TEDxDenverEd- Fred Mednick- Rebuilding Education From Below the Ground and Up


Translator: J B
Reviewer: Elisabeth Buffard I’m short, so I’ll be brief. (Laughter) I want to tell a story
about bulls and mosquitos and earthquakes and geology teachers and Iran and Tajikistan
and Kashmir and China and Denver in under six and a half minutes. And I want to talk first
about Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Now in Dushanbe, there is a bull
underneath the earth, people believe, and it causes earthquakes. And the bull is bothered by mosquitos. And so when the bull shakes,
the earth rumbles. Now, this is a problem because some buildings sink
and some buildings sway, and this issue of earthquakes
is a very big deal. The students don’t know
what’s going on. And so enter someone
named Solmaz Mohadier. And Solmaz was born in Iran and experienced
the 2003 earthquake in Iran. And then she was…
she’s a geology teacher. So, she went to Kasimir in 2005
with her GPS equipment and she saw
what was going on there. She saw that
the buildings sway and sink and people didn’t know what to do. And so she began
to create these lessons. And she created media. And she created stories. And the students made books. And this is, you know,
the mosquito that they built. I had to have this mosquito. (Laughter) And what happened in Tajikistan is the students began to create
the curriculum around excellent science. So, this is an earthquake-prone area:
Tajikistan. And then, of course, Kashmir. And then, of course,
with popsicles and sticks and other kinds of things going on, China. Now, the Chinese earthquake
took place May 12, 2008. My organization had been
working in this area. The exact epicenter.
Basically the exact epicenter. So, we lost students.
We lost teachers. We lost buildings. And I really thought
I was going to lose my mind. And what ends up happening
is that people, I guess, arrive for a reason. And Solmaz got in touch
with us and said, “I have something. And I want
to share this with you.” These 13 lessons. And overnight, it seemed, technology, education
merged for a moment. Films were translated and subtitled. Pamphlets and podcasts
and programs and people, by the way, who I have to say
are incredibly hi-res people – (Laughter) and one of the things
that we saw very quickly is that this earthquake where — this is a shrine parents
put up in the very area where we worked. This shrine had to stay because
the parents really wanted the school safe. Can you imagine all the things
going on in the world and the schools kill your kid? In a one-child-per-family
kind of setting? And so, what happened was that Solmaz accompanied me to China. We talked with the Bureau of Education,
who had asked us back. And the Bureau said, “Come back and teach
science and safety. It’ll bring the parents in.” But here’s the deal: Solmaz began to talk with – and showed the film about
the bulls and the mosquitos. And what happened was that we thought the guy
was gonna say at the Bureau, “Oh, this is China. That’s Tajikistan.
Tajikistan is a poor country. We’re a developed country.”
He didn’t say that. He said, “I’ve not only learned something,
but I don’t feel alone anymore. Because this is happening
to someone else.” I’d like Solmaz to speak for herself. [Solmaz Mohadier] “Emergency education
here at Teachers Without Borders focuses on preparedness and planning. We taught a workshop in April 2009, and focused on earthquake science,
safety, and mitigation. And all of these concepts
were introduced through several interactive,
hands-on, inquiry-based lesson plans. We know emergency education
can save lives. We know very well that
even one retrofitted school can save thousands of lives. Teachers do have a voice. And, unfortunately,
their voices are not being heard.” Voices not being heard
is really troublesome. What ended up happening is,
voices are not heard in Haiti, where Purdue University
warned the government that there would be a 7.x earthquake.
It was a 7.2 earthquake. It was a shallow earthquake,
13 miles under the surface of the earth. And a perfect storm, really,
because you had shoddy construction in a densely populated area. And then you had a people who, when there’s a civil disturbance
of any kind, — a national or a natural disaster — their instinctual and
immediate response is to run indoors. So, that’s how they died.
I didn’t know what to do, once again. Felt alone, myself. And so here’s an interesting story,
bringing it back to Denver, is that my daughter
is in the audience here and is a teacher in Denver. At the Florida Pitt Waller school. And she’s preparing her lessons
about the geological formations – the Colorado Student
Assessment Program. And she doesn’t know what to do. There are two Haitian kids in her class. They’re frantically looking
for any signs of life from home. The rest of the kids in the class are completely freaked out about this. What ended up happening is that once again, the call went out. Now, French and Creole
and posters and podcasts and programs and people,
working in Haiti. This is the kind of collective experience about something that was inspired
in Iran and conceived in Kashmir and tested in Tajikistan,
and re-engineered in China. Made available for Haiti.
And for Denver. So, with a textbook in one hand,
and a telephone in the other, she got the popsicle sticks
and the shake tables, and all the materials that you need.
And she made a difference. And her kids achieved.
And she didn’t feel so all alone. So, in the time I have left,
I just want to say that there’s unbelievable
technology out there. I just wish it were available
and accessible and adaptable and acceptable. And that you could
take your work, recycle it. Come up with a gigantic recycling
machine at the post office. Just drop it off and have it travel
around the world subtitled and changed. And I do believe that
we’re going to make the kind of difference — that is
the kind of reciprocity and generosity and grace and goodwill that teachers are known
for all over the world. Zero. (Applause)

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