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AR Humanities Expands Opportunities for Student Voices

Rowland Hall students are known for their writing.

Throughout their time at the school, there is an ongoing emphasis on developing strong writing skills, and faculty members provide expert guidance as students grasp the foundations of language and grammar, then begin to build on their skills, knowledge, and confidence. Year by year, the school graduates exceptional writers, many of whom share their voices, whether that’s through poetry, science, or newspaper op-eds.

With the introduction of AR Humanities, Upper School students can apply and build writing skills on a whole new level: through college-level humanities research.

“Even though I'm a ‘STEM student’ of sorts and really like robotics and whatnot, I was really interested in doing some sort of deep dive into writing and humanities-based research,” said Omar Alsolaiman, one of the six seniors enrolled in AR Humanities in fall 2023. “And I thought the idea of getting to a full paper by the end was super exciting.”

Omar is referring to the 15- to 20-page research paper that is the pinnacle of the AR Humanities experience. Written over the 17 weeks of the fall semester, each student’s paper is the culmination of their time tackling research like professional scholars: by choosing a focused project question, developing unique arguments, and examining primary and secondary sources.

This class is an opportunity for students to craft questions around something that’s meaningful and interesting to them ... and to ultimately make small but meaningful contributions to a larger body of knowledge about whatever topic they want to study.—Dr. Nate Kogan ’00, history teacher

“This class is an opportunity for students to craft questions around something that’s meaningful and interesting to them, and to work to pursue that in the way one would an undergraduate senior thesis,” said history teacher Dr. Nate Kogan ’00. “They’re more independently trying to emulate the methods and practices and scholarship they’ll be more fully immersed in when they go to college, and to ultimately make small but meaningful contributions to a larger body of knowledge about whatever topic they want to study.”

In addition to providing the students with his own support as a historian and academic, Nate uses Wendy Belcher's Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks, a workbook for academic publishing, to guide them through the research process. “I try to give the class a well-scaffolded and accessible entry point to the type of work real scholars in the humanities use,” he said. “This book helps plan the course by setting up a practical and accessible framework of steps you have to go through, which can often be opaque and challenging for students.”

And whatever a student’s inquiry, said Nate, they pursue the same process, meaning that over the semester, each class member became familiar with how college-level research unfolds as they pursued individualized research topics:

  • how American media coverage of Haiti employed necropolitical narratives;
  • how the medieval kingdom of Al-Andalus fostered social cohesion amongst a multiethnic and religiously diverse community;
  • how neoliberal economic and regulatory policies toward pharmaceutical companies exacerbated in opioid crisis in Appalachia;
  • how neoliberal economic policies exacerbated the gender wage gap and intensified racially driven critiques of welfare policy;
  • how changing attitudes toward migrant players in the US men’s soccer program limited the competitiveness of the team at international competitions; and
  • how the community-based ideologies and practices of the original Black Panther Party evolved into a more exclusionary form with the New Black Panther Party in the 1980s and 1990s.

“I learned a lot about what college-level writing would be like, and I definitely learned a ton of great formal writing strategies while also researching something I'm really interested in that I hope to continue learning about,” said Omar, who worked on the Al-Andalus project, and credits AR Humanities for building his ability to write efficiently and systematically—a skill he believes will be invaluable in college.

I learned a lot about what college-level writing would be like, and I definitely learned a ton of great formal writing strategies while also researching something I'm really interested in that I hope to continue learning about.—Omar Alsolaiman, class of 2024

And since this is an AR class, the experience also included the chance for the students to share their work. As the semester began to wind down, the group worked to condense their arguments into eight-minute presentations for a mini-conference, held at the Upper School in December. Not only was the conference a chance to share their research with more people, but it also improved their final papers.

“The goal of the presentation is to serve as a testing ground for the clarity of their written arguments: ‘Can I take this stuff I've been mulling over and writing about and communicate it clearly to other people?’” said Nate. “That process of distilling an argument and trying to articulate it in a more condensed format also helps with the final revision stage: ‘Which points landed? Where do I need to play up the evidence more clearly?’”

By the end of the semester, all six students had completed beautifully written research papers that reflected their diverse and wide-ranging interests. (Though it wasn’t required, one student submitted their paper to The Concord Review, a high school history scholarship journal, in addition to Nate.) When asked to reflect on the class experience, Omar said it was valuable in many ways, not least of which was its reminder of the importance of the humanities as well as the ability to write well—areas that can easily be forgotten in the noise of a technology-heavy world.

“This class definitely reminded me how important the humanities are to me, so in college I'm hoping to find some outlet or focus on the humanities, despite my overarching path in engineering and STEM,” he said. “It also recentered my strengths in writing as one of my most important skills for the future.”

Click the video below to listen to this year’s AR Humanities students share their research at their mini-conference.

AR Humanities Expands Opportunities for Student Voices

Rowland Hall students are known for their writing.

Throughout their time at the school, there is an ongoing emphasis on developing strong writing skills, and faculty members provide expert guidance as students grasp the foundations of language and grammar, then begin to build on their skills, knowledge, and confidence. Year by year, the school graduates exceptional writers, many of whom share their voices, whether that’s through poetry, science, or newspaper op-eds.

With the introduction of AR Humanities, Upper School students can apply and build writing skills on a whole new level: through college-level humanities research.

“Even though I'm a ‘STEM student’ of sorts and really like robotics and whatnot, I was really interested in doing some sort of deep dive into writing and humanities-based research,” said Omar Alsolaiman, one of the six seniors enrolled in AR Humanities in fall 2023. “And I thought the idea of getting to a full paper by the end was super exciting.”

Omar is referring to the 15- to 20-page research paper that is the pinnacle of the AR Humanities experience. Written over the 17 weeks of the fall semester, each student’s paper is the culmination of their time tackling research like professional scholars: by choosing a focused project question, developing unique arguments, and examining primary and secondary sources.

This class is an opportunity for students to craft questions around something that’s meaningful and interesting to them ... and to ultimately make small but meaningful contributions to a larger body of knowledge about whatever topic they want to study.—Dr. Nate Kogan ’00, history teacher

“This class is an opportunity for students to craft questions around something that’s meaningful and interesting to them, and to work to pursue that in the way one would an undergraduate senior thesis,” said history teacher Dr. Nate Kogan ’00. “They’re more independently trying to emulate the methods and practices and scholarship they’ll be more fully immersed in when they go to college, and to ultimately make small but meaningful contributions to a larger body of knowledge about whatever topic they want to study.”

In addition to providing the students with his own support as a historian and academic, Nate uses Wendy Belcher's Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks, a workbook for academic publishing, to guide them through the research process. “I try to give the class a well-scaffolded and accessible entry point to the type of work real scholars in the humanities use,” he said. “This book helps plan the course by setting up a practical and accessible framework of steps you have to go through, which can often be opaque and challenging for students.”

And whatever a student’s inquiry, said Nate, they pursue the same process, meaning that over the semester, each class member became familiar with how college-level research unfolds as they pursued individualized research topics:

  • how American media coverage of Haiti employed necropolitical narratives;
  • how the medieval kingdom of Al-Andalus fostered social cohesion amongst a multiethnic and religiously diverse community;
  • how neoliberal economic and regulatory policies toward pharmaceutical companies exacerbated in opioid crisis in Appalachia;
  • how neoliberal economic policies exacerbated the gender wage gap and intensified racially driven critiques of welfare policy;
  • how changing attitudes toward migrant players in the US men’s soccer program limited the competitiveness of the team at international competitions; and
  • how the community-based ideologies and practices of the original Black Panther Party evolved into a more exclusionary form with the New Black Panther Party in the 1980s and 1990s.

“I learned a lot about what college-level writing would be like, and I definitely learned a ton of great formal writing strategies while also researching something I'm really interested in that I hope to continue learning about,” said Omar, who worked on the Al-Andalus project, and credits AR Humanities for building his ability to write efficiently and systematically—a skill he believes will be invaluable in college.

I learned a lot about what college-level writing would be like, and I definitely learned a ton of great formal writing strategies while also researching something I'm really interested in that I hope to continue learning about.—Omar Alsolaiman, class of 2024

And since this is an AR class, the experience also included the chance for the students to share their work. As the semester began to wind down, the group worked to condense their arguments into eight-minute presentations for a mini-conference, held at the Upper School in December. Not only was the conference a chance to share their research with more people, but it also improved their final papers.

“The goal of the presentation is to serve as a testing ground for the clarity of their written arguments: ‘Can I take this stuff I've been mulling over and writing about and communicate it clearly to other people?’” said Nate. “That process of distilling an argument and trying to articulate it in a more condensed format also helps with the final revision stage: ‘Which points landed? Where do I need to play up the evidence more clearly?’”

By the end of the semester, all six students had completed beautifully written research papers that reflected their diverse and wide-ranging interests. (Though it wasn’t required, one student submitted their paper to The Concord Review, a high school history scholarship journal, in addition to Nate.) When asked to reflect on the class experience, Omar said it was valuable in many ways, not least of which was its reminder of the importance of the humanities as well as the ability to write well—areas that can easily be forgotten in the noise of a technology-heavy world.

“This class definitely reminded me how important the humanities are to me, so in college I'm hoping to find some outlet or focus on the humanities, despite my overarching path in engineering and STEM,” he said. “It also recentered my strengths in writing as one of my most important skills for the future.”

Click the video below to listen to this year’s AR Humanities students share their research at their mini-conference.

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