Ideas Worth-Spreading: TEDx Youth@YCYW Shanghai
The theme ‘Together, Building a Better World’ projected YCYW’s aspiration and expectation in the event, and resonated the purpose of an international education institution with nearly 90 years of history. Dr Christopher Hurley (Chris), Director of Teaching and Learning at YCIS Shanghai (Puxi Campus), who was also one of the main curators, introduced the event as an opportunity for "our young people to be heard, to share their creativity and ideas beyond the school on a public international forum."
01 Equal opportunities for every child is the fruit
Year 1 students at YCIS Shanghai (Puxi Campus) clad in red, orange, green, blue and indigo, swung into action as the stage and multi-purpose screen lit up with the message “Welcome to the Violin World”. Beginning with “The Song of Violin”, this summer concert officially unveiled the TEDx event.
The rundown included songs from English fairy tales; music pieces performed by piano, erhu, guzheng and drums; ballet, international standard dance and hip-hop. It was an awesome mix of Chinese and Western, traditional and modern genres.
There was also a drama “The Bizarre Adventure” based on the children’s dreams. It was quite a challenge for our students as their verbal abilities were still under development. Despite minor glitches, the audience was thoroughly amused by the spontaneous, natural and adorable performance of the young students.
Ms Cherry Chen, one of the coordinators, believed that unanimous participation, allowing all students to enjoy the process was what defined the concert.
"We feel that young children of the same age should belong to the same group, rather than being isolated or selected to show the best of our talents. The genuine fruit of education is equal opportunities for all children. From their expression you can see true joy and a sincere heart to communicate. Professionalism and perfection become secondary."
02 Many a little makes a mickle
TEDx is part of a global conversation that happens in every corner every day. Under the wing of world-renowned TED, TEDx is initiated and organised by non-profit organisations at places such as schools, theatres and workplace to promote ‘ideas worth spreading’. People come together, share and listen to all kinds of inspiring ideas in their communities.
A few months ago, four YCYW schools in Eastern China were invited to audition for TEDx talks. From personal experiences to lessons learnt in class, students were probed to think what they would like to share the most with the world.
Teachers from respective campuses then established their own TEDx groups, supporting students in refining presentation skills. Students challenged one another while perfecting their thoughts and creativity, integrating real-life thinking with latest research results. For many students, the process of honing their techniques was also a valuable experience in growing a thought into a clear and complete narrative addressing a public audience.
“The kids are really the true heroes behind these talks,” praised Dr Hurley. When asked how he selected the 54 finalists, he listed out three criteria:
- Their stories must be related to themselves, their family members or their friends
- They have conducted some in-depth research or experiments on the topic
- Lastly, on top of an excellent research, they have shared something special with the world
It was a pleasant surprise for the teachers that, without much restrictions, students were able to express their broad and diversified perspectives from social anxiety, gender equality, the art of debate, the possibility of Gen Z, Artificial Intelligence (AI), the future of electric vehicles to intelligent helmets that could save lives.
Cross-cultural background was their starting point. Bronwyn, a Year 5 student at YCIS Shanghai (Puxi Campus), called herself a ‘third-culture child’. She was born in Canada, raised in Beijing and now lives in Shanghai. Her father is Irish. This kind of ‘mixed identity’ is not uncommon at YCYW. Onsite TEDx, Bronwyn used Chinese and English to explain eloquently how she traversed across different cultural environments and the ensuing cultural barriers and conflicts.
Anna, a German girl who grew up in Shanghai, thought about a more macro and complex question: the different definition of ‘trust’ in the West and the East. During the preparation, the first challenge Anna faced was how to classify the multifarious and disorderly materials related to this topic and decide which were important.
Finally, Anna’s numerous readings and researches throughout several months were summarised in a concise five-minute talk. She alluded the understanding of trust in the West to a mountain and the recurring check-points on the mountain represented the key building blocks of trust.
In the Chinese context, she imagined an image of a tree where trust was like the trunk that could lead to the heart of the tree.
She also shared her experience in Model United Nations two years ago, “When delegating tasks, the president who had grown up in Europe was eager to set up rules for better collaboration. However, the others who had grown up in Asia thought we should use the time to know one another better and believed only through a pledge in teamwork could we complete the tasks up to a high standard.”
At that time, Anna who understood both cultural backgrounds naturally assumed the role of a communication bridge. At last, they decided to lay out the tasks and in the process they built a trusting relationship that continues to this day.
Another impressive talk was delivered by Isabella, a Year 12 student at YWIES Shanghai Lingang. During Year 6, Isabella faced ‘body shame’ for the first time. “One day, my female friends and I sat together and one of them talked about her disappointment over her body weight. She thought she was too fat. Others agreed with her and started to express how they were not happy with their own body.”
This prompted her to contemplate the societal judgment of a ‘normal body’. “What is normal or abnormal? And who created the standard to which we all conform now?” Isabella found out that celebrities in social media, as well as the ‘perfect body’ portrayed in ubiquitous advertisements are shaping our perception of beauty.
She hoped this talk could encourage more people with self-doubt not only because ‘body shame is a mistake in itself’, but we can also become our better selves without becoming others.
“I think this is a really important message for today. Every person contributes something unique and something special to this world,” said Chris.
It is diversity, not perfection, which makes the world become more vibrant and interesting.
Angelos, a Year 7 student at YCIS Shanghai (Puxi Campus), cared for food couriers. The staggering number of traffic accidents involving couriers made Angelos aware of the fatigue inflicted by working a 12-hour shift, the stress of meeting the 30-minute delivery promise and the incessant ‘express order’ requests that exposed couriers to risks.
“Can I do something to mitigate the accident rate?” he asked himself. He thought of using a talking helmet to pre-empt couriers with danger signals around them.
This was not only a simple thought. After a few months, Angelos converted it into a reality. At the TEDx, he showed the audience his own work. Angelos’ ‘life-saving helmet’ can communicate with other couriers who wear the same kind of helmets with Bluetooth and speakers, helping them to locate peers nearby.
Meanwhile, it is also an ‘intelligent helmet’ that can detect whether the user is in motion to prevent any false alarms. In addition, considering couriers need to work extended hours on the road, Angelos specially designed an eight-hour battery which can be recharged during couriers’ lunch hours.
Behind the creativity, what Angelos actually delivered was the care towards others, especially the disadvantaged. He said, “I by myself could only make one helmet and think of one solution. But together, we can accumulate thousands of ideas to protect the life and safety of these couriers.”
03 “You will do great, don’t you worry.”
Student exhibition was another major component of the TEDx Youth@ YCYWShanghai.
Over 400 project exhibits created by students either individually or collectively, spanning art, technology, humanities and the like were showcased in the two exhibition halls in the West Bund Museum. These exhibits were the learning outcomes of students across a range of disciplines: science, craft and design, humanities, mathematics, etc.
In fact, students were encouraged to develop their ideas and thoughts and translate them into more mature projects.
Ms Agnes Zhang, Art Teacher at YWIES Shanghai Lingang, was among the curators of this exhibition. “One of the most important aspects of our art education is to cultivate independent thinking skills, as well as artistic creation and aesthetics across cultures.” This is also important to students who may decide not to pursue a career in art. “Students can harness skills beyond artistic techniques,” Ms Zhang added.
From the perspective of YCYW educators, the foundation of a good science and art education lies on the availability of a network of support and pastoral care where teachers constantly challenge students and get them excited about life.
Teachers will ask questions like: What more can you do? How can you make this better? How can we make this into a reality?
Hence, every talk and exhibit reflect the long-lasting principles of YCYW education: let children learn to imagine, explore, build and develop the thoughts that are in their minds, and apply not only beyond the text book, but to integrate the research and academic rigor into the experience.
Under these principles, the boundary between academic disciplines can be dissipated.
The mission of YCYW education is to raise globally competent and compassionate leaders with a servant's heart, who aspire to, and act for, a better world.
The TEDx event has aptly embodied and encompassed the total concept of a global citizen. The identity means being an active participant in the world and the events that shape the world, whether the world is about our local friends or the entire planet.
We could see students supporting their peers even though they were not acquainted with each other. Students from various campuses would go and talk to a nervous student at the backstage and encourage him by saying “you will do great, don’t you worry”.
The nine-hour TEDx Youth @YCYWShanghai came to an end following the conclusion of the YCIS Shanghai Secondary Summer Concert at 7:30 pm. From talks and exhibitions, to musicians and artists from respective campuses, the energy exuded, and the reflection made by students were just impressive.
With over 2,000 visitors, and more than 24,000 online viewers participating in one of the live TEDx talks, students, teaching staff and parents were connected to become a close-knit community.