Category Archives: #tededclubs

Making Our Ideas A Reality

I am making an effort to write more as my way of engaging in the act of creation every day. I am not an artist so I won’t be doing the draw everyday challenge, but I can certainly write something every day. Today’s writing is about something one of my TED Ed Club members did and I am so, so proud of him for it.

First, some background. Remy is a sophomore in our TED Ed Club and was forced to attend a meeting by a senior who was on the soccer team with him. Remy’s parents are from France and he is fluent in both English and French. But, it didn’t take long for him to realize that this was the exact type of club he was looking for. As we have been talking this year, and especially after attending the TED Ed Weekend even in NYC, we realized that the thing that makes our club so unique from anything in the school and from other TED Ed Clubs is we don’t just have ideas we want to share, but we try to turn them into reality. The club has engaged in a variety of projects over the past few years, and Remy was insistent on making something big happen this year again.

After the event in NYC, Remy was talking with his grandfather (who still lives in France) about our club and his grandfather remarked that nothing like that exists in the school that he works with. His grandfather, who is like the Alumni President, said that he thought the students at the local schools would really benefit from this type of experience. So, Remy decided to start a TED Ed Club in France while still in the US. He wrote an email explaining his idea to the TED Ed people and they loved it! It turns out there are only 5 clubs in all of France, and nothing in this region. They sent him information on how to get started, are going to do a video call with him to discuss the idea further, and are going to feature his work in an upcoming newsletter they are sending to all of the clubs! If he is successful, this will be the first club whose Student Leader doesn’t even live in the same country as the club.

I am so proud of Remy for acting on his great ideas. Being a TED Ed Club Advisor is one of the best things I have had the opportunity to do in my career and I love working with amazing students like Remy.

If you are interested in starting your own TED Ed Club, just check out this link or contact me directly. You can also find us on Instagram and Twitter. Also, check out Remy’s other project, Humans of the Dog Park.


MHSS TED Ed Club’s #BookItForward

I haven’t seen a Kid President episode in a while so the one below caught my attention when I saw it mentioned on Twitter.

Our TED Ed Club has changed focus this year and I feel we have lost a little of the magic that we had last year. In an attempt to regain some of it, I decided we are going to participate in #BookItForward with Kid President.

My idea is for every member of the club to find a book that has meaning for them. It might be something they love to read over and over; it might be something from their childhood; it might be something that someone important gave to them and they want others to hear the story behind it. Each person is going to write down on an index card why this book is meaningful to them and stick it somewhere inside the book. We are also going to add a letter inside explaining our project with a Book Crossing sticker to help us track how far the books go. Then the hard part comes: finding 30 people to send the books to.

I was debating whether this would be a good project when I happened to see this post from Nick Provenzano which confirmed for me that this needs to happen.

So, here is what I need from you, dear readers. I am looking for volunteers to receive books from my TED Ed Club members.  Send me an email ( with the subject #BookItForward Volunteers and your address. I will pick a book from those my club contributes and send it to you. I will also post here thanking you for participating and the story behind the book.

Thank you, in advance, to all of you who volunteer!

Reflections of TEDYouth 2014

I had the opportunity to take three members of my TED Ed Club to the TEDYouth event this past weekend at the Brooklyn Museum and it was a fantastic experience. For those who don’t know, TEDYouth is basically a TED Conference, but attendees are entirely Middle and High School students and their chaperones. The theme was “Worlds Imagined” and every talk had the underlying message of ‘You can do whatever you want in this life’ and ‘Your ideas matter.’ There were about twenty speakers ranging from a 15 year old chef to an astrophysicist to a street dancer to a social photographer to a leech guy. At the bottom of this post you can see some of the pictures I took.

As with every conference, there were good speakers and some less-than-stellar performances. I wanted to discuss 2 of them in this post: Ruddy Roye and Flynn McGarry.

Ruddy Roye is a photojournalist who describes himself as a ‘social photographer.’ One of my students had the chance to introduce him on stage and he turned out to be my favorite speaker of the day.

During his talk, he explains how he feels it is his job to tell the story of the people on the street that he meets through his photographs. He said everyone has a story and we rarely make any effort to learn other people’s stories.  There was one story he told that I wanted to relay to you. He said he was walking down the street and heard some men behind him catcalling at a woman that he realized was walking up from behind him. He let her pass and noticed that she crossed the street to stand in front of a door with a cross on it. He thought this was very odd so he followed her to ask why she was standing there. She turned to him and told him that it was Easter and for Lent every Christian was supposed to give up something. On that day, she decided to give up being a prostitute and Ruddy knew he needed to capture her image (unfortunately not pictured above). I was so completely taken by surprise that I actually lost my breath for a second. The story was so touching and the picture was beautiful. I highly recommend following Ruddy on Instagram (@ruddyroye) to see his amazing work.

The other speaker who had a great story was from Flynn McGarry who is a 15 year old chef. He started cooking when he was 10 because his father kept serving him beets and he very much disliked them. One day he was watching a cooking show and thought ‘what if I cooked them like meat?’ So he started using methods you would use on different meats to cook the beets such as smoking, grilling, barbequeing.

He found a few recipes that seemed to work and began to apply them to other vegetables as well. Instead of meat being the focus, he would use the flavors of the meat to highlight the vegetables. Then he asked his mother if he could hold a dinner party in their living room. The family kitchen couldn’t keep up with his experimenting so he asked his parents to turn part of his bedroom into a kitchen (seen above). Eventually his home-based dinner parties expanded to restaurants in both New York and Los Angeles. During the activities session we had the opportunity to taste one of his creations. It was a smoked, grilled beet with a cranberry reduction and Greek yogurt. I am not a beet lover and I found it delicious!

But, the most important part of the day had nothing to do with sessions or activities. One of the reasons I love being an advisor is the opportunity to build relationships with my students outside of the classroom; to see them as young people instead of just students. Eating lunch with my students, hearing their ideas, joking with them, recording a stop-motion animation, watching the smiles on their faces as they got to experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; these will be the memories from TEDYouth 2014 that will stick with me forever.

First Day(s) of School

One of my unwritten goals for this year is to make a post every week. The idea that I want to pursue for the TED Ed Club is to help others see the awesome that is around them every day. The truth is I have awesome students and we do awesome things in the classroom so I want to share that with everyone.

This was the first week of school. My oldest son entered 2nd grade and every year he comes back and tells us he doesn’t remember anything he did that day. When he entered Kindergarten, I remember him saying that the entire first day was him listening to his teachers tell the class the rules: where to sit, where to stand, when to talk. As he spoke all I heard was ‘Sit. Stand. Speak. Good boy.’ This year I vowed not to make class an obedience lesson.

The first day of school is a clean slate. I can be anyone I want. I can be the person I was last year or I can completely recreate myself. I chose the latter.

On the first day, I told my students that I didn’t want to talk about procedures or grading or a syllabus. I talked about learning and my expectations for them and their expectations for me. I talked about my experience at the Google Teacher Academy and how it changed my life. I did a lot of talking, unfortunately, but they did a lot of smiling.

My classes are very different from each other. I think my Honors classes surprised me the most. I talk about my bungee chairs and how I encourage the class to make the classroom their learning space, to be as comfortable as possible. One of classes just stared at the chairs as if I told them they could sit on a bed of nails all class. My other class stopped me, asked if I was serious, and the second we broke for the activity, began pushing each other out of the way to get to the chairs. One student didn’t make it so he sat on top of his group’s desks, happy as a clam.

Colleagues came up to me on Friday and told me how their former students who have me told them how excited they were for my class. That makes me feel good, that they actually heard what I was trying to tell them. But on the 2nd day of class I wanted to be sure. I ran a PollEverywhere poll and asked “What was your biggest takeaway from last class?” Obviously each kid took something slightly different away, but here is a screenshot of my favorite:

I wasn’t going for fun, but many realize that they will learn chemistry, they will learn new skills, and that they actually have to work. The ball is rolling and now I just need to keep this momentum going.

An Idea I Want To Pursue…

My TED Ed Club is amazing.  I love our meetings and the discussions we get into.  The students in the club have fantastic ideas, but very few of them are ever put into practice.  For the most part, my club’s members are people who are great workers, can be given any assignment and they will use their intelligence and creativity to turn it into something remarkable, but they are workers, not leaders.  A handful of the members of the club are your typical stand-in-front-of-a-crowd leaders, but wall-flower is a much better way to describe most of the members of the club.

None of this is a bad thing, but part of being a TED Ed Club is turning our ideas into reality.  When we had our meeting this week, I gave every member an index card and told them to write down “an idea that they want to pursue.”  This was very tough for a lot of them because they had never formalized the ideas that were in their head.  They then had to switch cards with someone they don’t talk to on a regular basis (we have a lot of groups of friends in the club) and on the back of the card, draw pictures of things the person would have to do to make their idea a reality.
While there are a lot of aspects of Google that I am in love with, there are three things that I feel relate to running TED Ed Club impact projects:
  1. The boss doesn’t interfere with the employee’s passions
  2. All projects must be audacious.
  3. All goals (personal or professional) must be made public.
I discussed these three goals with the club and then dropped a bomb on them.  Their homework for next meeting (Monday) would be to create a blog using their school Google account and their first blog post had to be about the idea they want to pursue.  This scared so many of them, including the vocal leaders.  Most had 1) never written a blog post, and 2) never thought the world would see/hear their idea.  I told them that we are better together;  if we publish our ideas and let the world give us feedback, then our ideas will grow and become so much better than if we keep them to ourselves.
I have always considered myself as much a member of the MHSS TED Ed Club as the adviser.  Adviser is just a title I was given.  So, I wrote my Idea I Want To Pursue on an index card
This is going to be the focus of my community impact project.  I wrote this card and as I was thinking about the students doing this themselves an idea struck:  why not have other teachers do this as well?  So I walked around all day with index cards in my pocket and asked random staff members (custodians, security guards, teachers, secretaries) to fill them out.  Here are some of the responses:
I showed my club the video of one of last year’s Google Science Fair winner and after they were in complete awe, I asked them one question “What makes your idea better than hers?”  The answer is simple, and they realized it quickly: because it is YOURS.

So…what idea are you going to pursue?

It’s Official!!!

I am sorry to be slow in updating this blog, but I wanted to formally write that we are an Official TED Ed Club!!!  It has been an amazing journey so far and it is only going to get better from here.

So now that I talk about what we are doing without putting the word “PILOT” in front, what does that really mean for the club?  Actually, not much is going to change.  We are still going to be a Community Impact Club (I think I need to copyright that phrase), but rather than having meetings centered around discussions, the students need to start putting their ideas into action.  The discussion format is being dropped by TED Ed so we are shifting to a presentation format–basically the students are required for creating their own TED Ed Talks.  My club is composed, primarily, of students who don’t really talk much in class–great workers, just not stand-up/take control types–so I am particularly interested to see how this all develops.

We are also taking on a more formal training method to our meetings to get the students ready to give 10 minutes talks about what they are passionate about.  I have made modifications to the Idea Book that was given to all advisors so that it would work better to our club and my methods as an advisor.

Because we have grown so much over the past few months (7 students at our first meeting, 40 today) I decided to mix things up.  Each student was assigned a seat and given an index card with their name on it.  On the back they were to “Draw a picture of something they are passionate about.”  We then discussed within our small groups what we drew and then a few members shared with the group as a whole.  Here are some of my groups’ passions:

Some members have approached me in the last couple of weeks about projects they wanted to start so we shared their ideas and the videos that inspired them.  In the planning stages, we have:

1.  Gangster Garden–We are going to build a community garden for the purposes of not only feeding the community, but also improve the quality of the food provided by the school.  We also talked about using the food as a fundraiser for some of the other projects and reinvesting in the garden (possible greenhouse).  I think our biggest step was that everyone agreed to plant seeds and take them home to germinate as a way to get the garden going before spring arrives.

2.  Dumpster Diving for the Homeless–one student saw a talk on YouTube about a man who was collecting non-expired food from dumpsters behind supermarkets and was living completely off of this food.  After doing some research he found that supermarkets actually have a policy of throwing out the food rather than donating it to shelters simply for the ease of disposal.  He also found that clothing stores will shred clothing rather than donating them because they can’t thrown them away if they aren’t damaged.  We are not dumpster diving, but it will include trying to convince a lot of stores (supermarkets, bakeries, bagel shops) to change their policies to help those less fortunate.

3.  Look Up More–The first video we saw as a club was by Charlie Todd.  One of his projects was called “Look Up More” which basically focused on getting people out of their own head and to take a look around.  So, inspired by this photo

we are going to hang a variety of objects that catch the sunlight (cocktail drink umbrellas, small prisms, tissue paper flowers, etc) from the ceiling in the atrium outside of our media center.  The ceiling in that area is about 30 feet above the students and has large windows with a fantastic amount of sunlight streaming through.  On the floor we are going to put LOOK UP MORE in the hopes that student stop walking through the halls in a trance.

I will update again after our next meeting.

Small Update:  I forgot to post the pictures of our tentative plans for the projects.  We identified what we needed, who needed to be contacted, and where we wanted to do the project.  These pictures were taken with Google Glass.