Nick Enquist | Staff Writer
No one was more surprised than Pardes Jewish Day School eighth-grader Jennifer Marhoffer when she found out that her TED Talk video was being featured on the TED-Ed Club YouTube channel, where it could be viewed by millions of people worldwide.
Out of 44 students in Pardes’ TED-Ed Club, Marhoffer was the only one whose video was picked by TED’s educational initiative, TED-Ed.
“I really wasn’t expecting it, so when I saw it I was a little confused,” Marhoffer said. “I showed my mom first and then I told my friends. My friends were shocked, they were like, ‘You’re famous now.’”
TED Talks are a series of videos featuring expert speakers speaking on topics such as science, business, technology and education. Schools that apply for a TED-Ed Club are provided with free materials dedicated to helping students create their own TED Talks. The clubs are designed to enhance student imagination, inventiveness and public speaking skills, and are held in more than 100 different countries.
Pardes seventh- and eighth-grade humanities teacher Anna Lock and technology specialist Lezlie Strolle introduced the club to Pardes. They met with Lock’s students twice a week to help develop a topic for each TED Talk.
“They often changed their topic quite quickly,” Strolle said. “They found out that it wasn’t truly a passion, because it was extremely difficult to generate even a basic bullet list involving that idea.”
Marhoffer focused her presentation on the importance of art in schools and how it has a positive benefit on students. In her presentation, Marhoffer is poised, confident and enthusiastic.
“It took a while, because I had to think really deeply about what I wanted to do,” Marhoffer said. “I didn’t want to do something that was not meaningful to me, because it’s harder for me to write.”
Lock and Strolle gave the students full rein over whatever subjects they found interesting. They guided rather than forced the students into a subject.
The students in the club shared their work in small groups and provided constructive feedback. The groups rotated so that students could get more perspective on their projects.
“TED walks you through the process of creating a story,” Lock said. “So, they talk about a beginning, a middle and an end. They’re also taught skills in isolation to further develop those portions of the stories.”
TED-Ed also provided mentoring videos for inspiration.
This year, Lock and Strolle plan to use what they learned last year to build on the club.
“They needed to rehearse a lot more than we gave them time for,” Strolle said. “We gave them about a month and a half, two months to rehearse. As you do it the first time, you find things that you would change, you would add or delete or strengthen.”
Along with allowing students more time to rehearse, they will teach them more technological skills so the they
can learn how to edit and film their own presentations.
Although TED-Ed provides a lot of written materials, how the talks are recorded is left up to the schools. This allows schools from all over the world to participate.
Strolle and Lock believe the club’s effectiveness goes beyond simply expressing an idea.
“The type of skills you’re trying to provide students with these days are the 21st-century skills,” Lock said. “They really need to move forward, and being able to speak effectively in front of a crowd, and maintain their attention from beginning, middle and end is a really important skill.” JN
To watch Marhoffer’s TED Talk, as well as other student TED Talks from around the world, visit bit.ly/2zn406Q.