Once Upon a School

Once Upon a School is an initiative that Dave Eggers, the TED team, and 826 National developed after Dave received the 2008 TED Prize and was given one wish to change the world. TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is known worldwide for its conferences, the exemplary TED talks it shares online at www.ted.com, and the people and causes it champions through its annual TED Prize. Dave's wish was to gather stories of private citizens engaged in their local schools so that people everywhere could share the details of their efforts in schools and be inspired by the work being done by others.


Stories have poured in from people around the world and the impact of their work, captured here thanks to TED and others, continues to be felt in communities near and far. Below are stories about how all kinds of people - from celebrities to retired journalists - are doing their part to improve their local schools. We hope they will inspire you to get involved with schools in your won communities. You can find an archive of all the stories here and you can submit your own story to the Once Upon A School wish with this easy form.

Featured Stories

Super Foods Superheroes

“I wish for your help to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity “–Jamie Oliver As I sat in the audience listening to Jamie Oliver make his wish, I had the same reaction that I did in 2008 when I heard this one: “I wish that you — you personally and every creative individual and organization you know — will find a way to directly engage with a public school in your area, and that you’ll then tell the story of how you got involved, so that within a year we have 1,000 examples of innovative public-private partnerships.”-Dave Eggers On a mission to do something small that could have a big impact on kids who have a great desire to learn to write well through the exploration of something they think is cool, I decided to spend this summer doing my part to try and fulfill both wishes at the same time. Read more >>

2300 to one

2300 to one. That was the student to college counselor ratio at Granada High School (CA) when we started the BetterGrads program there last fall. 2300 students, 1 college counselor (a second was on maternity leave). With last year's statewide budget cuts of 40% for college and career counselors, many public schools have had to settle with half as many counselors - or, I suppose, 0.6 of a counselor if they only had one to begin with - to serve a growing, increasingly complex student population. Education associations report that the counselor to student ratio should be 1 to 250 or lower. In 2000, the national average was 1 to 500. In the last ten years, that ratio has ballooned up to 1 to 750, and reaches as high as 1 to 5000 in some low-income school districts. Read more >>

Cougar Productions and Midian Films 2 Cannes

Midian Films is a small independent Film Company based in Round Rock, Texas. We were aware of the Video Tech class at Connally High School and thought it would be cool if we showed the advance class how to get their film to the Cannes Film Festival in France. Our company has had films shown there for the last 6 years and noticed there was a presence of young high school students showing their work. So, we posed this idea to the Video Tech teacher Humberto Perez and he liked the idea. We have been working with the students since September and they are responsible for everything from writing the script to every aspect of film production and post production. Read more >>

Colorado State University’s Service Learning Course “Micro Lessons: Macro Impact”

Project Micro biology - Macro Impact began in 2000 as a simple desire to provide college students at Colorado State University with opportunities to inspire younger students about science and learning. A microbiology professor at CSU, local teachers, and staff members of the school district volunteer program collaborated to create lesson plans that could be taught by college students which addressed the needs of students in elementary, middle, and high schools. The ideas were developed into a successful and sustainable service learning project with many tiers of teaching and learning. College senior microbiology students play leadership roles within the project and finish off their college careers with the completion of unique capstone theses. Younger college honor students enrolled in general microbiology are taught introductory microbiology techniques by the senior capstone students that are necessary to teach the K-12 students.. All project members develop communication skills by working with teachers and students. Read more >>