Mister Eclectic (howeird) wrote,
Mister Eclectic

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World Affairs and such

For the third time I was a judge at World Savvy's annual World Affairs Challenge at SF State. Middle school and high school students from around the Bay Area came to give presentations on feeding the world. There are three parts to the challenge:
☻ Posters
☻ Presentations
☻ Challenge Question

Everyone is supposed to be there for the 9 am opening ceremony, and should have their poster display set up in the gym before that. Most of the posters used the recommended standard tri-fold heavy cardboard setup. Some simply pasted their words and photos on them, others had some sort of creative background (such as a burlap backing for a fair trade coffee theme) and some made more ornate setups. One school built a scale model nuclear power plant. Another had a globe spinning slowly using a home-made motor and flywheel assembly. There was a paper maché octopus. And a 10x life size corn cob with Pepsi bottles as cob holders, to illustrate high fructose corn syrup's ills. The only losers were three posters from a school in Berkeley which only brought a single piece of poster paper with their message hand-scrawled, attached flat on the table top with tape that did not hold (they had to be unrolled to be read). More on this school later.

They kept my group of judges together all day, which was good news and bad news. The good news is we all got along and had different kinds of questions to ask. The bad news is the other judges were a couple and a man with his grade-school boy in tow. Variety would have been nice.

We saw four presentations. A Walnut Creek high school tried to adapt The Wizard of Oz to show how corporate ag is a Bad Thing™, and the wicked witch (USA) needs to be made to keep her "monkeys" off of other countries' land and let the locals grow their own food. Dorothy kept whining to go home, ignoring the fact that Kansas is the poster child for corp ag. They had not done much rehearsing and read all their lines. The lion had makeup and a head wrap, scarecrow had done her eyes to fit the part, but none of the others had bothered.

Can't remember where they were from, but the next group decided that nuclear power was the theme, based on erroneous reports from "Good Morning America" which they took for true, about radiation poisoning of crops in the US. They took the form of a FAO meeting between Japan, France, Ukraine and an FAO inspector which was dead boring. They had a slide show behind them, rife with grammatical and factual errors. For some bizarre reason the Ukraine rep gave all the earthquake info. When I asked why, they didn't get it - Chernobyl had nothing to do with quakes, seismic stuff should have been presented by the Japan rep.

Next up was the Berkeley school. We are talking poverty level and below here. Five students with zero props but a lot of enthusiasm. They presented the info in the form of two game shows, Family Feud and Jeopardy. The boy who played the MC had all the questions/answers on pieces of paper torn from a notebook, and his four colleagues did not always know their lines, but he handled it the way the MC of a real game show would have. It was obvious they had planned on having sound and video effects, but there was no budget. The MC was clearly the driving force behind the project, but one of the other boys showed a lot of insight during the Q&A. The other two kids not so much. I'm going to see if WS can arrange for me to donate some funds to the school for next year's event.

Final presentation was Wilcox HS in Santa Clara, which was just the opposite. They had a computer video intro, PPT slides as background images throughout, costumes, and while they had index cards they didn't need to read from them most of the time. Their thing was about how evil greedy fast food companies are killing our children, and how organic farming is the answer. Very PC but not accurate or realistic. Great presentation, though.

They gave us a box lunch of sorts, then it was on to the challenge question. This was a four-page hand-out which described a project on each page which the students had to decide between for a $10k donation.

This time the group was 8 students, each from different schools. Both our groups were high school, but they ranged from sophomores to seniors. We got to watch from the time they were first given the hand-outs, through their discussion and any rehearsal, then a presentation followed by Q&A.

Both groups did an amazing job of everyone participating all the way through, coming to a consensus and every student individually saying why he/she supported the decision. The first group went with the big established international food aid organization because it would help the most people and was a long-term solution. The second group chose the Rwanda AIDS nutrition program on the basis of how much farther $10k would go, and a dash of guilt for not stopping the genocide when we had a chance. One of the boys in the group was very persuasive about the latter, and after making some opening remarks let the rest of the group come to the same conclusion. This group got up and gave a presentation without rehearsal which was brilliant. They handled the questions great too. Both groups were a pleasure to watch & hear. Total strangers from different schools and socio-economic levels all coming together with no fisticuffs or drive-bys.

Well, almost. The second group started with one more girl than they finished with. This very pierced girl with artlessly dyed hair, slumped into a seat at the back of the room, totally distancing herself from the group, which was in a circle of chairs toward the front of the room. When the proctor asked if she would like to join the group, she said "not really" and slumped further. About two minutes after the handout was distributed, she picked up her things and left, leaving the handout and pencil on the desk. I had to lower a couple of my marks for the group because part of their job was to encourage everyone to participate, but they just sat there when the girl bailed.

I did not stay for the closing ceremony, which was a total waste the last 2 years. No T-shirts this year, but they have never had my size anyway.

It's all foggy in the city today, so I decided to enjoy it and go Daley City and find a *$'s to write this. First place I went was packed, no seating. Walked a couple of blocks and back, still no seats. So I drove down the hill to another one in a large-ish new shopping center closer to town. There has been some eye candy, but not a lot. Probably will have dinner someplace nearby.

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