Published September 24, 2010 by Natalie Stalmach

Middle school kids don’t know how good they have it. They can conduct research for school projects and text friends, all from their phones. Why, when I was in middle school, you had to pay for your internet by the minute and talk to your friends on a landline phone, most likely located in the busiest room of your house. In front of your parents! When we asked students from across the Metroplex to apply for TEDxKids, and be creative about it, I had no idea what to expect. Would they be able to respond to our theme, Human Survival? Granted, navigating middle school is all about survival, but how much thought would students put into an application for a four hour conference on a Friday afternoon during the State Fair? A lot, apparently. Their responses surprised and humbled me. The students of Dallas have more to say than I thought. Olivia, an 8th grader from Plano put it perfectly- “My generation is texting, Googling and abbreviating many thoughts, but that does not mean our ideas are fragmented and will not be successful. The whole Periodic Table of Elements is abbreviated, so why can't words!” I received carefully researched and thoughtful entries, including an explanation of geopolitics and the importance of educating girls in the Middle East (from a boy!), a description of a microfinance project in Africa and its role in lifting families out of poverty, and the science behind climate change. Apparently, many middle school students watch TED talks on their computers and are learning about gaming, art, music, physics, and math at home. Damon, an 8th grader from Lovejoy ISD, sent me his initial sketches for a prosthetic hand. Students from Dowell Middle School in McKinney and St. Mark’s in Dallas wrote, directed, and edited video entries. Several students talked about their enthusiasm for our required service project and looked forward to giving back to their communities. Reading their submissions was a delightful break from the minutia of conference planning and an eye-opening look into the minds of middle schoolers. I can’t wait to see their excitement at TEDxKids and hope the experience will reinforce their enthusiasm for innovation and creativity.