“If you could bring one thing to Mars, what would it be?”: Katie McMurray ’16 Attends TEDYouth with her students

When GSE student Katie McMurray ’16 received a Teach For America email highlighting TEDYouth, she knew the conference, with its range of speakers, would be an incredible experience for her students.

TEDYouth is a day-long event for middle and high school students, with live speakers, hands-on activities and great conversations. Scientists, designers, technologists, explorers, artists, performers (and more!) share short talks on what they do best, serving both as a source of knowledge and inspiration for youth around the globe.

TEDYouth limits group applicants to give students from each middle or high school, allowing for 400 total student participants. After analyzing TEDtalks and completing the application (including a short poem and a photo), five students in Katie’s Bronx middle school advisory group were selected and four attended the conference. “They were incredibly excited to participate,” says Katie, “Two of them were so excited that they couldn’t sleep the night before (neither could I)!”

Prior to the event, Katie and her students reviewed the conference speakers, identifying which aligned with students’ interest. Katie remarks that “One of my 8th graders, Estarlin, was incredibly excited to learn more about astronomer Lisa Kaltenegger because space mystifies and intrigues him.”

At the conference, students participated in an open-mic where they could exhibit a talent or answer the question

“If you could bring one thing to Mars, what would it be?”

ted7web“My students all wanted to answer that question in front of the crowd, making me so incredibly proud. They each went up in front of hundreds of people, for the very first time, and answered that question.” The last student, Foday, answered, “If I could bring anything to Mars, I would bring my books because I love to read!”

Reflecting on the TEDYouth experience, Katie talked about feeling grateful for the opportunity to attend and how her students “were exposed to professions, people, places, and more that they did not know had even existed!”

She continues, “There was such a diversity of speakers at the event, including a Super Smash Bros female gamer who spoke of sexism in the gaming world, a paleontologist who spoke of his findings in the Sahara desert, an author who moved us with her passion of researching data on gun violence, and so much more.

“As we walked out of the Brooklyn Museum, where the conference was held, I asked them what they had learned that day. Each one of my students could not stop naming all of the interesting facts they had learned, ranging anywhere from the importance of mucus in the body, to tiny robots being the next medical advancement.

“I couldn’t help but picture my future students up there on stage, speaking of their passion in life, inspiring numerous others.”

About Katie McMurray

ted4Katie teaches 8th grade English Language Arts at a middle school in the South Bronx. In addition, she acts as main teacher, communications liaision and conduct record keeper for an Advisory Group comprised of seven students. Students from this group attended TEDYouth.

She applied to Teach For America based on a passion for bridging the inequality gap and providing opportunities for those in under-resourced communities. She plans to continue teaching after her two-year Teach For America commitment.

“I will always be working towards Social Justice, providing opportunities for those who deserve it most.”

When asked to provide advice to future educators, Katie stressed the importance of observing veteran educators. “This seems simple, but this has truly been incredibly beneficial in my development as a teacher. I am humbled by the experiences I have had observing other teachers in their element and I continue to learn so much.

There is a phrase at my school that is deeply ingrained in the culture of our students and staff, ‘Get it Wrong. Get it Right’. Don’t be afraid to fail, laugh at yourself, and get back up, because those students, with all of their eyes on you, make it all worth it!”

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