Credit: Kidsday staff artist / Lingfei Zhao, Syosset

We are the only school on Long Island that offers Advanced Placement world history to eighth-grade students. Dr. Karen Lessler has been teaching this course to middle school students for 14 years. I interviewed Dr. Lessler not only because having this course offered at our school is so unique, but also because the students who take the course really seem to love the curriculum and her as their teacher.

Dr. Lessler informed me in our interview that Dr. Mary DeRose, who was then superintendent of Kings Park Central School District, came up with the idea to give the middle schoolers the opportunity to take this course. You might be wondering why would an eighth-grader want to take an AP history course in middle school, and Dr. Lessler gave me the answer. She told me that her students develop critical-thinking skills and learn the skills that are necessary to communicate effectively. She also added that the curriculum builds up their writing skills, which they will need throughout high school and eventually college.

Dr. Lessler said the course is designed to prepare the students for high school and that students who take the course in middle school also have the opportunity to take more courses once they are in high school, and these students can also earn college credits.

Dr. Lessler also explained to me some of the activities the students do in this advanced class. She said that the students create PowerPoint presentations, collaborate on group activities, read a variety of genres that are rigorous and complete very demanding writing tasks. Most of her students said that some of their favorite topics in the course have been the Roman Empire, the classical age and the Renaissance.

There are some ways you can try to get this course offered at your school. You can survey the students about their interest in taking this course and then petition to get it offered. AP world history is a lot of hard work, but it seems students learn things that they will definitely need for their future, and it includes many engaging topics.

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