Advice on presentation to high school sophomores? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

I have been invited to speak to my son's science class next week on Y2K. I am a pessimist, but don't want to scare a bunch of 16 year olds. I have 50 minutes to talk on the subject (and 2000 hours worth of material!), and am looking for ways to organize and give somewhat balanced coverage. Any thoughts?

-- z (z@z.z), April 16, 1999


I would just state facts as they are, not sensationalize things. If you act like it is going to be devestating (gov't. intervention into lives, etc) they will pick up on that and may act accordingly. If you treat it matter-of-factly: this is what is happening, we will have to deal with it as best we can, they should be OK.

-- winna (??@??.com), April 16, 1999.

I am a high school teacher. My gut feeling is that I wouldn't do this if I were you. I think Y2K is just as sensitive an issue with many people as sex is. There aren't too many moderate discussions on Y2K. In an extreme case, if this has not been sanctioned formally by the school in writing, you could possibly get sued by a paranoid parent who is trying to keep this from his or her kid.

Sincerely, Apple

-- Apple (, April 16, 1999.


Hadn't even considered that. You may be right; however, I think it is important to present information, especially when I have been invited to do so. The teacher "gets it". This isn't an official sanction, but how likely is that? I want to use this opportunity in a productive way without negative repurcussions. Perhaps the two are indeed mutually exclusive.

-- z (z@z.z), April 16, 1999.

y2k is like sex?!! No wonder I'm addicted to this site. (At least I don't have to give Ed Y. my Visa card number.)

-- rick blaine (, April 16, 1999.


Since high school sophomores are offspring of Baby Boomers, they are second generation Wimpy La-Las. This means they have *no* concept of sociology, international economic supply chains, etc.

Avoid the big picture societal breakdown possibities. As already mentioned, their parents might freak, and besides, they wont get it anyway. (These kids think TV and movies accurately portray reality!)

Focus strictly on the technical aspect of Y2K. Most of them know computers and many may even have a decent grasp of code. Explain what 00 means to a computer. We know its supposed to be one more than 99, but the common sense-devoid computer looks at it literally, as 99 less than 99.

Give examples of how this totally screws up math calculations, comparisons, and sortings. Explain that dates are *everywhere* in business system software.

It may be kind of boring and mean little to them now, but maybe next winter when theyre eating National Guard-issued surplus cheese by candle light in the basement, they can explain to their whiny parents why they cant just pick up the cell phone and call Dominos.

-- rick blaine (, April 16, 1999.


The technical aspect will be covered. However, I think the potential impact on many crucial industries can't be ignored. Nor should the radical concept of preparation.

I'll probably give a handout with references for more info. The Senate report, some y2k news sites, Cassandra project, some others. Any other suggestions?

-- z (z@z.z), April 16, 1999.

Z - As you said, 50 minutes will go very quickly. Maybe after giving the technical explanation, you could get them involved in brainstorming the problem of interconnectiveness and what might be involved in end-to-end testing of this octopus. That might start to give them the analytical tools they will need to understand Y2K as it unfolds without either being pablum or too depressing. I agree with others that they shouldn't be put immediately at odds with what their families are (not) doing to prepare.

-- Brooks (, April 16, 1999.


I'm a high school home economics teacher who discusses Y2K with my students often, especially along the lines of preparation....stockpiling food and water. Hardly a day goes by that Y2K doesn't come up during classroom discussions in my nutrition and cooking classes. Most of my students are GI's, hopefully as a result of my efforts. Fortunately, my principal is also.

I personally think I would be most irresponsible if I chose not to inform my students of possible problems. I have *not* received any complaints from parents, but if you feel that is a possibility, ask the teacher to inform the principal of your presentation. If s/he gets complaints, then s/he won't be blindsided by an irrate parent. Principals do not like having to defend a teacher when they don't have a clue about what is going on. Get to the school a few minutes early, or go by before the day of your presentation to brief the principal of your intentions. You never might get another GI onboard.

Suggestions for your presentation: 1. establish a rapport that makes students feel at ease to ask questions. They will most often lead you right into the important aspects of Y2K. 2. give a brief overview of the problem.....don't get too technical here.....can turn many students off. 3. be prepared to answer questions as to how computers affect the flow of power, food and water to their homes. 4. have copies of the Red Cross Y2K statement for each student.....a good starting place. 5. get info as to how your community is preparing.....make it as personal as possible. 6. expect the question, "will we have school?"....never fails :-) 7. prepare an evaluation form for them to give you feedback.....many students will not feel comfortable voicing their concerns in front of their peers. Ask them to put their names on it if they want follow-up info....otherwise they should remain anonymous.

Hope this helps.


-- Teacher (, April 16, 1999.


email this thread to Seth Carmichael at:


-- Critt Jarvis (, April 16, 1999.

Thanks for all the advice. I sent Seth an e-mail. I will report back next week.

-- z (z@z.z), April 16, 1999.

z; Your situation is something every parent should discuss with their child. Because their kid(s) should be with them during this Y2K preperation period. The class is science, then discuss Y2K as if it were a science project, each student will be part of the experiment. Then explain what those parts are,(ie) telecommunications,banking,food, fuel,electricity. Make the last student in the row the beginning part,then each student in front of that has to contribute a part to the situation/solution.

Perhaps they will get the idea behind the problem, And keep it in a third person text, that way those angry parents won't take you to court because of what you have taught them in class.

They need to know, it will only make them aware of what they can contribute when the time comes.


-- Furie (, April 16, 1999.

My son is a junior. His reaction has been to clean his firearms and the tools, chainsaw dead trees and cut firewood. Must be protective male traits emerging. Once he chose his territory, I turned those preparation and maintenance tasks over to him as his responsibility. So far he is taking care of it. The only thing he hasn't grasped is the need to do a written inventory and determine what extra parts should be stockpiled. Partly my fault, as I am in charge of procurement and the lines of responsibility blurr.

Too bad it is a science class. I would come at the issue obliquely in terms of an historic/current events context by looking at some recent natural disasters. Then I would use one of the "synergistic" exercises that were popular when I taught quality circles back in the 80s - (The desert or snow survival ones.) The exercise effectively demonstrates that most people will survive any crisis better through collaboration and group dynamics in decision making. This background would be easy for kids to later plug into the context of community y2k efforts as participants.

I hope, as such efforts are developed, that the energy, talents and willingness of teenagers will be harnessed, particularly as could be used to watchover some of the needs of more vulnerable elderly and physically challenged neighbors. As in all youth projects, they do need direction (with training), supervision and recognition for their participation. I hope most kids will rise to the challenge of responsibility as they learn the feeling of value in serving and being able to serve others.

-- marsh (, April 17, 1999.

My 13 year old daughter went to the Vice Principal in her school to discuss the idea of having a schoolwide presentation. The principal thought it was a VERY good idea. So, we must find a respectable looking person (Dad is a bit eccentric) to do this.

We probably won't get any deeper than the Red Cross info, but every little "tap" of the hammer gives us another chance to wake someone up.

-- Jon Williamson (, April 17, 1999.

When I had a one-day lesson on Y2K in my computer science class (high school), I assigned a current event (news article) for the students to read first. If you chose an article at their reading level that summarizes the technological problem (math and zeros) and possible extent of problems, that information can be merely reviewed rather than presented. That saves more time for discussion.

I had the class vote on how bad they thought it would be, based on Hyatt's levels of "no effect", "brown out", "black out", and "meltdown" and then had students who had voted at either end explain why they felt that way. (Apologies for mentioning this book on this forum.)

Y2K is in the news enough that most students have some vague impression of what it is about and have some sort of opinion as to how bad it will be.

Since I am the regular teacher, it came as a shock to most of my students to hear that I already had six months of food put away, and had already pulled my emergency cash out of the bank. They thought the "loonies" were doing that, and here was something they considered rationale making what he thought were prudent preparations.

As a visitor, you may not have that will be important to establish it (as was mentioned above).

Have fun!

-- Ron Southwick (, April 17, 1999.

I recently did a presentation for a group and would be happy to foreward to you my Powerpoint handout. I began by discussing Y2K's possible impact in terms of three areas of concern, diagrammed as three concentric circles (Dr. Paula Gordon's work; not mine.): 1. Info and Communication Technology; 2. Embedded Systems; 3. Commectivity and Interdependency Concerns. I gave Gordon's descriptions of the specific areas made vulnerable by each of these three systems. Next, I talked about which industries were fathest behind: health care, oil, education, agriculture, farming, food production, construction. And I mentioned additional threats, not [directly] related to the y2k problem: the GPS rollover, the next Leonid shower, solar cycle 23, global economic and political instability. Then I talked about prepardness beginning at home, expanding outward into neighborhoods, then communities, and spiraling back. I outline principles of family preparedness: Be Warm and Dry; Have Water and Food; Be Clean and Healthy; Be Secure; Brush Up Your Skills; Share What You Know. Then I talked about what neighborhoods can do, and what communities need to focus on. I suggested the group break up into subgroups, each of which could explore and report on specific areas of preparation. It was a lot to cram into an hour; but it's possible.

Just some food for thought for you. Good luck! Let us know how it goes.

-- Faith Weaer (, April 17, 1999.

I am a GI , former science teacher, who thought it a good idea to ask questions and supply background info to "Teck Ed" classes, especially computer classes when I was a sub for the real teacher. I did not spend the entire period on the subject, as some work was left. However, at 7th - 8th grade level, with kids of affluent parents, it didn't take 3 minutes of questions and information answers to arrive a the possibility of power outages. Then the questions started like a summer shower ... "you mean, I won't be able to call my friends on the phone? ... You MEAN I won't be able to watch T.V. ?? I said no, and the furnace won't work either. Few could conceive of that or that the gas pumps, banks or stores won't be open. But when they understood the grocery stores might not be open or have food to sell, they LEAPED to the question ... " You mean we are going to die " ?? Tough question to answer. One girl said, plaintifly, " But what can I do "? I said, you have this spring and summer to look into gardening , as it doesn't cost much for seeds, figuring that that would led to buying/checking out tools needed, how difficult it is to prepare the ground, and, how few non hybrid seeds are out there (2%). I taught 7th and 8th grade for twenty years, and kids know at a certain point (when they have enough information) wheather you are holding back with the full truth; the more you give them correct, logical and straight answers, the better the listen and absorb. Gave the assistant principle some litature on expected gov hand outs for kids AND some serious info for him to absorb. I heard not ONE word mentioned about Y2K in lunch room over a two month period of time (about 14 days of sub work) . Haven't worked but one day since I gave the assistant principle the litature on Y2K, but then we had a weeks vacation. If I'm not called for the rest of the year, I will know the WHOLE municipal government is asleep. Eagle .... Circling ... Wondering !

-- Hal Walker (, April 17, 1999.

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