kate Kotlyar staff writer

There are two new course offering changes in the form of two new AP classes: AP Human Geography (AP HuG) and AP Music Theory

AP HuG, taught by history teacher Alice Roh, focuses on where and why events happen and how it affects a country’s development. AP Music Theory, taught by vocal music teacher Ethan Smith, focuses on giving students a fundamental understanding of music and everything seen on a sheet of music. Roh first discovered the class because her son took the class at his high school and then advocated for it. Smith, on the other hand, was surprised that he would be teaching AP Music Theory. 

“When I learned that I was going to be teaching AP Music Theory, I was listening to a school board meeting last spring. Mr. Mead was saying that they were going to start an AP music class and I knew I was going to be moved to the high school. [So,] I sent him an email and said, ‘Who’s teaching that class?’ and he said ‘You are.’ That’s how that happened,” Smith said. 

Similarly to how Roh discovered AP HuG, Assistant Superintendent of Education Services Dustin Seemann looked to other districts before implementing the new AP courses. 

“Over the last three years, I’ve been auditing different Advanced Placement courses that we offer and looking [to] our surrounding districts [to see] what Advanced Placement courses they’re offering that are very successful. AP Human Geography is a perfect example where a lot of our surrounding districts have already implemented it and [it has] very high enrollment… School districts in our surrounding area that offer AP Human Geography run 3-4 [classes]…The exact same thing with [AP] Music Theory. There has been an ask [for the class] all four years I have been here,” Seemann said.  

AP Music Theory counts band, orchestra and choir students as a sizable population of its roster. Senior Jaida Rocha said that sightreading seems “a lot less scary now” because of her participation in the class. Junior B’Anwi Fomukong thinks that AP Music Theory helps her in orchestra. 

“I would say it mostly [does help me] because now complex rhythms that we have to play through, I…actually understand…It’s really interesting and also really help[s] when connecting and transferring what I learned [in] music theory over to orchestra,” Fomukong said. 

Since AP Music Theory includes a variety of students, “there’s plenty of room for everybody to have something that’s challenging for them,” Smith said. For Fomukong, Rocha and senior Parsa Farnad, dictation is the most challenging aspect of the class. 

“[Mr. Smith will] play [an excerpt] and then you’ll get to hear it maybe three or four times, but once he’s done playing it, he’s done playing it. You just have to hope you remember it well enough, and I don’t have the greatest short term memory for things like that. So, that’s definitely the hardest part,” Farnad said. 

For senior Josh Neidlman, term memorization is the most challenging part of AP HuG.

“My biggest challenge for the class, I think it’s definitely keeping track of all the terms. There are a lot. This is probably the most term heavy class I’ve ever been in. There’s just so many different things you have to know about and a lot of them are also shockingly similar,”Neidleman said.

Just like the students, the teachers have their own set of challenges. Both Roh and Smith have trouble teaching these new courses in an online setting. 

I was super skeptical about starting this class in this [online] format. I spend hours learning this new content and how to present it in this format. But ultimately, I do enjoy it and hopefully the students do too. I did have doubts, all the way up ‘til the first day of school. I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, is this really happening?’ But, we’re just rolling with it. [The] students have been flexible [and] I’m trying to be flexible,” Roh said. 

Despite the challenges, Roh hopes that AP HuG will help her students through life. 

“I hope that they’ll leave this class with a broader understanding and perspective of the world. And keeping [this] in mind, the global view that we are just citizens of this big world, but being mindful of some of the global issues and problems that they will face in the future,” Roh said. 

Neidlman meets her hopes. He claims the class is “very woke.”

Smith also hopes that his students will not be scared to pursue difficult tasks. Junior Rafael Gatenyo said that just because a class “has AP in front of it,” that “it shouldn’t intimidate someone.”

“I think that it’s daunting, it’s an intense class, it’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of information in a short amount of time culminating in a big AP test,” Smith said. “So, I hope that at the end of all that, [the students] will understand that even if something is difficult and daunting, and it takes a lot of work, if you apply yourself to it, you can accomplish it. [I hope they] take that lesson and apply it to other aspects of their lives as well.”

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