Over 3,800 Students Take on PopEd’s Video Challenge

What started as a way to commemorate the “7 billion” milestone in 2011 has turned into an annual, international event, engaging students and teachers worldwide to “make the population connection” through moving messages.

This year’s contest saw a sharp rise in entries—1,983 (more than double last year’s contest), with over 3,800 students participating. Part of this increase can be attributed to opening the contest up to middle school students this year. But even among high school students, we received 64 percent more entries than last year, with many more teachers using it as a class assignment to engage their students on critical global issues central to both environmental science and social studies curricula. Videos were submitted from schools in 28 countries and 42 states plus Puerto Rico and American Samoa.

For the 2015-16 contest we focused on three global challenges: deforestation, public health, and water scarcity. Students were challenged to create a short video (up to 60 seconds) about human population growth that highlights one of these challenges. To be viable contenders, videos had to include connections to population growth and at least one idea for a sustainable solution. Because the challenges were broad, we also offered some subthemes to help students narrow their focus, and suggested resources and background readings to start their research.

Earlier this spring, we sent surveys to all of the students who submitted videos to get their valuable feedback on their participation and to help us craft future contests. One survey question asked them about their choice of topics. Many mentioned first-hand experiences with their film subject:

“We are experiencing the Southern California drought so we thought that it would be a great idea to spread awareness about the problem.”

“Deforestation is a really huge issue everywhere, including the country we live in (Nicaragua). We wanted to express ourselves and our concern in every way possible, and we thought this would help. Even the smallest candle can bring light to a dark room.”

A panel of 45 judges, including college and high school educators, filmmakers, and professionals working in the topic fields, selected the winners. Winners received certificates and cash prizes.

You can view this year’s winning entries, along with the students’ photos and bios on our contest website, www.WorldOf7Billion.org.

High School—2nd Place

Victor Elgersma
Brussels, Belgium

Mia Freund
New York, NY

Sophia Wu
San Francisco, CA

Middle School—2nd Place

William Griffith
South Orange, NJ

Samantha Guerrier
Virginia Beach, VA

Leilani Hyatt
Virginia Beach, VA

High School
Honorable Mentions

Bryan Sturm
Ventura, CA

Josh Joireman
Pullman, WA

Joe Morris Montesano
Denville, NJ

Victor Elgersman
Brussels, Belgium

Christelle Chavannes
Chicago, IL

Philip Jones
Snellville, GA

High School 1st Place

Joanna Gerr : DeforestationJoanna, a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia, has been animating films since middle school. Her skill and thoughtfulness show in “One Stump at a Time,” our winning video on deforestation. “I had the thought that if Mother Nature were a real entity, she’d be mighty disappointed with us for eating away at her trees like a bunch of termites,” she writes. Joanna will be heading off to MIT this fall to pursue her interests in media arts and sciences.

Leo Bopp and Jacob Furniss-Yesk: Water ScarcityLeo and Jake, sophomores at Lycée Français de Chicago, created “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Water” to take our top prize in the water scarcity category. They decided to focus their video animation on using grey water as a means to conserve water resources. One of our judges, a leading expert on freshwater, lauded the piece for showing the “best solutions offered of all videos—they hit on the things that will matter most in reducing water scarcity both here in the U.S. and globally.”

Laura Paglicawan: Public HealthLaura’s video, “Loving Her,” won the judges over with its sensitive treatment of maternal health, using a personal journal to show the preventable diseases that affect women worldwide. “Everyone should have a healthy life with opportunities,” writes Laura. A senior at Stephen J. Austin High School in Sugar Land, Texas, Laura will be heading off to the University of Houston this fall.

Middle School 1st Place

Holly Golightly: DeforestationA 7th grader at Noblesville West Middle School in Indiana, Holly enjoys drawing, which she used to great effect in “Why Take it All Away?” An environmental writer judging the contest described the video as a “clear explanation of why deforestation contributes to climate change in just one minute—very impressive!”

Henry Castillo: Water Scarcity“What Would We Do Without Water?” is the winning entry from Henry Castillo, a 7th grader at Harmony Science Academy in Carrollton, Texas. He sees water scarcity as one of the biggest global challenges that also hits home—in recent years Texas has been struck by destructive droughts. Judges described Henry’s video as “exceptional and moving” and “very compelling.”

Dahna Yoon: Public HealthWith aspirations of becoming a doctor someday, it’s no surprise that Dahna Yoon chose to focus her video on public health. An 8th grader at Harrisburg Academy in Wormsleysburg, Pennsylvania, Dahna created “Spread of Communicable Disease” as an assignment in her Global Issues class.

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