45+ TED Talks That Will Intrigue, Encourage, and Inspire Your Students
By now, you probably know about TED, a nonprofit organization dedicated to sharing important ideas through brief, impactful talks. TED Talks can be an amazing classroom resource, sparking meaningful conversations. (Their TED-Ed videos are especially valuable, since they include complete lesson plans for teachers.) We’ve rounded up some of our favorite TED Talks students will really enjoy. You’ll find options here for every age and interest!
STEM TED Talks for Students
These videos include Ted Talks students can learn from, in ways that will truly engage them. See hands-on science in action, and explore topics in a way kids can easily understand.
Plastic bottles are everywhere these days. In this video, you’ll follow the life cycles of three different bottles. Each journey teaches us something about how plastics affect the environment.
Why do some people tan (or burn) so fast while others can sit in the sun for hours? How did our skin develop so many different hues, to begin with? Find out, then follow up with the beauty of human skin in every color!
When you listen to music, multiple areas of your brain become engaged and active. But when you actually play an instrument, that activity becomes more like a full-body brain workout.
This talk begins with some sobering statistics: 6.6 million children don’t make it to their fifth birthday. But Myriam Sidibe reveals the simplest of solutions that may reverse the trends—a bar of soap.
Neuroscientist Beau Lotto shares the parallels between science and play with the help of 25 elementary-age children.
Long ago, wild cats were fierce hunters. Over the centuries, they’ve become the house pets we know and love. Learn how our furry friends came to be in this fun video.
There’s probably at least one student in your classroom with dyslexia. Learn how it affects learning and why we should celebrate neurodiversity.
Arthur Benjamin: Mathemagic (15:02)
Art Benjamin combines his two loves—math and magic! Watch him perform three-digit multiplication in his head faster than his helpers using a calculator.
Kids will love learning how to create circuits using two different kinds of homemade play-dough. Don’t be surprised when they want to try it for themselves.
Jack developed a cheap, effective, and non-invasive test for pancreatic cancer. Oh, and he did it all before his 16th birthday!
Go for a swim with one of the ocean’s coolest creatures, the sea lion. They can hunt for up to 30 hours at a time and reach speeds of 18 mph. Amazing!
“Where do you go to find out how to make an app?” Thomas was 12 when he asked this question. He taught himself to build apps and wants to inspire other kids to do the same.
Kids are often told video games are “bad” for them. Brain scientist Daphne Bavelier challenges that notion. She believes that playing video games in “reasonable doses” can actually have lots of positive effects on our brain. Bavelier shares how she and other scientists are using their research to help others.
At age 14, a Malawian boy named William Kamkwamba sought a way to help his village combat famine. Ultimately, he built a wind turbine entirely out of spare parts and scrap yard materials. Next, learn how it changed his life in How I Harnessed The Wind.
Terry Moore believes that most of us are tying our shoes incorrectly. Surprisingly enough, he’s probably right. In this informative TED Talk, Moore demonstrates how to tie a stronger knot that won’t let us down. As Moore notes, sometimes small advantages can yield big results.
Joe Smith is on a mission to save paper by teaching us the correct way to use a paper towel. Spoiler alert: We’re doing it wrong and creating a lot of waste in the process.
John Green talks about the importance of the internet and why it makes learning more awesome. He demonstrates how platforms like YouTube can help build engaging communities of learning and discovery.
History and Culture TED Talks for Students
Explore topics from history and the arts and make connections with people around the world.
Would you have guessed that the world’s first known author was a woman? Find out about her life and writings, dating back 4,300 years.
Artist Georgia O’Keeffe was inspired by the shapes and rhythms of nature. Her unique way of looking at the world gave rise to American Modernism.
For much of human history, people believed witches were real—and evil. They hunted the suspected witches, put them on “trial,” and tortured them, often to death. Take a closer look at this difficult chapter of our past and how it came to be.
Kids who love Beyoncé or Adele will love learning about Sappho, one of ancient Greece’s most famous poets. She coined the word “bittersweet” to describe the ups and downs of romance. Her writings made her a superstar of her day!
It’s simply impossible to make a map of the spherical world that’s accurate. So why do we keep using them? And how can we change them to shift our point of view? Find out in this intriguing video.
Many people believe that if you work hard enough, you’ll automatically succeed. But poverty is a trap that frequently pulls people back down, no matter how hard they try. Why should that be, and how can we overcome it?
Go behind the scenes with Danielle Feinberg, Pixar’s director of photography. See what happens when science and art collide to create Pixar’s incredible three-dimensional worlds.
Only a tiny percentage of online videos go viral. But when they do, they become part of a cultural phenomenon that fascinates and mystifies us. Kevin Allocca shares the secret ingredients that contribute to a video’s viral success.
In this powerful spoken-word performance, Lyiscott challenges the standard notion of what it means to be “articulate” in today’s society. She shares her experience navigating three distinct English dialects at home, at school, and with friends.
Ever wondered how inflation works, or what determines the value of a buck? Join the workers of the Federal Reserve and learn how it all works.
The LXD (Legion of Extraordinary Dancers) believes that dance can have a transformative effect on the world. Their stunning street dance performance makes for a TED Talk video students will want to watch again and again. Fans of Glee and So You Think You Can Dance may see some familiar faces.
Everyone needs a little whimsy in their lives. Children’s writer Barnett shares the power of imagination in this playful talk. He introduces us to Nico, an imaginative child who brings Barnett’s message to life.
Tavi Gevinson noticed that women, particularly young girls, were often misrepresented in popular media. In response, she created a web magazine. It’s a place where teenagers can share stories, ask questions, and “figure it out” together.
Inspirational TED Talks for Students
Encourage kids to ask more questions and seek the best in the world with these TED Talks.
What trials unite Harry Potter, Frodo Baggins, and more of literature’s most interesting heroes? And what do ordinary people have in common with these literary heroes?
Believe it or not, boredom can actually result in your most creative accomplishments. Zomorodi explains that when your body is on autopilot, your brain gets busy!
“Read critically. Write consciously. Speak clearly. Tell your truth.” Teacher Clint Smith explains the relationship between silence and discrimination.
How do movements gain traction? According to Derek Sivers, it’s different than you might think. In less than three minutes, Sivers takes us step-by-step through a movement forming in real-time. He shares the lessons we can learn from those who have the courage to follow.
Angela Lee Duckworth is a public school teacher turned psychologist. Her research indicates success and IQ are not as interconnected as many might think. In this motivational talk, she reinforces the importance of building grit in ourselves and our students.
Explore patriotism and social justice with this engaging talk by actor and activist George Takei. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, young George and his family were forcibly relocated to a Japanese American internment camp. He shares how his father helped him reconcile this experience with the core ideal of American democracy.
In this courageous talk, Christian Picciolini shares his personal journey of overcoming prejudice and hate. A former neo-Nazi, Picciolini now dedicates his time to helping others combat violent extremism in their own lives. He notes that these movements often target the young, vulnerable, and marginalized—like he once was. (Mature content and drug references.)
Procrastinators, unite! In this relatable TED Talk, Tim Urban offers hilarious insight into the mind of a procrastinator. Kids will find the “instant gratification monkey” both funny and relatable.
Author Susan Cain argues for the importance of introverts in a world that seems to favor the opposite. She explains why solitude matters, as well as how it contributes to creativity and leadership.
In this powerful video, Shane shares his viral spoken-word poem about bullying and survival. This beautiful talk is a must-see for anyone who has ever felt life’s uncertainty, loneliness, or frustration. (Mature content and language.)
Joachim de Posada explains the value of self-discipline, demonstrated by a famous experiment. Students will laugh at little ones trying hard not to eat a marshmallow. But there’s a lot to learn here too.
Children’s author Jarrett J. Krosoczka illustrates the power of a simple thank-you in this talk. He encourages us to celebrate our cafeteria staff and the important work they do throughout the year.
Stories matter. In this eye-opening talk, novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explains how power shapes the stories we hear and tell others. She warns against the danger of a single story. They can be incomplete and even offer harmful understandings of others based on a single narrative or experience. Adichie raises important questions that can encourage students to explore concepts of identity and perspective.
In this inspiring talk, Drew Dudley explains how small acts of kindness can transform the lives of others. He believes leadership isn’t about changing the world but about changing each other’s understanding of the world.
Cuddy explains how our body language shapes how others see us—and how we see ourselves. Learn how “power posing” can help us feel more confident.
What are your favorite TED Talks students will want to watch? Come and share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.
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