Can students create their own Advanced Placement course? I guess so! I just talked to Katherine Jones and Anya Smith, two juniors at Mt. Vernon Presbyterian School in Atlanta. They wrote, developed, submitted, are “taking”, and have now been accredited for an AP Language Arts course. According to them it appears to be the first student-written course to receive this approval. And I am both honored and STOKED that my book #EdJourney has been one of the guiding resources they are using in this new AP course!
Why go to the trouble? When I first met them more than a year ago, they were frustrated, as are many schools, teacher, and students that existing highly proscribed AP courses do not allow students to follow their interests, yet many colleges still want to see those AP-heavy student transcripts. So rather than either giving in or walking away, they took what can only be described as a truly courageous, potentially disruptive leap. (Of course they received the blessings and support of their school via people like Head of School Brett Jacobsen, Bo Adams, and Meghan Cureton.
Anya and Kat say that they developed the course to investigate how students can take ownership of their learning process, and to “see our thinking and writing used in the real world. We want to contribute to the conversation”, not just learn for the sake of learning. They built the arc of the course around the theme of the “hero’s journey”, which, according to Wikipedia “involves a hero who goes on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, and then comes home changed or transformed”. They read and wrote about #EdJourney as an example of the intersection of education and innovation. They read and wrote about The Great Gatsby as a window into the idea and theme of new frontiers. These led them to think about the nature of the status quo, so their Latin teacher/mentor pointed them towards elements of Plato’s Republic as their thinking moved towards the relationships of education, government, justice, and truth.
At the end of the year, Kat and Anya will invite the larger community into their final work production, which will include both a gallery walk and two ten minute “move” talks where they will express what they have learned and where they plan to “go” next.
These are two remarkable young women who are both pursuing and articulating a sophisticated understanding of student-owned learning from the student perspective. We see a book in their future. And I am DEAD serious about this: if you are reading this blog it probably means you have some interest in school transformation. I recommend professional colleagues who can help in that regard. I would STRONGLY recommend schools connect with Kat and Anya as consultants. They have thought deeply about how and why learning is effective, and their voices are every bit as valuable, if not more so, than many adults. I imagine today their consulting rates would be pretty darn reasonable; in a few years, you will not be able to afford them.