Orlando Science Center hosts TEDxYouth event
Published: Saturday, April 28, 2012
Updated: Saturday, April 28, 2012 18:04
Drew Catherine got a tattoo her junior year at UCF. Tattoos get a bad rap for being spur of the moment, but for Catherine, a UCF humanities alumna, it was a calculated decision. The phrase memento mori, “remember you must die,” now curves around her upper arm. Her love of the humanities spurred her decision to make the phrase an indelible part of her body, as well as her approach to life.
“I feel like we have limited time, and it’s our gift to use it wisely,” Catherine said.
This approached served her well as a key organizer this weekend at the first-ever TEDxYouth@Orlando event, “Night at the Museum” held at the Orlando Science Center.
The program was an official independently organized TED event aimed at 9- to 14-year-old children in the spirit of “ideas worth spreading.” In this case, the ideas were conceived by peers their own age.
“It is important to empower young speakers,” Catherine said. “Education and inspiration should begin younger than it comes across.”
Nadya Vilá, the main organizer of the event, had just returned from an orientation in Qatar a few days before the event to secure a TEDx license. The two had previously met at Taste of Winter Park when Vilá asked Catherine to come on-board planning “Night at the Museum.” Vilá said Catherine had the same vision and could cover corners.
“We went to Doha for a week, and [Catherine] held down the fort and we didn’t fall behind,” Vilá said.
The program was sponsored by United Arts of Central Florida, Orlando Museum of Art, Broadway Across America, Boys & Girls Club, Florida Virtual School and private donors.
About 55 children and their chaperones arrived at the science center on Friday night with their sleeping bags and were given the full run of the interactive exhibits after-hours. After the children had their fill of making waves and standing in a mini-cyclone generator, the group was ushered into one of the auditoriums for the first TED talks of the night.
After introductions by Vilá and the other volunteers, the group watched a video about Green School, an off-the-grid school made of bamboo and natural teaching materials in Bali, Indonesia that was awarded the distinction of “2012 Greenest School on Earth” by the United States Green Building Council.
The speaker list featured two twin sisters, Allison and Jillian Samowitz, who started a recycling program called Proseed2Green after the Gulf oil spill two years ago spurred them to action when they were both 14 years old. Concerned about tar balls rolling up on the beaches near their home in South Florida, the sisters approached various businesses such as Tesla Motors, an electric car manufacturer, to hold an “E-Vent” in their town of Golden Beach, Fla. The goal was to encourage their fellow residents to recycle and take care of the environment.
The girls explained the challenge of organizing a recycling drive when they couldn’t drive.
“Start with the hardest thing possible,” Allison Samowitz said.
“Being youth is more powerful,” Jillian Samowitz said. If properly motivated, “the advantage is adults are really willing to help you.”
Tyler Kraus, who is now a freshman at Stetson University in Deland, Fla., was another presenter. He started a no-texting-while-driving campaign called Reynolds’ Right Hands after his freshman high school English teacher, Christy Reynolds, was killed in a car accident.
“I didn’t like who I was,” Kraus said during his presentation. “One month before [the accident], she told me, ‘You are fine just the way you are.’”
Kraus, who wore a “TTYL, I’m driving” T-shirt, said it wasn’t enough for him to just stand around the flagpole in remembrance of a teacher who had made a sincere impact on him. He wanted to do more. He encouraged the kids in the audience to never be discouraged if they want to make something happen.
“There’s nothing impossible,” Kraus said. “The word itself says, ‘I’m possible.’”
While the speakers were presenting, Catherine was watching the audience with bated breath. She had been concerned the format of video and speaker presentations wouldn’t appeal to younger kids.
Her fears were unwarranted when she was met with cheers after announcing each child would receive a goodie bag that included a student pen-pal from Green School in Bali.
The goodie bags included discounts to see the Broadway Across America performance of The Lion King, and admission to Orlando Museum of Art and other local museums.