AP Art History course fights for enrollment
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Specialized classes are often overlooked by a majority of students, leaving the courses with a scarcity of students and the threat of cancellation. AP Art History, a class that has been taught for 24 years, faces such a threat as only 11 students are enrolled in it this year.
The class faces the threat of cancellation due to the lack of student enrollment as well as fund cuts in the Art Department. In recent years, fulfilling the enrollment requirements for art classes at the school has become more challenging and the reason why is not clear. Some feel it is because students are told to take more challenging elective classes across the board and because of that they do not have as much time for classes for enjoyment or passion.
“We know students are being asked to stretch in their academic classes and a kid who doesn’t feel 100 percent confident that they can rise to that challenge often will add a study hall,” said Ms. Laura Milas, the AP Art History teacher and the head of the Art Dept.
There are only six periods in the day for classes which limits the amount of electives students can take. According to Ms. Milas, the students would take more classes if they were able to, but the time constraint and the fact that not many people have heard about AP Art History limits the enrollment numbers.
“I would have taken [AP Art History] but I filled the spot up. I don’t have time in my schedule, ” said Ann Stephen, sophomore.
Another reason for the low enrollment might be because the class is simply not noticed or heard about; it is a history class in the art department- located on the opposite side of the social studies hallway.
“In general I think people just don’t know about it. The students in the class aren’t really the most vocal about getting the class out so you don’t hear about it,” said Jen Ayres, a senior currently enrolled in the class.
Along with the fact that students have not been enrolling in the class, the department has also been facing fund issues after the school board decided not to take the full tax levy a couple of years ago, leaving fewer dollars to go around for previously struggling classes like this one.
The college level class stands apart from many of the other AP classes in the school. This class analyzes both components of history and art to better understand the daily life of people in the past. Unlike other history classes, AP Art History focuses on pieces and movements of art to better understand the time period.
“When you leave this class you’re getting a totally different view of history and human behavior than in a typical history class,” Ms. Milas said. “This really shows you what people valued, how did they live, and how they thought the universe worked.”
Like other advanced classes, this class allows students to learn skills beyond just class content. According to Ms. Milas, the class helps students develop visual skills and trains the eye to notice things better.
“I think before this class it was very easy for me to not necessarily approach just art but other things as well and kind of quickly think about them and not slow down and take the time to really analyze, interpret and digest what I’m looking at,” Ayres said.
Instead of writing papers and taking tests, the class leans more towards the students presenting their own ways of showing that they have learned. The material ranges from short assessments to presentations on the topic of study. Students are also hands on with the art they learn about and often try to recreate artistic styles they study.
The art component of the class made some apprehensive about taking the class although this class does not require any prerequisite or advanced art skills. “Really anyone can take it-we all are learning, we all are on the same tract and we all are learning these new skills and new art terms that we hadn’t known before,” Ayres said.
Ms. Milas and other students both agree that classes like these can enhance students’ high school transcripts to show colleges that they are interested and able to succeed in a variety of realms of knowledge. Ms. Milas believes that sometimes students’ transcripts are similar to each other as many take the same S.T.E.M. classes and can have similar ACT scores.
“Any way you can distinguish your application is beneficial, and this class is one way to do so,” said Ms. Milas, adding how she hopes the course runs in the future. “The administration in our building is supportive. I think they are just trying to find ways to make things work with the amount of money in the budget.”