Through Whitfield’s interdisciplinary college-preparatory curriculum, students gain a strong foundation for success academically, while learning to be creative problem solvers and critical thinkers. Across departments, each course offered develops six essential skills: writing, literacy, thinking, collaboration, research and presentation. As students advance, these skills compound, or “spiral,” to ensure students leave Whitfield having mastered all six.
Students in eighth grade Civics & Government wrote, produced, and starred in TED Talks* for their final project of the year. Each student created a short video (4-18 minutes in length) that was intended to inform or persuade an audience about a subject they care about.
“I wanted my students to do a large, cumulative assignment that would emphasize many of the skills that are important as they enter upper school, such as how to write and deliver an effective speech and create a multimedia presentation,” said faculty member Matt Kingston. “Having the ability to write for video will be an important skill for college and beyond,” said Kingston.
To begin the project, students selected a topic, chose whether to inform or persuade through their speech, and identified one key message to relay to their audience. Next, they conducted research using valid, credible sources to gather information about their topic. After creating an outline for their talk, students selected visuals to include in their video.
Students chose a wide variety of topics including: the importance of space exploration, the challenges of living with dyslexia and ADHD, how to buy a computer, and managing sports anxiety.
Ashley Hastey, Whitfield’s instructional technology coordinator, provided students with professional advice about storyboarding and script development, and helped them choose a methodology to organize their talks.
After refining their presentation and rehearsing, students presented their TED Talks in front of an audience of their peers using their computers as teleprompters. Each talk was recorded and will be shared via Google Drive. After watching their recorded presentations, students are required to write a self-reflective piece about the project.
In sharing their reflections, students highlighted what they appreciated most about the project.
“This project fits really well into our eighth grade social studies curriculum because we talk about current events in addition to talking about U.S. history. TED talks can be part of those discussions. My talk focused on how to buy a computer. I chose this topic because I enjoy computers and I know that there are some people who don’t completely understand them. I want to help people avoid getting a bad deal.”
--Braeden Calhoun ‘23
“For my project, I chose why it’s important for teens to live a healthy lifestyle. Being a gymnast, this is something that is important to me and something that I have been working at. This was a good final project for middle school because going into upper school, we need to be prepared for more in-depth projects like this one.”
-- Ilana Boyer ‘23
“My topic was how to overcome sports anxiety. I picked this because sometimes before my basketball games I am worried about what people may say about me if I have a bad game. In my research, I learned about how I can control my anxiety—stopping those negative thoughts by focusing on positive things—before my games, which will help me play better. This project also really helped us with public speaking.”
-- Nolan Simon ‘23
*TED, an acronym for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, is a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading ideas globally in the form of short, powerful talks. TED-Ed, the organization’s youth and education initiative encourages students to pursue passions and speak on what interests and drives them.