The Extraordinary of Ordinary: Part II

By Land Wilson

Park School’s “Save Earth” anti-catalog art  from blogs.parkschoolcommunity.net

This past year, I have learned a lot about Ted Wells’ background and his work. He grew up on a farm in Hopkinton, NH where he spent much of his time climbing trees, riding horses, playing in the barn, or skiing at Pats Peak. After Bowdoin College and five summers working with horses and children at E/L Ranch in Montana, he found his way to Bank Street College of Education (where he wrote his thesis designing a recycling program) and then to The Park School in Brookline, MA where he is in his eleventh year.

Ted is concerned about the environment and committed to doing what he can to help. He wants to help teachers understand their role in shaping the next generation in a way that addresses these problems. In his words, “We need to redefine citizenship to include taking care of our community by protecting the natural world. This is a broader definition of citizenship than currently used in schools. We must find hands-on environmental projects for kids to take part in to help nature and to know they can make a difference.”

In November 2008, Ted and his students started the Catalogue Canceling Challenge—a nationally-embraced annual school competition where grades at each school compete to cancel some of the 19 billion catalogues mailed in the U.S. each year at the expense of 50 million trees annually. As of last month, 98 teams from 23 states have engaged in his Catalogue Challenge and 77,246 unwanted catalogs have been cancelled. 463,476 catalogs have been stopped, 9,298 kids have participated, 1,284 trees have been saved, 1,286,645 gallons of water have been saved, and 827,129 lbs. CO2 have been stopped. Ted’s program is growing and has been taken on by the “Kids Who Care” at Sun Valley School.

In 2011, Ted and his students started BagtheBook.org–a project aimed at getting classrooms to convince communities to cut down on the 540 million yellow phone books littering our doorsteps each year. The project addresses the environmental costs of such waste and serves as a service-learning project for classrooms that gets students engaged and educated about civics.

In 2013, Ted and his students launched a petition to Land’s End, American Girl Doll, and Restoration Hardware to make fewer, greener, and smaller catalogs. With Restoration Hardware’s Fall 2012 release of a 992-page companion set of three catalogues weighing 5.5 lbs. during the same year as Universal Studio’s release of The Lorax, people in great numbers across the nation and abroad were outraged. This petition is already an impetus for a demand by citizens for greater accountability from corporations. As our environment degrades, corporations who profit at the expense of our environment are not going to be tolerated.

                                                        

The projects led by Ted and his students—the Lorax Petition, the Catalog Canceling Challenge, the BagtheBook.orgproject, the petition to Land’s End, American Girl Doll, and Restoration Hardware (please sign!) the school recycling, gardening, and composting programs, and the YouTube videos he makes with children to support green projects and education—are having a ripple effect across the U.S. and abroad. Ted is empowering a wave of children and grownups to be part of the answer more than any other grassroots school-based educator I know.

We need more leaders like Ted to get people engaged in safeguarding Earth. For the sake of the planet and ourselves, let’s spread the word about Ted and his work. Someone once said that real leaders are ordinary people with extraordinary determination. And Maya Angelou said, “I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.” On behalf of children and grownups around the world, thank you, Ted Wells, for being our extraordinary hero.

5 thoughts on “The Extraordinary of Ordinary: Part II

  1. Land, I wholeheartedly agree with you here, and Ted. Teachers play such a huge role in shaping the future generations. After all they do spend about 8 hours a day, 5 days a week with their students. These programs sound fascinating and necessary. Honestly I had never heard of bagthebook.org but I am definitely going to enjoy learning more about it.

    In reference to those yellow phone books, it would be interesting to know who goes to those instead of the internet, and how many people prefer the internet. I always see those sitting at my neighbors doorsteps for weeks before they bring it in.

  2. Wow Land! The numbers from the catalog canceling challenge are
    astounding! There is definitely a compelling infographic in there
    somewhere! I was so inspired to read that 9,298 kids participated. Just
    think of the positive shock waves a movement like this can send through
    communities and reaching out across the globe. Thank you so much for
    sharing this great work and getting my Friday off to a very motivated
    start!

  3. It makes all kinds of sense to have this be a part of what teachers do in schools. I loved this series (both parts!) and will be using Ted Wells in the professional development I do with teaching staff.

    Especially THIS: “We need to redefine citizenship to include taking care of our community by protecting the natural world. This is a broader definition of citizenshipthan currently used in schools. We must find hands-on environmental projects for kids to take part in to help nature and to know they can make a difference.”

  4. Perfect examples of the effect that a grassroots effort can have. Just think if even one teacher in every school initiated or encouraged participation in programs like these- what a difference they could make!

  5. Kelly, Khadijah & Sarah – Thanks for the kind words and your thoughtful comments! Ted is the “real deal” and I feel so lucky to have connected with him. Thanks for spreading the word about the great work that he does. ~Land

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