Bike First

Emily Vossenkuhl, a student at Ridgefield High School, shared a photo of her experience as a volunteer at Bike First, a camp that teaches youths with down syndrome how to ride bikes, during her presentation. 

TED Talks are a mainstay of the internet and discussions across the globe. During the talks, experts give short speeches on a wide range of topics hoping to inspire, teach and drive a positive change. Last month, Ridgefield High School sophomores created their own original TED Talks for their English classes.

Several questions were asked and answered during the short speeches, including why is breakfast important? How does music decrease stress? What are some easy ways to help the homeless? And is being bored necessarily a bad thing? 

Some of the presentations were rooted in personal experience. Emily Vossenkuhl spoke about her family’s annual volunteer work with Bike First, a Portland camp that teaches youths with Down Syndrome how to ride a bike. She asked students not to assume what others could or could not do. Evan Skerlec, whose family moved frequently, shared what it was like to be the new kid and the importance of talking to new students. 

Other students, such as Shawn Will, found their inspiration in the everyday. Will showed how handwriting changes based on the way you hold a pencil, then asked the class to consider trying something new — even for daily activities, such as writing with a pencil. Fellow Spudder, Aidan Debroeck shared how everyday objects might have uses you haven’t noticed (like the stapler setting that bends staples out rather than in) and drew a parallel with a friend who he was surprised to learn was a skilled pianist. He asked students not to misjudge others and to treat everyone with respect.

Taking the path of research was the plan for other students. Taylor Zanas said she spent hours each day on social media (when asked, nearly the entire class agreed they did the same). Then she shared a University of Pennsylvania study that showed limiting social media use to 30 minutes a day improved sleep and the sense of well-being. She challenged students to try using social media less often. Lauren Campbell pointed to research by the University of Phoenix that estimated high school students received up to 17.5 hours of homework each week. She argued that this burden made it more challenging to engage in extracurricular activities, such as theater and sports, and suggested students advocate for less homework with teachers, school board members and parents.

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