Ted Wells '07

Ted Wells recyclesTed Wells grew up on a New Hampshire farm with environmentally concerned parents, and had grandparents, and even great grandparents, who fought to help our world consider a more sustainable path. So, it is no surprise that the fourth grade teacher at the Park School in Brookline, MA, cringed when he saw how much paper his school tossed into the trash. Wells, 34, says his Bank Street education (he received his M.S. in 2007) helped him approach recycling as a problem to solve with his students.

"The fourth graders came up with an action plan, which included creating recycling teams that now collect and haul away 30,000 pounds of paper a year," says Wells, who has been at the Park School for eight years. "We set up a marketing side to get other grades educated and involved, too." Wells and his students also made videos and posted them on YouTube at www.TedWells.tv. One features a super hero, Recycling Boy, created by a shy student who was transformed by his dramatic role. Over 20,000 people have now watched this video on line!

"At Bank Street, we studied the importance of play and taking on other roles. Something about the video camera brings out the best in my kids. Plus, in the process of creating videos they learn the material more deeply as they teach it to others," Wells says.

His class is now also working on an even more important project: reducing paper usage. They started a program called the "Catalog Canceling Challenge," for which kids take unwanted catalogs at home and call 1-800 numbers to cancel them. The first year, 145 kids in grades 3, 4, and 5 canceled over 4,000 catalogs and brought them in to pile up at school. NBC's Today Show featured Wells and his students describing this project and asking others to join the cause. Since then, thousands of kids in schools and scout troops in 14 states have canceled over 30,000 catalogs, saving hundreds of trees as well as a lot of water and energy.

To join this free and fun service learning project, see: www.CatalogCancelingChallenge.com

Wells believes service learning promotes more caring, connected, and understanding citizens. "Green" projects, he adds, are a timely way for students to give back to their communities and to feel great about it. "Promoting good 'citizenship' in our schools is a hugely important and shared part of what teachers do," he says. "Promoting or simply modeling environmental sustainability fits nicely under this umbrella." Wells' integrated recycling curriculum is available free online at www.parkschool.org/blogs/ted_wells/my-writings/