Special Projects | 13-Apr-2017

A Reflection on Organizing TEDxYouth@UTS

By Hannah Feldman and Sam Howard, S6/Grade 12 UTS students

Over dinner one night of the November long weekend, the two of us sat and brainstormed; we needed to come up with a theme for our upcoming TEDxYouth event. 

The two of us were initially interested in organizing the event because we are both huge supporters of TED and the idea that people can come together to share ideas from a variety of disciplines. We are both passionate about promoting interdisciplinary learning and we hoped that coordinating the TEDxYouth event could help inspire students (and adults) in the UTS community. 

After hearing about a keynote speech by (Olympic gold medalist) Mark Tewksbury and Debbie Muir discussing resilience and the importance of maintaining an optimistic mindset, we decided we wanted our conference to focus on positive change. This idea later developed into the theme of our TEDxYouth event, “Metamorphosis: The Power of Transformation.” 

As we prepared for the evening, our primary goal was to ensure we had speakers discussing transformation from a variety of perspectives. We invited Don Schmitt ’70, the architect of the upcoming new UTS building, to discuss the art of transforming the design of a school. Another speaker, Haley Higdon, from the Jackman Institute of Child Studies, spoke about changing habits to live an environmentally sustainable lifestyle that minimizes waste. 

Our student speakers shared equally thought-provoking ideas. A group of three S6 (Grade 12) students shared their observations on the need to transform current sexism in STEM subjects. Another student spoke about the science behind motivation and that if we want to maintain long-lasting change, there are a few scientifically-supported steps we can take. With nine live presentations, and two-pre-recorded TED videos, the night was jam-packed with insightful reflection and inspiring suggestions for positive transformation at the local and global levels.

We did not realize how much we would take away from the process of organizing this event. There were certainly technical skills we acquired throughout – the first that comes to mind is our newfound lack of stress when sending emails to adults! Further, we gained an appreciation of how many people are needed to make an event like this possible and how important it is to ask for help. The two of us had to reach out to so many other individuals who were so knowledgeable about the work they do. We think especially of the IT support from U of T who came to live-stream the event. Hearing them talk to one another as they set up was like overhearing a conversation in a different language! 

The talks themselves have left a significant impact. As the two of us were swept up into organizing the event and coordinating the different speakers, we actually forgot that we would get the chance to listen to what they had to say. We are both suddenly vigilant about what we throw away, we look at the architectural design of educational spaces, and we try to find enjoyment in the process of doing our work so that we don’t procrastinate (as much) – all relevant messages conveyed in speeches that night. 

It was truly a pleasure to coordinate this event. All those around us were so supportive that there were hardly any hiccups along the way. We owe much of that support to Ms. Evans, the staff supervisor of the event. We are both eternally grateful to all our student and adult speakers who devoted their energy and insight to the conference. Lastly, we want to thank all those who had the chance to watch the event and join in on the experience of sharing ideas within our UTS community.