Students Film the Population Connection

Announcing Winners of the 2016-17 World of 7 Billion Contest

It’s that time of year again when we announce the winners of the World of 7 Billion (W7B) student video contest. Now in its sixth year, the contest continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year we received a record 2,913 entries with over 5,500 student participants—a nearly 50-percent increase over last year. The contest has become a truly international event, attracting entries from 45 countries (including 48 U.S. states and territories and six Canadian provinces).

W7B has drawn a loyal following among middle and high school science and social studies teachers who assign it to help build their students’ research and communication skills around critical global issues. This year’s contest themes—climate change, ocean health, and rapid urbanization—presented plenty of possibilities for classroom learning.

As in past years, students were challenged to create a short video (up to 60 seconds) that connects one of the given themes to human population growth, and also includes sustainable solutions. We encouraged students to focus their videos on a subtheme (e.g. coral bleaching or overfishing for ocean health) to tighten their message. To help students begin their research, we provided background readings and links to other sources.

A panel of 33 judges, including college and high school educators, filmmakers, and professionals working in the topic fields, selected the winners. For high school contestants, first place winners in each category received $1,000, second place winners received $500, and honorable mentions received $250. Middle school winners received $500 for first place and $250 for second place.

One of the highlights for our staff each year is interviewing the winners and finding out about the inspirations for their videos. Common to most of the winners is a personal connection to one of the contest themes. One student based his urban sprawl video on the smog he sees over the winter skyline in his hometown of Salt Lake City. Another was motivated by the overfishing off his island near the Korean peninsula.

Earlier this spring, we sent surveys to all of the students who submitted videos to get their valuable feedback on their participation. This year, we asked them if they’d be interested in engaging in some kind of activism. Of the nearly 1,000 survey responses, a full 70 percent indicated an interest in doing more. The most popular choices? Volunteering for a non-profit (65 percent), sharing their newfound knowledge on social media (55 percent), and starting/joining a school environmental or global perspectives club (49 percent). In the coming months, our PopEd team will work on a toolkit to support teens in these initiatives.

High School First Place Winners

Douah Shakshuki: Climate Change

Douah, a junior at Horton High School in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, focused her winning video on the connections between food production and consumption, and how individuals can make a difference. “I have a vegetable garden in the summer,” she told us. “If I can do it, other people can do it, too.” Her video impressed judges for its “exceptional animation, beautifully deployed to tell a compelling story.” This isn’t the first time Douah has been recognized for addressing important issues. In 2014, she received the Lt. Governor’s Respectful Citizenship Award for raising funds for local charities and building interfaith relations in her community.

Maya Redden and Maya Peters Greño: Ocean Health

The two Mayas, both sophomores at Compass Academy in Idaho Falls, Idaho, scored high marks from our judges for Plastic Soup, an original animation focusing on the problem of microbeads in our oceans. Until moving to Idaho two years ago, Maya Peters Greño had grown up in Barcelona and saw, first hand, the effects of ocean trash. Maya Redden’s father is an environmental engineer who shared with them an article about microbeads that got them interested in educating the public about this persistent problem.

Elizabeth Langer and Emily Phillips: Rapid Urbanization

Judges described Urban Sprawl: An Expanding Problem as one of the most memorable videos in this year’s submissions. Emily and Elizabeth used children’s toys to great effect in this stop-motion animation production. The winners, both seniors at Piedmont High School in Piedmont, California, strove to address a serious subject with light-hearted visuals and include “actionable solutions for the average person.” Emily plans to study film production next year at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, while Lizzie is headed across the pond to the University of Edinburgh.

Middle School First Place Winners

Pramana Saldin’s Team: Climate Change

Pramana headed a production team from Wisconsin’s Shorewood Intermediate School that included Nick Bucciarelli (the narrator), Riju Dey, and Adit Gupta. The four seventh graders used a mixture of photos and graphics to clearly explain climate change and how it is connected to population pressures, and to propose a move to several types of clean, renewable energy. “Messaging is very sharp and crystal clear!” offered one judge. “We knew a bit about climate change already,” Pramana told us. “Humans are putting CO2 and methane into the atmosphere, and more humans on Earth means more people putting those harmful gasses into the world.”

Ethan Xiong: Ocean Health and Rapid Urbanization

Ethan submitted videos for two categories—both winners! What’s to Lose? educates viewers about the ocean’s plastic gyres. Breaking the Chain of Pain explores the hardships for the world’s migrants who settle in urban slums, a situation he’s observed on visits to see family in Indonesia. In both videos, he employed polished animation with colorful infographics. Ethan recently moved from the U.S. to Singapore, and is now an eighth grader at One World International School. He has been making videos for about two years, but this was his first competition.

High School Second Place Winners

Arvav Madhiwalla
Rockaway, New Jersey

Eric Traugott
Alpharetta, Georgia

Nesha Vuriti
Northampton, United Kingdom

Middle School Second Place Winners

Claire Knutsen, Julia Loritz, and Tae Ellisen
Appleton, Wisconsin

Aurelio Santiago and Michael Smith
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Lumeria So, Zorina Holod, and Grace Kelley
Long Beach, California

Katie Wright
Vanscoy, Saskatchewan

High School Honorable Mentions

Carrie Hu and Julia Henry
Mississauga, Ontario

SooMin Hwangbo and Faith Moon Hwang
Yongin, South Korea

Pete Kim, Jason Tark, and Henry Ko
Jeju-Si, South Korea

Katie Krofta and Rose Krofta
Blaine, Washington

Sawyer Nunley and Jeff Morales
Salt Lake City, Utah

Ethan Taylor, Jeffery Whitmire, and Gavin Meeker
Mineral Bluff, Georgia

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