What does the world need to know?
“If you had three to five minutes to tell the world something, what would it be?”
This is the central question Language Arts teacher, Val Wheeler, asks Casey Middle School students to help frame their upcoming TEDEd talks.
Teacher Wheeler is the founder of one of the first-ever TEDEd programs, now in its second year at Casey. TEDEd is an extension of the popular TED Talks and TEDxBoulder, which are built on presenting ‘an idea worth sharing.’
Breaking New Ground
It all started last year, when Ms. Wheeler answered a call to teachers to start school-based TEDEd Clubs. Her application was accepted along with 14 other U.S. schools.
“A lot of the skills we want students to get in 8th grade LA, to be better writers and find that their writing matters and can make a difference, this project does,” Ms. Wheeler says.
Enter TEDxBoulder Celebrity
There’s no better way to energize middle schoolers than hearing from a real-life TED Talk expert and TEDxBoulder celebrity, such as Ash Beckham.
Few have experienced the power of telling a personal story that resonates with a larger community than Ms. Beckham has.
Two years ago, she presented her TEDxBoulder talk in which shared the idea that ‘Everybody has some kind of a closet to come out of and it’s hard to do. Hard is hard. Hard is not relative.’
At the time, Ms. Beckham was a waitress at Southside Walnut Café. When her talk hit YouTube, it was an instant viral sensation, rocketing to over 8 million views. Calling herself the ‘accidental advocate,’ she now speaks for a living, giving a series of presentations about diversity and inclusion at universities.
Today, she is volunteering her time to help these students focus on the task at hand: Write and present a full-blown TEDEd talk, complete with the likely jangled nerves that public speaking causes in most of us.
“I didn’t do my Ted talk to have that many people see it, but that’s what happened,” Ms. Beckham told first period students while giving pointers on how to create a story that connects.
“If you explain to somebody what it feels like to be you, which is a super vulnerable thing to do…They may not know exactly what it’s like to be you, but they know something close,” Ms. Beckham says.
“A TEDEd talk is the nitty and the gritty, right, because nobody relates to being perfect. It isn’t this place to say how great you are, it’s this place to say I’m just like everybody else,” she explained.
In a nutshell, Ms. Beckham advised students to:
- Talk about a relate-able problem with an uncommon solution
- Tell a personal story, share something about you with the audience
- Make it narrow, five minutes is not much time
- It only has to make one person feel they are not alone in what they are doing
- Tell your audience how they can make a difference
For the presentations, Ms. Wheeler gives students a choice of presenting to a small group, the entire class of 20-30, or to hundreds in an on-stage, evening program.
Last year, after the in-class presentations, the number of on-stage presentations jumped from eight to 29. “Once they got up and did it one time, they were ready to do it again to a larger group,” says Ms. Wheeler.
Some of the students took their presentations even further, traveling to the 2014 YouthCaN Conference in New York City, where they gave attendees a first-hand look into their experience sharing ideas within their TED-Ed Club.
What’s in store this year? Stay tuned: We’ll share how it all comes out.
You can view last year’s presentations on BV22 Educational Television.