Local schools embrace TED Talk concept
Room 268 at Conestoga High School was bursting with passion for a hodgepodge of ideas. Hip-hop as a lens for life. The case for more funding for NASA. The argument for paying student athletes. The future of evolution. The student debt crisis. The enduring power of Star Wars.
Room 268 at Conestoga High School was bursting with passion for a hodgepodge of ideas.
Hip-hop as a lens for life. The case for more funding for NASA. The argument for paying student athletes. The future of evolution. The student debt crisis. The enduring power of Star Wars.
One by one, 11 students presented ideas to their classmates in the style of TED Talks, the engaging lectures about a variety of topics, many given by experts. TED Talks started more than 30 years ago through TED - for technology, entertainment and design - a nonprofit with the tagline, "Ideas worth spreading."
During Friday's daylong event, Michael Zhang, 17, who dreams of helping to cure cancer, talked about his work with genes for two summers at a research institute at Harvard University. He encouraged his classmates to dream big.
Do not blindly accept assumptions or believe everything authority figures say, he said.
"It happens in school a lot - no offense," he said, gesturing to a teacher.
Friday's series was the fifth such event the student club TEDxStoga has held since the club started three years ago.
In its case, TED stands for Tredyffrin/Easttown Discussions. The group is not officially affiliated with TED. But 2,000 school groups worldwide have been affiliated as TED-Ed Clubs since the program was launched last year.
Five hundred of them remain active. Teachers across the country show TED talks in their classrooms.
Radnor High School has scheduled its first TEDx conference, a TED-like event hosted by independent organizers, for May.
Phoenixville Area High School plans to offer a TED-like class next school year. The elective, which is to feature talks from students, teachers, and community members, needs the school board's blessing next month.
At Conestoga, about 100 students filled the room of stadium-style seats at each of the talks Friday.
"This is a way to say, 'You have no limits. Explore whatever you want. Dive into your passions,' " said senior Rohan Gandhi, copresident of TEDxStoga.
Melissa Lopez, also copresident and a senior, said the idea is to promote open-mindedness.
English teacher Tricia Ebarvia, the group's adviser, said she gives students as much freedom as possible. Once, a student put cardboard on the carpeted floor and demonstrated break dancing, explaining its cultural significance.
Ebarvia, 39, said she was impressed by students' passion and dedication to giving a presentation that is not required.
On Friday, Mia Borger, 17, explained why she thinks the story, characters, special effects, and marketability of Star Wars have contributed to the film series' endurance.
"There will be spoilers, but, come on, it's been 30 years," she said.
Keeping with the space theme, Yanni Tsetsekos, a 16-year-old sophomore, told students how NASA has helped improve their lives and why it should receive a larger share of the federal budget.
"I look up to NASA like basketball players look up to Michael Jordan," he said.
Julia Danon, a senior, talked about improving technology in prosthetics and other medical fields.
"Warning for anybody who's squeamish and doesn't like to look at gross stuff," she said. "I'm about to show the inside of someone's brain."
A few obligatory "ewws" followed.
The lectures were streamed on the school district's TV channel and are to go on the club's YouTube channel. Conestoga has two more series of talks set, for February and April.
Students also are developing a website.
Radnor's conference on May 26 is to include talks by students, teachers, and possibly community members. The theme "What if?" invites students to explore possibilities, said David Stango, an assistant principal and a firm TED fan.
"I'm sort of surprised I haven't seen it in more places, quite frankly," he said. "It's definitely a great, innovative, unique sort of event to have at a school."