“Inspired, Energized and Hopeful”: The Power of a Student Driven TEDx Event

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Apr 062016



Outdoor TEDEd“An extremely inspiring event. So proud of the kids who had the courage to stand up and share their important ideas after working so hard to perfect their talks. Mixing it with adult content elevated the whole event, not just because the adults were good, but it really showcased how outstanding the children were when compared to adult talks…it inspired me to remember that anything is possible.”  Attendee Feedback TEDxRundleAcademy 2016

Outdoor TEDEdIMG_4042Outdoor TEDEdDo you know what? Teenagers rock.

Do you know something else?  When adults believe in teenagers and give them the time and space to pursue their interests, magic happens.

A few weeks ago 12 students took to the stage at Rundle Academy’s Fine Art Centre and despite their nerves and fear of public speaking, presented their ideas worth sharing with a global audience at TEDxRundleAcademy.

Six months of preparation went into this event. That’s a lot of fear, tears, and real world failure.  That’s a lot of drafts, searching for the right words, and pushing back your nagging feeling that your idea isn’t a bit interesting and powering on through.

For a child that’s a lot of pressure. This year our student presenters were mostly very young ranging in age from 11-18, with the majority in grade 8. What were you doing when you were in grade 8? Chances were you weren’t giving a TED Talk on the cognitive benefits of FPS Games, the benefits of the GENX Engine, or a treatise on why creativity enables us to survive.

20160312_103723          20160312_105501          Juliana


So what elements have to come together for a successful school TEDx event?

  1. Time. It takes at least 6 months to comfortably plan and prep an event as big as a TEDx event. Students have lives. They need their lunchbreaks. They need time to explore ideas, to trash their ideas, to quit, to start over, to draft, to think, to process, to worry, to find inspiration, to keep on trying, and to finally find and experience success.
  2.  Curator(s) and/or Lead Organizer(s). A TEDx event needs  one or two people who know the TEDx system, have the vision for a school’s event, and are willing to shoulder the responsibility for everything. This role needs someone who is truly passionate and invested in this program, because a TEDx event takes A LOT of time.
  3. A Dedicated Support Team. A school is a remarkable place to hold a TEDx event. The very specific  skill sets that the curator and their team need in order to pull off a major event are all present in-house. Teachers and support staff have skills. That’s why they teach.  Seek them out!
  4. A Willingness to take Risks. There is so much that could go wrong with a TEDx event.  Think of a wedding and then amplify it a 1000 times. However, if you play it safe with your ideas, theme, vision, and overall experience, the energy of the event will be muted. TEDx Events are ALL about new and important ideas. That means you will have to create a culture where everyone from the speakers, to the curator, to the audience feels good stepping out of their comfort zone.
  5. Students. Be prepared to invest almost ALL of your time into prepping, supporting, and encouraging your students. The time, effort, and, yes frustration, will be worth it. When asked if they will consider participating in TEDxRundleAcademy again, ALL of our students wholeheartedly said yes. This event becomes a vital and exciting part of their lives.
  6. Entrepreneurial Spirit. Running a TEDx event a similar to a start-up. You will invest hours, weeks and months into the heart and soul of such an event. You will work harder than you ever have. You will have to use every ounce of your pursuasive powers to convince your community that the heavy investment of time, people and capital will be worth it. The enthusiasm of the lead organizers is a key element.
  7. Fun. Make this an event that everyone in your audience will enjoy. That means keeping the 8 and 80 year old happy.  It might seems to be a tough order, but plan your TEDx Youth event like you are planning for a family reunion. You will be super happy you did!
  8. Don’t Forget the Parents! The parents of the speakers should be your source of support. Keep them in the loop. Be very clear in your expectations. Listen and act upon their concerns. Remember, their child’s experiences are also their experiences. Their child’s TED talk, is their TED talk. When they see their child being so successful and confident, their joy and pride is enourmous. Be prepared to be hugged. A lot.

At the end of the day,  TEDxRundleAcademy came and went in a flurry of excitement and energy. Our students surpassed all of our wildest hopes leaving the audience in awe.  Why does this matter? Because a school should be a place of hope, innovation, experimentation, and safe risks. It should be a place where children enter with high hopes and leave knowing, with confidence, that they have the skills to turn those hopes and dreams into reality.20160312_121405


As some of our guests put  it:

“I came away inspired, energized and hopeful for the kind of opportunities the students at Rundle Academy have to move mountains and find their personal best.”


“The TEDx program has given these kids an exciting platform upon which to express themselves…TEDxRundleAcademy has helped to establish an incredible community within our school.”

What more can we ask?






The Club

Missed TEDxRundleAcademy 2016? Check out the livestream.

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Mar 282016

If you didn’t have an opportunity to catch the magic that happened in the Rundle Academy Fine Arts Centre on Saturday, March 12, 2016, don’t worry!

Below is our livestream! As of today, 522 people have viewed our event. That viewership, combined with our live audience of 150 on the day, has made this event a resounding success!

Once again, thank you so much to not only our speakers, but to all of the people (parents, admin, students and teachers) who made this event possible.

What Interests a Teenager? Part I

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Mar 082016


So what interests teens in 2016? Their cred on social media? Their friends? Sports? Each other? Of course all of those things, but today’s teens are also richly engaged in their world, care deeply about each other, and crave meaningful, real-world  experiences. What did this year’s Rundle Academy TED-Ed Club focus their time and energies upon? The depth and breathe of their explorations are wonderful to behold.

Juliana blog

Juliana Van Oosterwyk Bruyn believes “The coloring book is something that satisfies a primitive need to be creative. A primitive need that has slowly started to resurface. Originally when people had to do everything themselves, they were always crafting, building, and creating to survive. As time progressed, technology made people’s lives easier, and the need to make, build and create for survival was slowly lost. People slowed, and then stop crafting, and creating, altogether, causing this primitive need to resurface, demanding to be notice.”

Andreas BlogAndreas Marinakos wants us to recognize that one of the amazing effect of this burst of happiness, i.e. a hug, “is mental ease from things such as fear, stress and anxiety. Be gone, horrid negative feelings!” He wants us to learn to embrace the awkward embrace for all it’s worth. 

Charlotte BlogCharlotte Warme’s 
idea worth sharing is  “Kids have big dreams. But, as they progress through school, often they bury these big dreams. Getting lots of choices in school might not necessarily keep these big dreams alive. But, the exploration of these choices might help a student find their passion. And, isn’t that an idea and an ideal worth spreading?”

These teenagers clearly are engaged in some pretty deep thinking about topics that matter to them and, most importantly, to everyone regardless of one’s age. Stay tuned for three more ideas worth spreading!



10 Reasons Why Students Love TED-Ed Clubs

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Mar 072016

This post is inspired and co-authored by two members of the Rundle Academy TED-Ed Club. Charlotte and Cameron both have made the committment to pursue and support ideas worth sharing in two ways: Charlotte, as a student working on a talk, and Cameron, as a member of the TED-Ed Club leadership cohort. TED-Ed Clubs logo

I found their ideas to be a touching and enlightening look into why the Rundle Academy TED-Ed Club has become a popular extracurricular activity that attracts a wide range of students with a wide range of interests. In fact, it seems that the TED-Ed Club program has a little something for everyone.  So, what are Charlotte and Cameron’s top reasons for being in a TED-Ed Club?  Here they are:


  1. People can share their voice and they don’t need to filter their ideas through other people.
  2. It’s a great way for kids to express their ideas.
  3. It’s a calm, nurturing environment.
  4. It can give you the motive to do things that change the world.
  5. There are no rules regarding what you can or can’t write.
  6. It gives you the opportunity to be in the spotlight.
  7. You get to meet a lot of people just like you.
  8. It dosen’t consume very much time and if you don’t want to make a talk you can just help out.
  9. You get to inspire people you don’t even know.
  10. It gives you a bulldozer (figuratively) so you can move mountains.  

Of course #10 makes my day.  Here at Rundle Academy our motto is that “We move mountains.” I feel that it reflects greatly on the learning environment  a TED-Ed Club helps me, as a teacher, create. Every child finds a role that suits them in this club and every child find a passion or interest that they can pursue. This year’s TEDYouth Conference was all about being future ready .  It seems to me, that participating in a TED-Ed Club is just one more way to help students become ready to take on the world and pursue their dreams by helping students develop the kinds of skills that will enable them to navigate the future. When I step back and just listen and watch as my students hone their research, writing, critical thinking, presentation and speaking skills, it amazes me. How can an educational program that is so simple and uncomplicated at it’s heart, be so powerful? TEDYouth_2015_banner_lined

Well, mostly, the program is simply a framework that enables students to pursue and learn about anything they are interested in. It promotes curiousity, and in a world where highly scripted and prescribed curricula seems to sap the creativity right out of children, this program gives them the complete freedom to simply learn for the sake of learning.

And, as 12 speakers and 15 leadership cohort members attest, it seems to be the place to be!

What to learn more about TED-Ed Club program? Check out the following links and be prepared to be amazed!

Why TED-Ed Clubs? 

What is TED-Ed? 


Life is Energy; Energy is Life

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Mar 072016

tedx lightbulb

When you suggest to a group of children ranging in age from 11-18 that life is energy and energy is life, one should expect to be amazed, beguiled, and impressed with their responses. After all, such a statement elicits conversation, debate, and queries that lead to profound inquiry. Now, after six months of work, TEDxRundleAcademy is pleased to present the ideas worth spreading of 12 young Rundle Academy TED-Ed Club members regarding the theme “ENERGIES: Creation. Innovation. Invention. Compassion”.

club 2015

But if you are expecting that a TEDx event is simply a collection of people talking about the passions and interests that drive their lives, you would only be partially correct. A TEDx event is so much more. It is more like an academic fair, an arts performance, a conference, a twitter chat, and a community potluck and games night all rolled up into a fast-paced, high-octane, optimistic, and joyful party. It is also made possible only through a great deal of commitment to volunteerism and collaboration. In fact, this year, TEDxRundleAcademy and the speakers are supported by 15 student volunteers, at least 15 teacher’s and a large number of kind parents working behind the scenes to make sure the entire event goes off without a hitch.

So, what can you expect to see this year? How about a talk on how music is an energy we cannot survive without? How about a talk that forces us to confront the ugly truth about the impact our negative posts have on social media? How about a talk that celebrates the energy we get when we embrace. And how about a talk on how innovation is still truly possible within the oil and gas industry?

celebrateThis year, on the eve of our sophomore event, TEDxRundleAcademy invites you to join with them in celebration. For those attending our celebration in person on Saturday, March 12 at the Rundle Academy Fine Arts Centre, doors open at 9:30am. For those unable to attend, we will be livestreaming our event so stayed tuned!

It took a village….and a lot of passion!

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Jun 222015

Realizing that it is all going to come together.

This is about a dream. A crazy, big, seemingly impossible, personal passion of a dream that came true.

And it took a village.

That village included 140 wonderful members of the Rundle Academy community, who, because they believe in the magic our little school works on a daily basis, came out and gave their heart and soul to TEDxRundleAcademy’s inaugural event and the rest is, well, history.

There is much written about how to organize and curate a fabulous TEDx event for your community. There are ample resources, examples, and legions of engaged, innovative TEDx’ers out there who will bend over backwards to help first-timer’s out. But, what about writing about the collaborative energy and spirit it took for such an event to occur?

What about writing about how to launch an academic club that involves reading, writing, and public speaking in a school where every student struggles enormously with those aforementioned learning tasks?

What about writing about how, back in October, I had to practice entrepreneurship beyond my wildest dreams to get our TED-Ed Club off the ground.Or, how about writing about realizing that you now are the curator of a TEDx event and you have the monumental task of creating the vision of an event that just seems so impossible


One of our many TED-Ed Club Meetings.


Or, how about writing about how liberating it was to realize, a few months in, that the voices of ourTEDxRundleAcademy, would, despite how unpolished, young, and nervous they might be would be and will continue to be primarily the voices of the students who attend our school. We might never get a talk onto TED.com, we might never go viral, but our talks will always represent the heart, soul, spirit and mission of our community which is to make learning and dreams possible for students with often very challenging learning disabilities.

How about writing on how frightening and exhilarating it is to open up your very private dream to your entire staff and trust completely that they will take that dream and run with it and then see the utter magic that they create?


Despite her nerves, this young TEDxRundleAcademy speaker enthralls the audience with her ideas.

How about writing about the hours and hours of time put in by so many people so that TEDxRundleAcademy could happen?

How about writing about the incredible effort and grit that 7 young speakers demonstrated over the last 6 months? None of these students find writing or public speaking easy. Many of them were incredibly scared and constantly dealt with nerves and anxiety about our event but they believed in themselves and did it


How about writing about the tears that ran down my face on the day before the event, when as I walked down the hallway and saw, for the first time, that everything would come together; that my students, colleagues, and parents totally and utterly believed in and were excited by my vision.




Rundle Academy students hanging out in the “Diversity Footprint” Room during intermission.

How about writing about the incredibly deep feeling of satisfaction and joy that your students LOVED every moment of the event and can’t wait until the next one.

That was the day when 15 years of teaching come together and I realized that everything I had ever done professionally was coming together at the right moment, with the right people, and in the right place. In fact THIS was that moment by which I might later define my career.

Sometime you dream big, and your dreams as a teacher are often gigantic. And, you hope more than any thing that those dreams come true, because, after all, they are the dreams of your students. And those dreams matter.

TEDxRundleAcademy gave a voice to those dreams


We did it! Celebrating the hard work of all involved.