Help a middle school teacher out (suggestions, please)

I got to be in charge of the after school Multimedia contest (yay me! Extra money!) Basically, I teach the kids to use PowerPoint, they give a presentation, and prizes are awarded.

The last couple of years, the contest coordinator had one topic they all had to do. While their intentions were good, it meant that the kids were frustrated and disinterested, and the judges were comatose by the time the last contestants gave their presentations.

So, this year, I’m putting together a topic bank that the kids can select from. It has to come from the bank so I don’t have kids doing “erotic nipple art of the 1920s” in a humorous albeit inappropriate way to get the judges’ attention.

What I need are suggestions that are specific enough to be covered in a PowerPoint presentation that lasts less than five minutes, adequately researched on the internet, appeals to kids from 11 through 14 years of age, and are “classroom appropriate”. Academic topics are preferred, but the field is wide open.

Throw them at me.

How about the effects of commercialism on society? Or maybe technology’s changing role in (insert your profession of choice)?

Just a couple suggestions.

I asked my son. He’s a sophmore in high school now, but participated in a similar contest when he was in middle school.

He researched the history of football and it was way too large for the five minute time limit, but he says that something sports related is an appealing hook.

His other ideas

  • Research a particular battle of a war.

  • Explore how the airplane changed warfare when it was first introduced.

  • Benefits of exercise and nutrition to students.

  • Outline how to write an essay, perhaps with good examples and humorously horrible examples.

The impact of _______ on American society. (insert invention or type of technology)

The role(s) of ______ in American society. (insert name of group, art form, societal trend, etc.)

All about plankton.

How did they build the pyramids?

How do we get electricity?

Why are the rainforests in danger?

What does your pancreas/liver/heart/stomach do?

All about teeth

All about Tug-Ahoy

What is evolution?

How does capitalism work?

Indian tribes of the north/south/east west

Star Wars vs Star Trek - Who wins?

All about the Chunnel.

How do suspension bridges work?

Why do women always like the bad boys?

All about Neanderthals.

Who wrote the book of love?

Playstation vs Xbox - Analysis

Are men really from Mars and women from Venus?

Dogs love to catch frisbees - Why?

What ‘product’ or ‘policy’ would you develop and/or modify for your school, and why?

EVERY student has an opinion about that…

Maybe they could refute a particularly annoying argument with colorful illustrations?

[sub]I AM SUCH A GEEK![/sub]

Biographies of famous people could be easy to research and (possibly) interesting subjects.

Ooo, I like CasperQ’s idea-- we had to do something similar for my speech class in college. In fact, every topic we spoke on had to be on public policy/law, or about policies/rules at our specific university. It was interesting to listen to, and impacted our lives as much as the professor’s. Although they may be too young to have been formally introduced to the idea of making a persuasive presentation, most people I know are far more interested in making and listening to persuasive rather than informative topics.

So maybe pick an array of school policies (or budget items) to talk about, or laws that impact youth (everything from voting age to the environment). Might also be fun to let them know what the school’s actual budget is, and then have them try to persuade the judges about how much money to allocate to which activities.

Why don’t you just let them pick their own subject, then bring it to you for approval? That way you could let them choose whatever they wanted without being restictive, or without letting them go too wild. Or set some guidelines (no sex, drugs, alcohol, etc), and make sure the kids follow them.

I taught PP to high school students in an Anatomy class, so my suggestions of topics wouldn’t be useful.

But perhaps you might want to think about limiting the number of slides (say 8), and then at the beginning of the project, give them a list of PP features that must be used during the presentation. Examples might be: Using a sound file like music downloaded from the net, a picture downloaded from the net, various backgrounds, sound effects for text as it moves into the slide, and so forth. This would give them a framework, and some limitations. I also always stressed that the special effects needed to be used with caution - the purpose of the PP project isn’t to include as much special effects as possible, but rather to enhance the content of the report itself.

Good luck. BTW, if you want a handout on this, I could send it to you in your email…along with a few sample PP projects.

What is Non-Point Source Pollution and why is it harder to control? How much waste does an average family produce and where does it go? How much energy does an average family use and where does it come from? How does a sewage treatement plant work? (It could be worse. I once started to research a book to be titled: Science with Shit. You’d be amazed at how much of it there is and how many fields are doing it.)

A history of the interstate hwy system. Are railroads dying? Will teleconferencing kill the airline industry? How do you train a dog? What causes anti-biotic-resistant strains of bacteria? How old are children when they learn where food comes from? Is there a correlation between education and income? Is it stronger or weaker than it used to be?

How long to teachers stay teachers? Which jobs have the highest burnout rates? What benefits do people get from having pets? What are the newest treatments for arthritis? Polio and smallpox were once ‘defeated’ - are we getting close to ‘defeating’ any other deseases or chronic conditions?

How is our prosperity hurting us? What parts of the personality are inherited and what parts are learned (yes, I know they work together most of the time)? What parts of the personality can be changed and what parts can’t?

Why did they stop calling them blue-green algae and start calling them cyanobacteria? Did dinosaurs dream? Were baby dinosaurs cute (yes, there is a way to define cute as it relates to babies, and yes, baby dinosaurs were cute).

If the most important thing we can learn when we are young is how to act effectively in a social situation (and all job environments are social) - why don’t we spend more of our school time socializing and being coached on effective socialization?

Do men and women expect different things in a team situation? Does listening to classical music make you smarter? Would you be dead if you had been born in the Middle Ages (there’s a thread on that here on the boards).

What is the Tragedy of the Commons? What are the characteristic traits of different types of rock and roll? What are the features of an urban legend? What are the steps of performing a Cold Reading? What science disciplines are under-represented in science fair entries?

Seven things that can be made with AOL give-away disks (I swear I will make a solar oven from them sometime before I die).
The top ten things that would make kids eager to come to school.
Five things to remember when making a decision. Four reasons every school should have a garden. Twelve things that you aren’t likely to learn in school. A list of the things your parent’s say that you swear you’ll never say. A list of things your parent’s parents said that your parents swore they would never say and then found themselves saying anyway.

>>Would you be dead if you had been born in the Middle Ages (there’s a thread on that here on the boards).
Yes, I know you’d be dead NOW. Would you have died in childhood.

Here’s some presentation topics I’ve seen done in classes:

the history of BBQ
Operation Pastorius (Hitler’s “invasion” of the U.S.)
the history of pizza

You also might want to consider including “biography topics” of famous authors.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my 200th post.


How not to be seen.

The Larch
How many fonts are too many?

How to drown out any content by overusing Powerpoint features
Or it’s counterpart:
How to say absolutely nothing but keep it interesting.

I’ve found those to be the most employed presentation skills in the business world…