Greenport AP classes focus on environment, sustainability

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04/11/2015 10:00 AM |
Greenport High School AP biology teacher Christopher Buckley gives student Sophia Albizures a high-five after she correctly answers a question about Mendelian genetics. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Greenport High School AP biology teacher Christopher Buckley gives student Sophia Albizures a high-five after she correctly answers a question about Mendelian genetics. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Greenport High School chemistry teacher Christopher Buckley believes opportunities to earn college credit aren’t the only reason it’s important to expand student access to advanced placement courses.

Mr. Buckley, who teaches AP environment and biology courses, said his class material is attractive to many students who already know what they want to do when they grow up. 

“The classes are popular with students because the trend is careers in sustainability,” he said. “I think the future is bright for people with interest in the environment.”

One of those students is 18-year-old senior Cary Saito.

Cary, who took AP environment last year and is taking AP government and biology this year, said she believes the courses are preparing her for the next step in her education.

“Even though it was in the same classroom with the same teacher, it was a very different experience,” she said of her AP courses. “The students were different and the class was much more involved with a lot of discussion.

“It does prepare students to think in a different way at a different level that I’ll be seeing in my years at college,” she said.

The AP courses have also inspired Cary and classmate Kate Creedon to take action. They have been attending Southold Town Youth Council meetings and are organizing sustainable initiatives at local schools, including recycling and composting. They’re also working on petitions aimed at eliminating the use of plastic bags.

“It’s a good example of how the class inspired me to take action,” Cary said. “I think Mr. Buckley has done a great job.”

Greenport High School was one of seven Long Island schools honored in December for increasing student access to advanced placement courses — and for its students’ high scores on AP exams.

The College Board, an international not-for-profit group that offers both AP and SAT programs to help prepare students for college, recently released its fifth annual AP District Honor Roll report, which recognized Greenport and 546 other school districts across the U.S. and Canada for improving students’ opportunities for academic success.

Of the 32 AP exams taken in Greenport during the 2011-12 school year, 30 received a score of 3 or better. School consultant Tom Rabbitt, who retired in 2010 as director of both the guidance and special education departments, said the number of students taking AP courses has swelled to 53.

“Students are encouraged and guided to take these challenging courses,” he said. “Staff development was provided to teachers when they initially took on the role of AP teacher, and I have been personally impressed with their ongoing dedication to improve their expertise.”

Mr. Buckley said he believes Greenport’s success has resulted from a combination of support from administrators and faculty and an improved student work ethic.

“Students are accepting the challenge,” he said. “I think it prepares them the best for the rigors of college. Might as well start now if they’re up to it. It’s not as big of an adjustment when they go to college.”

Cary said her advice for getting the most out of AP courses is to “know what you don’t know.”

“When I study, I like to fill in the gaps because it’s really hard to understand the concepts if you don’t understand the other concepts before that,” she explained.

As for the upcoming AP exams, set for May, Mr. Buckley said his best advice to students is to take the workload seriously and not to suffer in silence.

“There are a lot of students that don’t like to ask questions, so you have to be able to reach out to your teacher if you have any questions,” he said. “You should have questions in an AP class.”

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