IT’S NOT EVERY DAY that a fourth-grade class teaches a lesson to a major Hollywood studio, appears on ABC World News, and earns an award from the EPA. But the fourth-graders in Ted Wells’s class at the private Park School in Brookline experienced all that and more. The 37-year-old teacher regularly engages his classes in environmental initiatives, more than once netting national exposure and participation.
The latest project started in December, when Wells’s students posted a Change.org petition asking Universal Studios to add a pro-environment message to The Lorax movie website. The kids considered the absence of such a message a travesty for a film inspired by Dr. Seuss’s environmental opus. A Los Angeles Times blogger picked up on the petition; the actor Edward Norton tweeted about it; 57,239 people signed it; ABC covered it; and guess what: In January, Universal greened up its Lorax website.
An earlier initiative by a class taught by Wells, the ongoing Catalog Canceling Challenge, has in five years resulted in 9,000 students in 22 states stopping the distribution of 70,000 catalogs. Wells says this has saved 1,000 trees and a million gallons of water. It also caught the attention of Oprah Winfrey and the Today show.
“Kids can learn and also help the world through these hands-on projects that happen to be good for their own futures and well-being,” says Wells, who lives in Jamaica Plain with his wife and son and applauds his Park School colleagues for their support. “Environmental projects engage kids more than anything I’ve ever found.”