Entries Tagged as 'Uncategorized'

Scholastic Praise!

What a pleasant surprise when my friend Katrina (who helped start this project!) sent me a link from Scholastic who likes our CCC and blogged about it! We hope lots of schools hear about us from this article. Lots of patches left if you join and need them. And obviously, still way to many catalogs being mailed…

We also were recently recognized by The Teacher’s Academy blog.



Olympia, Washington

Congrats to Aimee Weber and her 20 4th graders from Centennial Elementary in Olympia, Washington (or 24th state!). She writes:

“Our group consists of 20 4th graders in the YES Club – or Youth Eco Squad. We’ve canceled 160 catalogs so far, with a goal of 180 by the end of the year. Our friends, co-workers, and neighbors are so happy to have their unwanted catalogs canceled. Thanks for the great program. We’re also attaching a photo of some of the art and crafts that we’ve done with all the catalogs. The “One Tree” collage was particularly fun for the group.”

Tommy’s Record!!

We didn’t have a formal CCC at The Park School in Brookline, MA (where this project started), but several kids wanted to do it again on their own! And they canceled about 1,300 catalogs. In fact, Grade 4 student Tommy Hong canceled 1,001 catalogs on his OWN breaking an informal “world record” set by Becky Kendall a few years back. He spent countless hours getting catalogs from his neighborhood and canceling them at CatalogChoice.org. Way to go Tommy!!

Pierce School

The Pierce School in Newton, MA canceled 1,103 catalogs this December 2014!

Earth Day Ideas From My School to Yours

The following article is also posted at Huffington Post.

“Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart.”
― Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods

At The Park School in Brookline, MA, where I teach fourth grade, we do the things most schools do, but we also work to connect with and protect the environment. We strive to do this through projects that inspire, empower, and educate kids while also helping the community. With April being Earth Month, maybe you are searching for green activities for your school?

Although there is more my school could be doing and this work is never done, I am proud to share several ideas below. Perhaps your school might like to try one?

1. First of all, if we want kids (and adults, as well!) to appreciate and protect the natural world, they must befriend and then savor the outdoor environment. As David Sobel says, “We need to give [kids] time to connect with nature and love the Earth before we ask them to save it.” Examples of this are taking kids on nature walks, camping, studying campus ecology, or other such hands-on experiences. This must come first, especially at younger ages. For many years, our community has seen our 1st-3rd grade Science teacher, Brian Cassie, taking students outside for such connections and explorations on a regular basis counting butterflies, listening for birds, composting, and other activities. I wish I was in his class! Our sixth graders go camping and hike Mt. Monadnock each fall. First comes “connecting,” then comes “protecting,” but then of course, back to “connecting,” hopefully starting a cycle for a lifetime.

2. Nine years ago, we started our school’s popular recycling program. Fourth graders collect 20,000 pounds of paper and cardboard each year in small teams at recess. Children crave such helpful, “real” work. Also, they dress up like super heroes which makes it doubly cool! Third grade students collect bottles and cans. That first year we made this video to help educate our community. Such outreach and study improves and transforms “community service” into “service learning.”

3. Eight years ago, we started our faculty and staff green committee called the  ”Green Think Tank” to organize green projects and to work with a parents’ Green Committee. These groups support each other and our kids! Is there a Green Committee at your school? If not, try to establish one. You will need the support of a team to get the most out of this work. Be sure an administrator is included in the committee. Come up with a mission statement, and then a strategic plan. Magic will happen, but it will be hard. Support each other.

4. Seven years ago, Park School helped lead a Step It Up Rally in Boston which was one of many across the country calling for climate action (later this movement become 350.org). Several Park parents and teachers helped organize the event with Boston Climate Action Network. Park students marched and sang. Click here to see the Park student Freedom Choir singing at the rally! Can you get your music teacher to look into songs about the environment or green work? Can you find similar rallies to join in your community? (Any such “activism” has to be optional for kids, obviously.)

5. Six years ago, we started our Catalog Canceling Challenge project! After a live interview on the Today Show with Ann Curry and later on Opera’s OWN network, along with the building of the CCC website, almost 10,000 children have joined the project! Perhaps you can host a month long catalog canceling drive at your school?

6. Five years ago, led by teacher Kat Callard and parent Nancy Pinchera, we started a Student Garden Club. In the fall and spring on Friday mornings from 7:15-8:00a.m. Kids, parents, and faculty get their hands dirty and learn how to raise their own food. School gardens have much potential, not just for learning to grow food, but for connections to nature, improved Science curriculum, and community building.

7. Four years ago, Raine Miller’s Kindergarteners built a wind turbine with the help of our Head of Maintenance, Mike Massaro! Watch this video about their project. It’s still blowing to this day! Building is such an engaging and important part of learning. While studying ancient Greek architecture, my students decided to build a temple to the god “Recycleus” out of several hundred old plastic bottles. They learned much in the process about research, math, teamwork, writing, art, architecture, and reusing!

8. Three years ago, our recess “Paper Club” attempted to get our town of Brookline, MA, to create a law where citizens could opt-out of receiving unwanted phone books. Even though not successful, students researched, surveyed interest, wrote letters, and read them before the Board of Selectman. We learned a lot!

9. Two years ago, a fourth grade class started a Change.org petition asking Universal Studios to put environmental education information and links into their Lorax movie website. After stacking up 57,000 signatures, it worked! Universal Studios changed their website. Some Park School kids were Dianne Sawyer and ABC News’ “Persons of the Week.” In addition, Nicholas Kristof applauded their efforts recognizing the capacity of fourth graders to change the world in the New York Times! They even won an “EPA Environmental Merit Award. Amazing! Petition projects have much opportunity for researching, planning, persuasive essay writing, movie making, and marketing. Oh … and they work. They give power to those usually without. As Thomas Friedman has observed, the world is now flat.

10. Last year, many Park 4th graders assisted Land Wilson and The Sun Valley School’s “Kids Who Care” in California with their petition to Crayola to set up a marker take-back program for used up markers. It worked! It was empowering to join with other students in CA and PA to create positive change through teamwork.

This Crayola project as well as The Catalog Canceling Challenge have me thinking, “How could we improve this world if millions of children could connect, brainstorm, problem solve, and tell the world what they think needs to happen to protect their future from challenges such as climate change?” Would those in power listen if kids raised their voices loud enough? Or if their teachers and parents did? Right now, my concern relates to whether many leaders’ drive for reelection or strong quarterly earnings takes precedence over their own children’s future wellbeing. Such nearsightedness frightens me. Yet in this important work of teaching, we must remain hopeful and excited for the next great breakthrough from thermonuclear fusion to 1st grade classroom red wiggler vermicomposting. The solutions are out there! As Richard Louv writes, “Progress does not have to be patented to be worthwhile. Progress can also be measured by our interactions with nature and its preservation. Can we teach children to look at a flower and see all the things it represents: beauty, the health of an ecosystem, and the potential for healing?”

11. One year ago, we started this petition aimed at three catalog companies. Here’s a video we made where our Paper Club adapted an Alicia Keys’ song. Although the petition has not been successful, Alicia Keys liked the idea and the kids’ song when we asked for permission to put it on-line. She even sent us a video!! As you can see here and above, schools’ “green work” is not only important, but inspiring to others in the media and beyond. Kids taking on serious, creative work and not being stuck feeling powerless or numb in the daily grind is truly special. I wish more adults felt such power. Real environmental study and action is the spark for such passion. It is my hope that it would be a lifelong calling.

Photo via Park School Community
12. We have a pre-K through 4th grade Earth Day Assembly each April for 250 kids. We pick a theme or a book for all the classrooms to read and do projects around. Then we come together and celebrate Earth! Some themes of the past few years include books such as “The Lorax,” and the next year, “Owl Moon.” Last year we chose three nature poems for the school to focus on and rally around. This year we’re going with a seemingly simple, but rich topic – “Trees!”
13. Next month our community is sponsoring and/or planting 125 trees not only on campus, but around the world for Earth Day and also for our school’s 125th anniversary! The kids are picking locations and tree types. The first planting was a camphor tree a few days ago at the Greentown School in Hangzhou China by our Mandarin teacher Mulian Chen and some 9th grade students currently traveling there. Fifth graders are making bonsai as they study Japan. An idea from 4th graders who study Greece and recycling was to plant olive trees in big recycling bin pots!
14. Currently, several fourth and fifth grade students are displeased that Dunkin’ Donuts uses about one billion styrofoam per year when serving their coffee. They started a petition, and my class is helping their cause. Stay tuned! This is our new “big idea” to creatively study and support.

There are many other “green ideas” out there which include full environmental science curricula, no-idoling zones, use of green school cleaning supplies, rooftop solar panels, raising farm animals, and e-waste recycling and disposal days. Such practice and learning not only improves our educational practices, but they can also help the planet.

This intersection of environmental education, service learning, and improved teaching practices is a powerful “sweet spot” to which our communities aspire. My school has been fortunate enough to witness this a few times — it’s pretty special, and I hope some of the ideas above light a spark in your mind and in your school. Run them by your Green Committee, a principal, or colleague and see if one is the right fit for you! Tis’ the season. Happy Earth Day 2014!

Email me at wellst@parkschool.org if you have any questions about these opportunities. I would be pleased to answer any questions – this work is my passion, and I would like to help make it yours!

2 Newton Schools

Eric Bobby from Newton, MA, tells me that 10 7th graders at The Day Middle School canceled 30 catalogs each – so 300 catalogs canceled. And 20 5th graders at Burr Elementary canceled about 15 each – 300 more! That’s 600 total! Thanks for the efforts Newton! Here are two cool videos they made:



California Kids

For the second year in a row kids at The Sun Valley School in California completed a CCC this winter 2013-2014! They canceled 929 catalogs! Thanks to Land Wilson for organizing.


This is the green group of kids who got Crayola and Dixon-Ticonderoga to make their marker disposal systems much more green using a Change.org petition. Stay tuned for a student written blog post telling their story here in March.

Park Year Seven

My school’s third, fourth, and fifth grade students canceled 3,901 catalogs this year!! They did it again and, as always, I’m amazed by their efforts! Tommy Hong canceled 330 catalogs all by himself!! What an effort.

Join “Recycle-Bowl” this Fall!

Our school – The Park School in Brookline, MA – is going to join the “Recycle-Bowl” this fall to see how much paper waste we recycle per student at our school. It should be an exciting way to raise even more awareness for recycling and waste reduction. For more info, go to recycle-bowl.org .

The competition runs from Oct. 21 through Nov. 15, 2013, culminating on America Recycles Day. Participating schools will track and report how much recyclable material they collect for a chance to win prizes. At the close of the four-week competition, the school in each state that collects the most recyclable material per capita will win $1,000. A national champion will then be chosen from among the statewide winners to receive an additional grand prize.

“Inspiring young people to recycle at school reinforces the importance of recycling everywhere, whether at home or on-the-go,” said Kelley Dennings, senior director of recycling, KAB. “And while students are becoming better recyclers, their school facilities are also increasing their capacity to handle and recover more recyclable materials, thus creating better and more efficient systems for reducing the school’s waste.”

Belmont Day School

Art teacher Kathy Jo Solomon reports that The Belmont Day School in MA finished their catalog canceling this week. Below are the results of their challenge. I’ve heard that their “catalog canceling group” of student organizers would love to see their results posted on this website. So here you go! They did a super job!

The kids who organized their CCC have also been meeting during recess, before school, and after school to make a video! We’ll post it here soon! Like last year, we just LOVE the way they design their bins to show number of trees saved per grade with images (see below).

The total Catalogs BDS canceled: 1376, saved 22.93 (almost 23 trees) trees and 4128 gallons of water, reduced carbon emissions equal to one small car for a year

Prek and K: canceled 183 (5th place), saved 3.05 trees and 549 gallons of water

1st:canceled 211 (4th place), saved 3.5 trees and 633 gallons of water

2nd: canceled 213 (3rd place), saved 3.55 trees 639 gallons of water

3rd: canceled 161 (6th place), saved 2.68 trees and 483 gallons of water

4th:canceled 245 (1st place), saved 4.08 trees and 735 gallons of water

5th: canceled 217 (2nd place), saved 3.6 trees and 651 gallons of water

6th: canceled 108 (7th place), 1.8 trees and 324 gallons of water

7th: canceled 15 (9th place), saved .25 trees and 45 gallons of water

8th: canceled 23 (8th place), saved .38 trees and 69 gallons of water

Kids That Care in CA

Mr. Land Wilson and our good friends “The Kids That Care” from the Sun Valley School in California have canceled 1,006 catalogs! Amazing!! Thanks for joining our effort!! We’re up over 77 THOUSAND canceled catalogs now!! Unbelievable!!

Also, be sure to follow their big news in regards to their Crayola petition at Change.org/Crayola!! The got over 90,000 signatures!! What?!! And guess what? Crayola just announced on Earth Day that they’re starting a marker take-back program called ColorCycle for spent markers to keep plastics out of landfills! Stay tuned for more news on this blog.

Go NH!

Effingham Elementary School from Effingham, NH has reported that they canceled 168 catalogs! Thanks for joining us and nice work!

Ch 5 News!

The “One Tree Club” members from our school were on the WCVB Channel 5 News last night!! Way to do to these kids who each canceled 60 or more catalogs each. Mr. Toussiant and Mr. Fries are now famous, too!! Awesome.



Michigan’s Meghana

Third grader Meghana Naidu recently completed our CCC and joined our “One Tree Club” by canceling 60 catalogs! She did this as part of a Girl Scout project. She is part of Girl Scout Troop 71021, Red Hill Montessori, Farmington Hills, MI.

Meghana’s mother, Sree, writes: “I just wanted to say thank you for coming up with this great way to engage children in a way that is so meaningful and educational as well as fun. She brought so much awareness to even the adults who she contacted to get their unwanted catalogs which they not only received and did not use but also did not recycle. Thank you.”


We just finished another month of canceling catalogs at The Park School in Brookline, MA where this all began. The piles grew fast this final week when some brave teachers offered to shave off HALF their beards if the kids canceled certain benchmarks!

They blew threw five of them and now five of us (one to come later, he was sick today) got half beards for the day. Pretty hilarious.

Around 120 kids canceled 4,861 catalogs! 39 kids canceled 60 or more individually! Several canceled over 180. One student, Kaori, canceled 403 all by herself. Amazing.

Stay tuned for some photos, soon! Also, WCVB Ch 5 in Boston might do a news piece about us later this week which I’ll repost here, if I can.

San Diago!

Larissa Thunder the Girl Scout Leader of Troop 3872/Tierrasanta writes that eleven girls canceled a few hundred catalogs. She says that, “Two girls worked especially hard on collecting and canceling mail/catalogs. Evie Thunder and Kirah Bell. Evie has extended the paperless practice to her art. She is an artist and loves to paint so now she uses any scrap paper and backs of her Daddy’s drafting paper for her art. My husband brings home huge books of old architect drawings and the kids use it for craft paper. Thanks for all your efforts to help make this world a better place. We appreciate all we have learned this year. We have continued to cancel whatever mail we get but no longer count. Our mail is much less and easier to open. I can’t believe we didn’t start this sooner.”

OurEarth.org Joins

John Ullman, founder and president of OurEarth.org writes that they’ve had CCCs the past two summers in Baltimore (they’re former Johns Hopkins grad students and scientists)! I love when adults join our cause!! Especially adults with this kind of brain power – they know a fun, green project when they see one! They even worked up their own point system to add weight to certain canceling actions. For the details, read below:

“This was the second summer that we did this, and to try to improve on the previous year, we actually scaled our results to create incentives for certain activities–using a 3 point, 1 point, and 1/2 point system. As credit card companies can be a major source of addresses for third-parties, we awarded 3 points for people who contacted a credit card company. 1 point was awarded when someone called a company directly and asked to be removed from their list as well as not to have information shared with third parties. 1/2 point was given for using Catalog Choice, the thought being that you get a confirmation by phone immediately and Catalog Choice can take quite a bit longer for confirmation.

“By the end, our interns had accumulated 320.5 points, with a rough estimate being that a relatively small number of points came from credit cards, and Catalog Choice and phone calls were split about evenly…but once again a rough estimate since I haven’t seen the raw data in quite some time and I only had the final tallies easily accessible.

Welcome Oregon!

Stacie Tiew writes:

“For the past four years I have been involved at the Dr. John C Page School in West Newbury, MA and their annual catalog canceling campaign. This last August, our family relocated to Portland, Oregon and I decided to start a Catalog Canceling Campaign at my daughter’s elementary school. During the month of February, the Bonny Slope Elementary School in Portland, Oregon (K-5) finished their campaign by canceling 798 catalogs. Thank you for your work and inspiration. It is great to take catalog canceling to the west coast. We also added in phone book opt outs and other junk mail opt out information. It has been wonderful!”

ABC World News!

I still can’t believe my students were ABC World News’ “Persons of the Week” because of their hard work on our Lorax Petition Project!! Here we are with Diane Sawyer… video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

West Olive, Michigan

Emeline from West Olive, Michigan writes: “My Girl Scout troop 1887 canceled 256 catalogs. I personally canceled 134 catalogs! We are in 6th and 7th grade and are doing this as part of our Silver Award for Girl Scouts. I had fun with this project and I think we are going to do it again next fall 2012.” Way to go girls!! So glad you enjoyed the project. Patches are on the way!!