Last month, the Academy for Global Citizenship had the great pleasure to welcome Actor, Director, Musician and Advocate Adrian Grenier, or, as the kids called him “Mr. A.”
After a quick rise to fame through leading man roles in late 90s films and the wildly popular HBO series Entourage (and the much anticipated Entourage movie), Adrian has built a diverse career unified by a socially conscious thread. Adrian is the founder of Reckless Productions, which focuses on socially conscious independent work for film, TV and web, SHFT, a hub for conscious consumers, the SHFT Mobile Kitchen Classroom collaboration with Stone Barns , Wreckroom Records, and so much more.
Adrian took time off to spend a marathon 5 hour day with our students on Thursday, December 11th, during which he learned about their experiences with advocacy and shared some of the ways he uses his voice to advocate for his beliefs. Our students fell head over heels for “Lonely Whale,” the subject of Adrian’s new pet project, a film and campaign of empathy inspired by the search for “52,” a whale who communicates at a unique frequency that isolates him from his peers .
2nd graders Johara and Yaniah lead Mr. A on a tour of our garden, using their “imagination goggles” to see colorful flowers and crunchy vegetables growing the frozen garden beds.
Neither tour guides nor guest are particularly excited about the task of feeding schoolyard chickens Daisy and Puddles their morning snack of dried mealworms, but they all decide to be risk takers and, soon the dried worms don’t seem so gross. “There’s nothing like kids to push you outside your comfort zone;” said Adrian, “you want to set an example – you don’t want to be a chicken.”
Adrian joins more friends from 2nd grade for a healthy and organic lunch of tofu and black bean tacos!
Adrian brings his tiny guitar to 1st grade. Throughout their 6 week unit of inquiry on music, they have explores how instruments make sounds and how humans use music to communicate feelings. “I speak two languages,” he says, “English, and Music.” Each day of this unit has ended with a Q&A featuring a guest musician, exposing our students to a diversity of instruments and genres. Adrian did justice to a classic with his rendition of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”
Adrian joins AGC 2nd graders as they present their final projects for their unit of inquiry on “Making our Voices Heard.” In small groups, students presented research and hands-on projects addressing how they could use their voices to improve their communities and their world. One group proposed to use a song they had written to address the issue of food waste, another group proposed to use signs placed around the city to remind citizens of the importance of kindness, patience, and other important virtues. The signs or songs might not fix everything, the students argued, but if they could make a small change, that was enough.
“Being social activists, that’s a very important lesson,” Adrian added, “because sometimes the problems of the world that you want to change can seem so big that you want to give up. But if you keep working, you can make amazing things happen.” This is the philosophy behind much of Adrian’s work; if we can encourage small lifestyle or perspective shifts, they can lead to a massive collective effect.
Adrian then answered questions about his environmental advocacy work on 52: The Search for the Loneliest Whale.
A natural entertainer, Adrian sets the scene with a flashback to the 1950s and 1960s. “During the cold war the US navy, in an effort to track submarines put out a network of microphones. Once the conflict was over and the military files were declassified, scientists were able to hear all these sounds underwater, and they’ve been listening to the oceans ever since.”
“One sound that was picked up was a frequency of 52 hz. They didn’t know if it was mechanical or if it was coming from something alive. One scientist, Dr. Watkins found that it was in fact a whale that was speaking with its own frequency.”
Adrian’s visit wraps up with Mr. Thomson’s 4th grade class, where, for a change of pace, he interviewed our students and heard them sing a song. Our 4th graders recently finished a unit on persuasion, during which they learned about and joined a protest on McDonalds’ targeted marketing to children. During this protest, students gained firsthand experience with direct advocacy.
In between student visits, Adrian met with AGC educators to talk about how the character of Lonely Whale’s could help students explore topics of empathy, communication, human isolation and loneliness, animal rights, oceanography, noise pollution and a host of environmental concerns.
“Educators can use the Lonely Whale, who – you can argue with me – is the cutest character, to teach a lot of different concepts,” says Adrian. If our students are any indication, Lonely Whale is the next big thing. 50 2nd graders sat in rapt silence while Adrian explained the story of Lonely Whale’s discovery. Their curiosity, which filled the room with tiny raised hands, only increased when Adrian revealed that researchers haven’t yet seen Lonely Whale, and that everything they know about him is from his voice. In fact, he might be a new species or the last of his kind. He might even be a she! Female whales have never been known to sing before, but Lonely Whale could be the first. Lonely Whale’s mystique is much of his appeal, and the reason Adrian and his colleagues are working to make this film.
52: The Search for the Loneliest Whale in the World is a documentary that will follow a journey to identify this enigmatic creature that sings at a different frequency than every other whale on the planet. While his voice keeps him isolated from his own, the tale of “52” has inspired an intense reaction amongst members of our own species, pointing to a greater awareness of human loneliness than ever before.
52 has inspired thousands of pieces of art and boasts 20,000 friends on social media, people who identify and empathize with his isolation. Adrian and his colleagues from 52: The Search for the Loneliest Whale in the World, are offering Lonely Whale’s fans an incredible opportunity to support and participate in his search. What they are working on is more than a documentary, it’s the investigation of a true mystery that unites humans and the entire animal kingdom.
The popularity of 52 proves that, in an era of instant search and constant connectedness, loneliness is as crushing and mysteries are as captivating as ever.
Our students were captivated by the story of the Lonely Whale and inspired by Adrian’s many humanitarian investments. When Joshua, a Dual Language 2nd grade student asked, why he has so many jobs, our guest laughed and said “you’re right, I should cut back.” We hope he never does. Adrian is modeling exactly what we foster in our students. Adrian has made a career of using his unique voice to advocate for a better world, and exemplifies the characteristics that AGC and other International Baccalaureate schools promote: he is a communicator, an inquirer, a thinker, and a risk taker.
Although his commitment to positive change is ever present, Adrian eschews the term “Social Activist” “I think it has a negative connotation “I’m just a human guy who wants to do my part … you can’t truly be happy unless your neighbors are happy, we need each other to embolden and enrich each other. To me it’s just a principle of living that I try to practice in my life.” This philosophy resonates tremendously with AGC’s own, as our students learn, from their first days in Kindergarten, how their health and the health of their communities and the earth are inherently intertwined.
We are honored to have Adrian marching with us on this journey towards a more sustainable future and we are thrilled to announce that “Mr. A” will be serving as an advisor to our Net Positive future campus project.