2021 AP Research Projects

An overview of student’s AP Research studies of the year, a course that builds critical thinking and research skills

Shoshie Hemley, News Editor

AP Capstone is a program that has been offered at City High for four years. Students in the two-year program first take AP Seminar as juniors and then AP Research as seniors. AP Seminar focuses on secondary research, while students in AP Research spend the year creating their own primary research, putting together studies and collecting data. 

“I think I learned a lot from both classes,” Joslyn Becker ‘21 said. “[Through] AP research, [I’ve] gained the confidence to present in front of people and understand that [I] have the capability to dive into topics and research [them].”

City High teachers Micheal Ayers and Ali Borger-Germann run the program, alternating each year between teaching Seminar and Research. 

“If you had told me that students could do this [research] five years ago, I would have been like, ‘I don’t think so,’” Borger-Germann said. “But then I watched it happen, it’s astonishing. This is stuff that I didn’t even get to do as an undergrad. You’re never invited to do this kind of experimental, or capital R, research.”

This year’s AP Research students have finished collecting their data and presenting their findings, and are now in the process of writing their research papers. 

“What’s cool about this research is they can take it to an undergraduate advisor and say, ‘Hey I did this research, I’m interested in taking it further.’ They have this place where they can say, ‘I’ve already done this, I’ve already thought about this, I’ve already read the seminal writers in this field.’ They just have a leg up that literally no other high school student ever has had,” Borger-Germann said. 

Studies in the class this year range from content analyses of wealth in the TV show “Big Little Lies” to the emotional intelligence of sons raised by lesbian mothers, focusing on the humanities, science, and the arts. 

“This is your opportunity to create new knowledge in a field that you care about,” Borger-Germann said. “All of these [projects] will be super niche, but then they’re actually adding value to the world. I just think there’s nothing like it in high school anywhere else.”

Becker researched the correlation between grade point averages of students in the two different learning models in the Iowa City School District: in-person and online. 

“It took a lot [more] patience than I thought it was going to, but it was really interesting to see the findings. I found that there was not a direct correlation and that the GPAs from the two learning methods were actually really really close,” Becker said. 

Becker surveyed students from both learning models when conducting her research. 

“At first it was really hard to get people to take the survey. I initially sent it out to teachers in hopes that they could either put it on their Canvas page or email it out to their students, and I got close to no responses,” Becker said. “So then I contacted Mr. Bacon and he ended up helping me send it out to the entire student body which was extremely helpful because I think if he hadn’t done that, it would have been really hard to do my research project at all.”

Isaac Weigel ‘21 did a study on the effects of the events of 2020 on the City High student senate election, also surveying the student body, as well as interviews, to conduct his research. 

“It took a while brainstorming what I was interested in. I think kind of what set me off on that was the student council. The end result wasn’t what I necessarily expected it to be,” Weigel said. “I started thinking about how the other schools interacted with their student councils, but after narrowly going through the review process quite a few times, it kept getting narrower and narrower, and eventually I just focused on specifically the City High student council election to see what influenced that.”

Weigel hopes to continue using the skills he’s learned in AP Research throughout his higher education, looking ahead to conducting more research in the future. 

Students who’ve completed both Capstone courses with an AP score of three or higher, as well as a four or higher on four additional AP exams besides Seminar and Research will be receiving an AP Capstone Diploma.

“I think that part of the problem is there are too many ideas, and you have to be able to choose one and then see yourself take that project from the very beginning to the very end, when you could be taking another project from the very beginning to the end,” Weigel said. “It’s hard to find out what exactly you like. You might have a broad idea, but you don’t know exactly what you need to find. It’s too much fun.”

Students interested in signing up for AP Seminar in the future can reach out to their counselor to do so. 

“It was nothing like any other class you take, and it’s such an independent opportunity to do something that not only you enjoy, but something that you would maybe even see yourself doing later in life. Personally for me, I always loved the idea of creating new knowledge, of knowing something better than anybody else and taking it farther than anybody’s taken it before,” Weigel said. “I had no idea how to do that until we had AP Seminar and AP Research. It was a great experience doing something on my own.”