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August 20, 2014
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Kids who care

This tamarack near Thompson, PA would probably have appealed to Dr. Seuss, who favored similarly whimsical trees in his artwork.


Readers of this column will not be surprised to learn I’m a big fan of the Lorax, the miniature mustachioed character created by Dr. Seuss and beloved for his impassioned environmental messages as put forth in the book of the same name.

So I admit to being uplifted by the impassioned activism put forth by some equally diminutive fourth graders who have asked Universal Pictures to add environmental messages back into its promotions for the upcoming movie version of the Dr. Seuss classic. Worried that Universal is missing an educational opportunity, the children launched an online campaign through change.org that has gained more than 57,000 signatures, garnered national media attention and attracted the advocacy of high profile celebrities.

No doubt it would have gratified Theodor Seuss Geisel, who was born in 1904 in Springfield, MA, to have students from his birth state making sure that the Lorax legacy remains alive.

The nine- and 10-year-old students from The Park School in Brookline, MA crafted several videos in support of their cause.
Their petition asks the studio to improve promotions to include the intrinsic environmental messages of the book.

According to the students, the film’s trailer, website and other promotions hardly touch on the environmental theme.
“Each year my students are inspired to do more for the planet after reading the book,” said their teacher Ted Wells. “They saw the Lorax trailer, and to them, the movie looked more like an adventure and romance, like it had totally lost its message about helping the planet.”

“The website is more about making money than helping the planet, and that’s exactly what the book says not to do,” said Georgia, one of the students. In December, the students drafted the petition as a class project and proposed specific ways to include environmental messages in the film’s promotional materials.

Although Universal Studios hasn’t responded directly to the class (nor to my email message), it appears the campaign is having an impact. A prominent link to a “green tips” page on the movie’s main website was recently added and the children are learning from the process itself. “Even though we might be very little, we can still make a lot of change in anything we work hard at,” asserted fourth-grader Georgia.

“They’re experiencing some amazing lessons in life, leadership and being a part of something bigger than themselves,” added Wells. “They’re also doing some great reading, writing and math for this project. We are excited to see all the ways Universal will continue to honor the story’s environmental theme in the lead up to the film’s [March] release.”

See www.change.org/petitions/z-let- the-lorax-speak-for-the-trees for more. Wells can be reached at 617/512-8724 or tedkwells@gmail.com.