Teen voices have been so emergent this year in framing the issues that face the future of this country and the world. At Population Connection, we are pleased to provide a vehicle for their voices through our World of 7 Billion Student Video Contest. Since launching the contest in 2010, we have marveled at the creative ways students address and build awareness for so many environmental and social challenges connected to human population pressures.
The contest officially launched last September, giving students and teachers ample time to work it into their busy schedules before the February 2018 deadline. For this year’s challenge, students were asked to submit a video that, in a minute or less, educates viewers about one of the following population connections: Feeding 10 Billion, Preventing Pollution, or Advancing Women and Girls. The contest website provided background reading materials and links to other sources to help students begin their research.
Because each of these contest categories encompasses so many topics, we encouraged students to give careful thought to focusing their 60-second spot. To become a contest finalist, students had to propose at least one sustainable solution to the challenge they addressed. This year’s crop of entries educated us on the extent of food waste around the globe, the promises of vertical farming and electric vehicles, and ways to end child marriage and boost gender equality.
In all, we received nearly 3,000 submissions from 42 U.S. states and territories and fifty countries. Because many entries had multiple producers, we estimate that over 5,000 students contributed to the contest. Many of the entries started as an assignment in a science or social studies class, and a number of teachers have incorporated the contest into their annual syllabus.
A panel of 61 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.
In preparing to announce the winners, our staff had the opportunity to speak with all eighteen winning students on their inspirations, interests, and hopes for the future. This year, we were struck by how many of them expressed a desire to work for social justice and environmental sustainability. A number of them are already active in civic organizations, and view their generation as empowered to make positive change around the world and right in their own communities (e.g. promoting electric cars in Detroit).
You can view this year’s winning entries, along with students’ photos and bios, on our contest website: worldof7billion.org.
High School — First Place
Advancing Women and Girls
Ramya, though only a freshman at Omaha’s Westside High School, already has an impressive portfolio as a graphic designer. For her winning video, “Child Marriage: There is a Solution,” Ramya created original animation with four faceless girls to represent the many millions married off before age eighteen. Ramya is interested in journalism and designing publications. She plans to donate her contest winnings to Nanhi Kali, an NGO that puts Indian girls through primary school.
Feeding 10 Billion
Arjun, also a freshman, won first place with his video, “Eating Up By Thinking Up,” which promotes vertical farming as a way to address our looming food challenges. This Lawrenceville, NJ, native combined his love of science and filmmaking to craft an infographic-driven video that many judges described as “professional quality.” Last year, he won a New Jersey National History Day award for a documentary on George Washington. He was inspired to tackle food security by visiting India and “seeing hunger first hand.”
Joshua recruited his friends to help him film “Do-Able Renewable,” which advocates for the use of renewable resources to prevent pollution. A senior from Tulsa, who has been interested in film from a young age, Joshua recently won an award for a video on the First Amendment that appeared on C–SPAN. “I hope that my generation cracks the code on switching over to renewable energy,” he tells us. Joshua will soon be heading to the University of Oklahoma to study creative media production.
Middle School — First Place
Louisa Fowler’s Team
Advancing Women and Girls
Louisa headed a production team from Wisconsin’s Shorewood Intermediate School that included Masha Velinakov, Paulina Fenske, and Chloe Osbourn. In their video, “Hydration for Education,” the seventh graders focused on the burden of gathering water as an obstacle for girls to go to school in many of the world’s least developed countries. Four of their classmates (listed in the text box above) submitted the second place winner for this same category. All are students in Sarah Kopplin’s World Geography class, which also turned in a winning video in last year’s contest!
Feeding 10 Billion
Ayush, an eighth grader at Mannheim Middle School in Lancaster, PA, has thought a lot about world hunger, even giving presentations to peers about the benefits of vegetarianism. For his winning video, “Feeding 10 Billion on Earth,” Ayush created animation using Powtoon software. Filmmaking is just one of his hobbies — Ayush is a multi-talented musician (he sings and plays piano, saxophone, guitar, and Indian drums) and an avid Boy Scout who loves biking, hiking, camping, and “feeling close to nature.”
This seventh grader from Cupertino, CA, appears in her own live-action video, “Making a Healthier and Cleaner World.” For her, the project was personal — Kelly has had allergies since birth, and pollution worsens the effects. She’s on the Teen Advisory Council of Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) and has always been interested in environmental sustainability. In her video, Kelly demonstrates the benefits of recycling and vermicomposting (composting using worms). She plans to continue “raising awareness for sustainability.”
High School — Second Place
High School — Honorable Mentions
South Orange, New Jersey
Royal Oak, Michigan
La Puente, California
Middle School — Second Place
Las Vegas, Nevada