TEDYouth 2013 “Spark Notes”


TEDYouth is one of TED’s most celebrated annual conferences. Held this past year in New Orleans, the 2013 conference was centered around the theme “The Spark.”

The speakers themselves each had an identifiable spark — their talks were simultaneously esoteric, inspirational and bursting at the seam with new expert ideas. TED-Ed thought its community would feel similarly about these stellar speakers and has published a number of their talks in the months following TEDYouth 2013. Here, we’ve gathered five of our favorites that run the gamut of intellectual inquiry, along with a few “spark notes” accompanying each talk to let you know exactly what you are getting into for the next few minutes. Who knows? You may find a talk on a subject you didn’t even know you were interested in!

Are you interested in gender equality, teens getting stuff done, toys, or activism?

We recommend Want to be an activist? Start with your toys – McKenna Pope.


Cheat sheet: When McKenna Pope was 13, she noticed her younger brother was dissuaded from his true passion of cooking because Easy Bake Ovens were marketed just to girls. So she took the internet (Change.org specifically) to petition Hasbro to offer gender neutral options. Watch this lesson for McKenna’s full story of how she got a major toy company to make a real change…all at age 13. Plus, McKenna provides a helpful tip for anyone out there who has faced adversity, online or otherwise: “Haters gonna hate.”

Are you interested in electronic music, technology, young entrepreneurs, or DIY?

We recommend Getting started as a DJ: Mixing, mashups and digital turntables – Cole Plante.


Cheat sheet: Another wunderkind, high school student and DJ Cole Plante has worked with artists like Avicii and Skrillex — and he’s only 17! Cole shares his tricks of the trade, showing and telling how anyone can become a DJ. He plays examples of songs that pair well together and offers a few tips on how to manipulate tracks into something new. Additionally, Cole provides the best websites, pieces of equipment, and programs to get you started.

Are you interested in whales, animal communication, body humor, or anatomy?

We recommend How whales breathe, communicate… and fart with their faces – Joy Reidenberg.


Cheat sheet: Comparative anatomist Joy Reidenberg’s passion for whales is palpable, and after watching this video, you can understand why she finds them so irresistibly interesting. You see, whales make sounds by “farting” with their face. Joy describes the fascinating way that whales breathe and communicate (for instance, did you know that whales have to basically open and close their nose every time they come up for air?), which happens to be rather…noisy. On top of all of this, information about whales can be hard to come by since they live underwater and are so huge. Bonus: you get to see some pretty neat images of how scientists study beached whales by bringing the lab to the beach.

Are you interested in cool images of the universe, galaxy clusters, lies you were told in science class, or the secrets of outer space?

We recommend What we can learn from galaxies far, far away – Henry Lin.


Cheat sheet: How much more interesting is a subject when the person who teaches it is truly excited? How about when that person is currently mastering the subject himself? Now, add in everyone’s favorite subject (outer space), and we’re on a roll. Henry’s talk focuses on galaxy clusters and why they are so mysterious, surprising, and useful. As Henry puts it, we can view galaxy clusters (hundreds or thousands of galaxies bound by gravity) as mini models of the entire universe. By studying these clusters, we can ask bigger questions like, “How does gravity work?” or “What emits light?” By focusing on both the very big and the very small (and even the very invisible), Henry provides a useful map of the very big universe we call home. Come for the ideas, and stay for the spectacular images!

Are you interested in hip-hop icons, photography, career success stories, or music history?

We recommend From Aaliyah to Jay-Z: Captured moments in hip-hop history – Jonathan Mannion.


Cheat sheet: Photographer Jonathan Mannion shoots his very personal portraits of hip-hop icons by forging intimacy with each and every artist he works with. Sharing stories in which he truly connected to artists such as Aaliyah, Drake, and DMX, Mannion explains that his professional success stems from relationships with people. Find out the stories behind your favorite hip-hop images — and the man behind each of them.