AP Courses + Applied Learning = A Winning Formula

The Academies of Nashville aim to bridge the gap between rigorous academics and real-world learning opportunities. Elliott, an Academy Ambassador from McGavock High School's Academy of Aviation & Transportation, writes in this post about the important relationship between theoretical knowledge in the sciences and its practical application in engineering. His experiences also demonstrate how the career academies foster a collaborative learning environment, a characteristics that coincides with the National Career Academy Coalition's list of best practices.

Through my experiences with the Academies of Nashville, I am learning real life skills in addition to academic content. In McGavock High School's Academy of Aviation and Transportation, I have the best of both worlds. Last year, when my Advanced Placement (AP) physics teacher told me that we were going to work with catapults and trajectories of an object, I was ahead of the game because I had already built a trebuchet the year before in my engineering class. When I took the ACT, I was worried because I had heard the Science portion is so difficult. I scored a 32 on the ACT overall and a 35 in the science portion. I attribute most of that score to all the technical reading of charts and graphs that I have done in my academy pathway classes.

Through these pathway classes I have gained exposure. I went behind the scenes at the airport; I competed in a local engineering competition in which my team placed first; and I got to attend a Technology Student Association event in which my team placed second. Many of my friends have had opportunities for internships that they absolutely loved! I also had an incredible opportunity this past summer to be awarded a $3000 scholarship by Ford Motor Credit Fund that enabled me and two other academy students in Nashville to participate in the Constitutional Convention experience. I took an online course, earning 3 college credits, and spent a week in Washington, D.C. with students from all over the United States.

Staying with a pathway teacher for multiple years also engages you in learning in more depth and builds strong relationships.  On the first day of my AP English class, my teacher asked us to write down the name of a teacher we felt we could trust. I didn’t have to think about it at all. I immediately wrote down my pathway teacher’s name.

I have heard people say that the academies limit you or keep you from taking rigorous courses. I have many friends in the magnet schools who, along with their parents, voice that opinion.  However, that is not what my friends and I have experienced.  I am taking 10 AP courses over my high school career and the difference I see is that the academies have given us more focus and opened up opportunities and experiences that have both broadened our perspectives and shown us more options and opportunities than I could have seen in a traditional high school.