WLHS freshmen are invited into AP program

Advanced Placement preparation courses have, until recently, been reserved to select students at West Linn High School.  Now the program has been broadened to include students in all grade levels.  Nearly 160 freshmen are enrolled in the new AP Human Geography course this year.

“Traditionally, Human Geography is taught at the freshmen and sophomore level,” Matt Kellogg, social studies teacher and department chair, said. “It’s seen as a good introduction into AP classes.”

Human Geography is a study that encompasses many social sciences, examines cultural phenomenons occurring around the world, and draws conclusions on outcomes of such occurrences, according to Kellogg.

“It’s a vast field. It’s a lot of critical thinking on analysis; you’re looking at maps from around the world, making conclusions and problem-solving,” Kellogg said.

The idea to incorporate freshmen into the AP program came around the middle of last year, at which point teachers were selected to teach the class: Kellogg and Leah Martin, social studies teacher.  Even though freshmen are the only students eligible to take the class, the curriculum has not been adjusted to accompany for “lack of experience.”

“The AP format doesn’t really let you modify [the curriculum]. They essentially give you an outline of everything that needs to be taught.  It’s a college-level test, and we’ve been moving through it at a rapid pace. I haven’t seen the need [to adjust curriculum] at this point,” Kellogg said.

Those that signed up for AP Human Geography should “expect it to be hard,” according to Natasha Venecia, freshman.  “The class is meant to be for the people that are meant to be in it,” Venecia said.

Although Venecia suspects some freshmen signed up for the course because of outside pressures, she also believes others have a general interest for social studies.

“I like all that we’re learning,” Venecia said. “It’s actually really interesting.  I look forward to the class each day.  You’re learning about people in Africa, in Asia, about people all over the world.”

Both Kellogg and Venecia are able to verify that the AP class will be different than any other social studies class the freshmen class has taken.  However, they believe the students are generally capable of a good performance.

“My classmates are really smart,” Venicia said. “I’ve never met so many people who are so smart.”

Tools and abilities that students will adapt during this class, according to Kellogg, revolve around writing, as three essays are included on the final test.

Venecia is open to these challenges.  “[AP Human Geography] prepares [students] for challenges, it teaches them many tools to be successful throughout high school, college, work, and last of all it’s a good way to improve your learning capabilities and to know you are capable of doing challenging, time-consuming work,” she said.

Kellogg hopes that if the students demonstrate abilities to tackle AP curriculum, the AP program will be expanded for freshmen, and administers can “strengthen AP offering in the social students department.”

Although the class has never been taught at WLHS, Kellogg said ”…it will be nice to have gotten through it one time.”