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Woodbury High School AP Geography teacher Andrew Burfeind plays a game of jeopardy with his students last month to help them review for the first test of the year.

Advancing success

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Woodbury High School's Advanced Placement (AP) human geography class is now in its second year and is continuing to grow and expand while students explore the content.

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AP geography began being offered at WHS last year to freshmen as another component of the school's college readiness initiative, AP geography teacher Ted Welsch said.

"It gets them ready for future AP classes and college," he said. "It gets them right away."

This year WHS has a total of four sections and a total of 121 students.

Last year's AP geography classes were taught by retired teacher Victoria Svetlik, so both Welsch and fellow AP geography teacher Andrew Burfeind are new to the game.

"She left us with copious materials," Welsch said. "So, I feel really prepared. But they're some very large shoes to fill."

Advancing through geography

The course summary for AP geography, according to the College Board website, states: "The purpose of the AP course in human geography is to introduce students to the systematic study of patterns and processes that have shaped human understanding, use, and alteration of Earth's surface. Students employ spatial concepts and landscape analysis to examine human social organization and its environmental consequences. They also learn about the methods and tools geographers use in their science and practice."

AP geography is different from the regular world geography class at WHS since it focuses on human geography, rather than physical geography like land formations, states and countries.

"The high level text has very little to do with the physical side," Welsch said. "The test assumes you already know all that."

Topics covered in the class include nature, population, cultural patterns, political organization of space and industrial and economic development.

"These are the things students will have to dig into," Welsch said.

AP geography is a one year course.

"We do in one year what most colleges do in one semester," Burfeind said.

Many of the classroom activities include reading, map work, papers and projects.

"It's a very student-centered class," Welsch said. "They're responsible for doing the reading, they're responsible for doing the projects. You can't expect a teacher to spoon feed you the information."

Catching them earlier

AP geography is different than other AP classes since it is available to only freshman, whereas other AP classes are reserved for upper classman.

"We start them earlier than we were before," Welsch said.

The reason for offering AP geography to freshman is to get students exposed to AP courses early so they are familiar with how the classes function before getting into the other subjects such as English, science, math and other social studies courses.

"It's a little frightening offering a college level class to ninth graders," Welsch said. "But they have been very enthusiastic."

AP Geography is the same as other AP classes in that if a student passes the AP test at the end of the year, made up of 60 multiple choice questions and essay questions, they will receive college credit for the course.

"I tell my students that the test will help pay for college," Welsch said. "That AP test translates to $1,000 in school tuition."

Burfeind and Welsch both said they have been very pleased with how the class has been going this year.

"The students really enjoy the discussions and interactions we have," Burfeind said. "They've all been really excited and willing to do the amount of work.

"I'm trying to get students excited to get good scores."

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Amber Kispert-Smith
Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
(651) 702-0976
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