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Fun and nerdy field trips: TEDx Adventures take to the streets

Posted by: Hailey Reissman
A TEDx'er tests drives Netra, a portable device for eye tests,  on a TEDx Adventure to the MIT Media Lab. Photo: John Werner

A TEDx’er test drives Netra, a portable device for eye tests, on a TEDx Adventure to the MIT Media Lab. Photo: John Werner

This week, we’ve launched a new blog: TEDx Innovations. It’s a space for TEDx organizers to share their passion and ingenuity, to reveal the things they’re trying at their events and the ways they’re evolving this global platform before our eyes. Bookmark it and look for lots more to come.

Mastering the physics behind sailing in the Boston Harbor; mapping the brain in a neuroscience lab; learning to blow glass in a glass arts studio — these are all part of an initiative piloted by TEDxBeaconStreet organizer John Werner called TEDx Adventures.

TEDx Adventures encourages TEDx communities to plan fun (and nerdy) field trips to bring individuals out of a theater and into their communities, coming into contact with the people, places and ideas transforming the place they call home. Before he had ever heard of TED, Werner was committed to bringing people together through ideas worth spreading. While working as a teacher in Boston, he had an idea: introduce Boston’s middle schoolers to the concepts taught in the classroom via guided “Adventures” around the city — trips that allowed students to do things like re-design the city’s layout with a leading architect or carry out experiments with local scientists.

So when Werner organized his first TEDx event, he knew that these Adventures were something he wanted to integrate into the event. Two weeks before the first TEDxBeaconStreet in Boston, the team hosted 14 pre-event Adventures, including a bike tour of the city, a look behind-the-scenes of a Harvard biochemistry lab, and a journey on a lobster boat. The Adventures were a great success, allowing Bostonians of all ages to experience the fascinating things taking place right in their backyard.

Caption TK.

TEDx Adventure catalysts bring the adventure to their TEDx communities. Photo: John Werner

Two years later, these Adventures have moved beyond TEDxBeaconStreet — as the TEDxBeaconStreet team has created a template for any TEDx organizer to use to host their own Adventure, offering a toolkit and ample advice. “With Adventures, we can harness the energy and enthusiasm generated by a TEDx conference and turn our community into a laboratory where ideas can continue to evolve and spread beyond the day of the event,” writes Werner and his TEDxBeaconStreet teammate Laura Colcord in their TEDx Adventures Toolkit.

Where else have Adventures taken place? In a laparoscopic surgery research lab, with surgeons teaching attendees the ins-and-outs of laparoscopes and challenging them to take a surgical training examination. At a the underground lab of a marine biologist / deep sea experimenter who demonstrated submarine technology and inspired an attendee to write, “Never before have I felt so compelled to pursue a marine biology PhD. If the feeling lasts, I’ll know where to go!”

And that is only the start.

“There are epilogues to talks,” Werner says in a talk about TEDx Adventures. “The world changes … Through having these adventures, you can continue the dialogue.” And that is what Werner and his team hopes to do, through their own adventures and by helping others host their own.

TEDxBeaconStreet Adventures participants practice laparoscopic surgery in Boston. Photo: John Werner

TEDxBeaconStreet Adventures participants practice laparoscopic surgery in Boston. Photo: John Werner

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