Geography professors and high school teachers. A professor of economic geography and regional planning, a language and literacy expert, a national geographic explorer. All of these scholars, and more, will be speaking at Mashpee Middle High School next weekend as part of “TedxMashpeeED,” a TED talk event that four students are helping to organize for their senior project.
The presentations, 12 in total, are centered on geography and education. The event will draw together educators and researchers from across the country to share their knowledge from years in the field. But, according to the student organizers, their goal is also to raise awareness about the importance of geography in a well-rounded academic curriculum.
“I think a lot of people’s perception of [geography] is that it’s just mountains and rivers [and] maps,” said Aidan Goddu, one of the students, “But there’s a lot of human aspects to it. Urban planning, for instance, takes a lot from geography.” Understanding geography is also key to learning about different global cultures, he added.
Aidan, Caroline Henley, Carter Teed and Mohammed Zaheer, all seniors, are bringing Tedx to Mashpee. It is the first year students have worked in a small group on a collaborative senior project. Celeste Reynolds, who teaches AP Human Geography and is also senior seminar coordinator, is working closely with them. She helped recruit speakers for the event, relying on the network of professionals she has met throughout her career. Between conferences and AP readings—when teachers gather to grade AP exam essays—she had many places to turn in search of willing and eager presenters.
“I’ve met so many people that have inspired me and have made inspired … not only about geography, but about teaching and education,” Ms. Reynolds said.
Each of the four students has different responsibilities when it comes to planning and running the event, all tailored to their backgrounds and skill sets. Aidan is helping with many the day-of tasks, like introducing the speakers. Mohammed is handling social media outreach, and Carter is handling technical needs, like ensuring there is proper lighting and filming the event. Caroline is working to fill seats by sending invitations to a variety of education professionals in the region, including superintendents, principals and representatives from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
The event, though, is open the public, and students say everyone is welcome to attend. Registration is open now, but space is limited to 100 people, per their license from the TED. The event will run between 8 AM and 2 PM on Saturday, April 26, in the MMHS auditorium.
A lot of work has gone into the event so far, and the students say one of the biggest challenges was getting approval to use the TEDx logo. Mashpee’s event will be an official TED event, which required them to seek licensing from the organization. When Carter films the event and later edits the footage, he will need to adhere to the TED guidelines, in hopes the organization will publish the video on its website and YouTube channel.
“It’ll have more of a reach if we can get it on there,” Carter said.
The student organizers believe it is important to study geography. But the subject has not always held a secure place in the American education system. Aidan said that, in writing the research paper to accompany his senior project, he discovered the history of geography at Harvard University. In 1948, Harvard president and physical scientist James Conant declared that geography was “not a university subject,” and moved to eliminate the school’s program, according to an article in Harvard Magazine. Some other schools followed suit.
“That kind of ruined the reputation for geography,” Mohammed said. TEDxMashpeeED will focus on the role of geography in preparing students to live in an interconnected global world, according to the event description.
“The purpose of our event is to bring together leaders in the education community to explore how our education can prepare our students for the ever changing future,” the event description reads, “As our world becomes more global we must stop and reflect whether or not we are preparing students today for the future. Innovative and visionary educators will share their ideas of how we can prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s world.”
The 12 speakers include Lisa Benton-Short, an urban geographer who focuses on the “dynamics of urban environment,” including urban sustainability, planning and public space. Forrest Bowlick’s research investigates how students can learn to use GIS.
Ms. Reynolds said planning a TED talk was a unique opportunity for high school students. In the research paper accompanying her project, Caroline wrote about the history of TED talks, and Ms. Reynolds was interested to read that many colleges and universities put on their own TEDx events. TEDxMashpee is “a chance for these students to do what they usually aren’t doing until they get to college,” she said.
The speakers are excited about their presentations, the organizers said. “Ms. Reynolds told us that a lot of these people were really excited to do this because this was the first time they’ve ever done a Ted talk,” said Carter, adding, “Pressure’s on us to really deliver and try to make it a good experience, not only for them but for the audience members.”
More information about the speakers and the registration form is available at: https://sites.google.com/mpspk12.org/tedxmashpeeed2019/home
“One thing they all [the speakers] have done is they’ve inspired me, and I know that, given the chance, they’ll inspire so many more people,” Ms. Reynolds said.