George Lucas Educational Foundation
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How a TEDx Mission Connects Students to Real-World Goals (Transcript)

Cameron Brown: All right, your thirty seconds begins right now.

Student: Let’s confess the U.S. is a mess. We are a mess. Our country, one of the richest and most successful in the world, isn’t even on the top twenty list of healthiest countries.

Student: Our TED Talk is about the fact that our country needs to step up their game and improve themselves. If we exercise or eat healthier, our country can bring themselves up to the very top of the list.

Cameron Brown: One of the great things about using missions to teach is that students really get hooked right from the start, something that we try to make really relatable to them. I mean it’s something that they can be excited about. For example, with my TED mission that we’re working on right now, it’s giving students a voice to give their opinion and I think at this age it’s so important for students to really think about what they believe in and start to share that with people around them.

Student: I think really the nice part about this was we were only given a general subject. We got to pick what we wanted to do inside it and I think that’s the really best way to engage children, is to make sure they get to have their own input. ‘Cause if they don’t feel like they’re having an input, they’re not really interested.

Cameron Brown: To me, my favorite part about the Quest model is that it’s so grounded in skills and real-world topics that students are interested in. Using a mission throughout a trimester is a great way to not have me stand at the front of the classroom and say, you know, “Today we’re gonna talk about the food pyramid.” Okay, and we go through the food groups, we talk about each food group, and there’s really no context for students to what that really means to them. To them it’s-- you know, I find in a traditional model that’s something that they would just look at on a screen, they would take their notes on it and then they would move on. But integrating the learning into a mission model that we have here at Quest is so important because we find ways to relate it to the students in their everyday life.

One of the unique aspects of hosting this TEDx event is that the students, they really take ownership of it. Okay? So at the start of the trimester when we start to talk about possible topics and ideas that they could present about, I don’t stand up at the front of the classroom and say, “Here’s a list of five things. You’re gonna select one and you’re gonna present on it.” We work through a series of lessons where students start to identify interests and passions that they have that would be related to fueling their body.

The presentations are gonna start in a couple minutes from now, all right? So from this point forward I want you guys to be quiet. Michelle, I want you guys to be quiet and thinking about what you’re gonna be saying tonight in your presentations. Okay? You guys put in a lot of hard work and now this is the pay off. Okay? So, David, Caleb, let’s do well tonight, okay? You guys are gonna do a good job. So remain in your seats, please.

Within this model as a teacher it challenges you to be a learner as well. In a traditional classroom, you know, you can stand at the front with you textbook and this is what you have to teach. But within the Quest model there’s so many moving parts and things that are changing and things you have to adapt to and as someone that’s passionate about that, you know, we love to get better at what we’re doing. So I think that that really piques a teacher’s interest.

And for the second year in the “Wellness” domain we are excited to be hosting TEDxQuestSchool.

Student: I’ll admit: Games are addicting. So what I believe we should do is cut down slowly. You might want to cut five or ten minutes a day so you don’t, like, come off it too quickly.

Student: And then this, like, meat is, like, all gross.

[ laughter ]

Student: I have a plan to fix this. I call it the “Ten-mile Plan”. You run at least ten miles every week and that can be split up into a running, biking, or swimming. Oy, I know what you’re thinking, “I don’t have enough time to run ten miles.” Raise your hand if you have a TV. Who has a TV? Raise your hand. Oy, so if you don’t have time and you have a TV, then you obviously do have time to run, like, two miles a day.

Student: I hope we all fight for our hope and get help.

Student: It was exciting to present your work to a group of people that you’ve never really known before, but it was nerve-wracking ‘cause you didn’t know what they were gonna say or react.

Student: We were really nervous before and, like, while we were presenting. Like, we were giggling a bit, but it was really good. Like, all the attention was on us.

Cameron Brown: To me, the most interesting part of this trimester and this mission is when the students find that topic that they’re interested in and then they see this TED platform for them to voice their ideas on it. And when they get that idea and they’re like, “Wow, this is cool and I’m sharing it with the world.” You know, I was looking on the TED website yesterday and they’re approaching their one-billionth view of their talks. So this is a massive platform and I think when the students find what it is and they start working towards being on this website, it’s an amazing thing.

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  • Special Thanks: Quest to Learn, Leah Hirsch and her students

This video was originally produced by Institute of Play, and was made possible through generous support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

What does being healthy mean to you? How can you motivate others to make healthy choices in their lives?

These questions were on everyone’s mind as a crowd of students, parents, teachers, and friends gathered at Quest to Learn for the TEDxQuestSchool conference organized by Wellness teacher Cameron Brown.

Students presented ideas to engage and inspire the audience on a range of health and wellness issues – from raising awareness of tobacco addiction (“Don’t be wacko; don’t smoke tobacco!”), to putting the obesity epidemic in perspective (“Terrorism vs. Donuts: What should we be more scared of?”), and advocating for a new full-body fitness routine (“Legalize dodgeball”).

The Wellness program, a cornerstone of life at Quest to Learn, integrates nutrition, physical education, and social-emotional learning to help students understand that health is a complex system with many moving parts, and every choice they make has an impact on their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. A key focus of Wellness classes is making health concepts relevant to students in ways that are connected to their interests, the needs of their communities, and opportunities to succeed in the world today.

The TEDx Youth Conference offers a powerful way to make learning relevant to students’ lives: it helps them develop critical presentation and persuasion skills, provides a space to share their ideas, and asks them to think creatively and critically about how to motivate people to change – helping them become agents of change in their communities and the wider world.

Cameron used the TEDx conference as the final assessment in a 13-week-long unit for his 7th grade Wellness students. While the students find out early on that their final challenge is to present a TEDx talk that inspires people to make healthy choices, they quickly learn that they have a lot of work to do before they are ready to share their ideas on stage!

Throughout the unit – which we call a Mission – students acquire essential knowledge, skills and understanding through a series of Quests that help them get closer to the TEDx talk.

Each Quest helps reinforce the relevance of health and wellness concepts to students’ lives through self-directed learning and project-based activities:

Quest 1: We have a Problem

Students learn about the problem of obesity by reading articles and watching Jamie Oliver’s TED talk, and use discussion-based games and activities to make connections between causes and consequences and explore potential solutions for this health problem. Then they watch more TED talks of their own choice on topics, and review the talks with a focus on identifying qualities of effective presentations. They learn that their challenge is to become motivational speakers and give their own TEDx talks, and begin brainstorming potential topics that interest them.

Quest 2: An Inside Look

Students take on the roles of nutritionists and researchers as they collect and analyze data about their eating habits and those of family and friends in order to identify TEDx topics that are important in their community. They learn nutrition vocabulary and skills like reading a food guide and measuring serving sizes, and compare the data they collected to data about nutrition habits from around the world. They apply this new knowledge and skills to design their own versions of the US Food Guide graphic to promote health and combat obesity.

Quest 3: Ultimate Fitness Design Challenge

Students turn their attention to physical fitness as they collect more data from family and friends, and play physical games to reflect on what makes exercise fun and what motivates people to do it. They learn about different components of fitness, and design a fitness challenge to improve the health of the school community. Students prototype and test their fitness challenges, and then the whole school is invited to participate.

Quest 4: Healthy Take-Out

Students learn about an obstacle to their efforts to improve health in their community: Americans eat out 4-5 times a week! Students collect and analyze restaurant menus, and then are challenged to design their own restaurants to serve healthy and appetizing food.

Quest 5: TEDx

Students are ready to prepare for their talks! They work in groups to develop 30-second elevator pitches on their chosen topics and pitch them to the teacher. Student groups with the best pitches go on to develop 5-minute TED talks with 5 key teaching points, which they later revise with feedback from peers and evaluation rubrics. Groups that are not going on to produce TED talks create experiences for the TEDx conference, such as designing games for attendees to play, producing brochures and pamphlets with health tips, or preparing and selling healthy food.

Parents, teachers and other community members are invited to the final conference, as well as guest speakers from local organizations doing relevant work. All talks are filmed and posted on TEDx Youth – you can see video and photos from Cameron’s class’ conference on the TEDxQuestSchool site.

Create Your Mission

For more about the TEDx Mission, Quest-by-Quest details, resources, assessment tools, and advice on how to implement an experience like this in your classroom, download the free TEDx Mission Pack.

Edutopia's Made With Play series takes a look at game-like learning principles in action and commercial games in real classrooms -- and offers tips and tools for bringing them into your own practice. Get more resources for game-based learning here.

Videos made possible through generous support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

The Made With Play series is a co-production with Institute of Play.

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Game-like learning principles in action, commercial games in real classrooms, and tips and tools for bringing them into your own practice

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