Case StudyNational High School Climate Assemblies

Sure, the Internet is great for moving minds. But what about a brand designed to meet millions of people face-to-face? We found out that it’s not easy but it is incredibly rewarding when it works. With ACE, we’ve taught high-schoolers across the country about climate change.

“Millions?” asked Creative Director Jonah Sachs, trying not to sound incredulous.

“Right.”

There were just three of them sitting across from us in an undecorated, tiny conference room. No employees, no organization, no brand — just a dream that one day, they would go into high schools and tell kids, live and in-person, a whole new story about fighting climate change. Millions and millions of kids.

Crazy. But we liked the sound of it. So we decided to join them in their dream.

We started by convening educators, actors, scientists and artists across the country to plan a 45-minute high school assembly program. We wanted the presentation to be tightly scripted so hundreds of educators could give the same unassailable facts. But it also had to feel natural and personal, as if each presenter was just up there having a conversation with the audience.

Over nine months we built animated worlds, turned the science into stories and worked to reframe the issue from looming apocalypse to something a generation of activated students could take on and overcome. Hard-hitting but empowering.

Finally, we were ready to debut the media. The response was good but we wanted more. We polished it. Tested it. Tweaked it again. And then took it out to the world. And the world responded with incredible enthusiasm. Despite a political climate that treats global warming science as speculation, the ACE presentation has sailed past gatekeepers into thousands of schools — reaching more than a million students to date. Studies show that climate literacy increases more than 50% after exposure to the material. George Mason University awarded ACE the Climate Communicator of the Year award in 2011.

As the response picked up, we helped those three visionaries (and the dozens of staff brought on for support) to develop a brand identity, a social media–enabled website and various campaign assets to turn inspiration into action. We continue our partnership today as a million turns to millions and a new generation of climate activists is born. Several years into our collaboration, ACE founder Mike Haas has become a believer in the power of stories and the Free Range way of telling them. He's even taken to spreading the word: “Some stories tell themselves. For those that don’t — go see the team at Free Range. They’ll help you tell your story right.”

Details National High School Climate Assemblies

The Lead Character

This is Ace and Ace is you, the viewer. We created the iconic character to bring climate science out of the abstract and down to the human scale. It’s impossible to picture CO2 and parts per million but Ace’s world makes all of these concepts visible and emotional.

National High School Climate Assemblies
National High School Climate Assemblies
National High School Climate Assemblies

Design and Branding

We created a brand system that was fresh and youthful, and brought it to life in everything from the animations and video that fuel the presentation to the ACE website, which has a sense of play without being juvenile.

National High School Climate Assemblies
National High School Climate Assemblies

The Vision of the Future

We challenged ourselves to actually imagine climate change being solved by students. How might it happen? What might this future look like? The presentation takes students in a time machine to their 50-year reunion and shows them a “documentary” tribute to their generation — the heroes who overcame humanity’s ultimate threat.

National High School Climate Assemblies
National High School Climate Assemblies
Erica Priggen

“If ever there was an audience we cherish at Free Range, it's young people. What a joy to help ACE reach over a million high school youth with this vital information and transformative story!”

Erica Priggen Executive Producer Profile