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1967 - "The Third Wave" original classroom experiment

The original experiment occurred at Elwood P. Cubberley Senior High School in Palo Alto, California, in late March/early April 1967 (FAQ discusses dates, and other details).  It was conducted by 25-year-old Social Studies teacher Mr. Ron Jones, in his "Contemporary World" history class.  The students were in 10th grade ("Sophomores") and generally 15 years in age.  The Cubberley Catamount school newspaper mentioned it briefly in one article on April 7, 1967, middle of page 2 (pdf), and then again after its conclusion in the article "Third Wave presents inside look into Fascism" on April 21, 1967, page 3 (pdf).

Subsequent original source material includes the 1976 Jones short story (below), the 2010 "Lesson Plan" film documentary by Philip Neel (below), and various interviews with Jones and original students (listed on the Links page).  Any new story versions from original students will be linked here.  The Museum page also shows material that remains from the original class.


1976 - "The Third Wave" short story by Ron Jones

The primary source for the story of the original 1967 "Third Wave" experiment has been teacher Ron Jones' short story account, first published nationally as "Take As Directed" in The CoEvolution Quarterly in March, 1976.  Ron Jones was the teacher at the head of the class, and he shares his perspective and observations of the experiment as it unfolded before him.

  • "The Third Wave" - the original short story by Ron Jones, 1976 (not 1972 or 1969)
  • Details of the early appearances of the story, and articles about it, are listed on the Chronology page
  • Teacher Ron Jones is a prolific writer, with many books, stories, plays and poems to his name, as outlined on his Bio page.  He has received several awards (including a Pulitzer nomination), and has had 3 stories made into movies, listed on his IMDb page.
  • Ron Jones' website is:


1981 - "The Wave" TV film by Norman Lear

Producer Norman Lear's movie "The Wave" was based on the Jones short story and ran on ABC-TV on Sunday night October 4, 1981, opposite 60 Minutes (Virginia L. Carter, Executive Producer).  About 17 million people watched it that night, and it was replayed on HBO for some time thereafter.  It won an Emmy in 1982 for "Outstanding Children's Program", as well as a Peabody Award (1981) and Young Artist Award (1982).  It is still popular as a teaching tool of the Wave story and lessons.

The IMDb page for the film: Click Here
See a video of the movie: Click Here
It can also be purchased at

New York Times review, October 4, 1981


1981 - "The Wave" book by Todd Strasser (aka Morton Rhue)

Author Todd Strasser (aka Morton Rhue) wrote a novelization of the Lear movie, and his book "The Wave" has been a best seller since its publication in 1981 (Massachusetts Book Award for Children's/Young Adult literature in 1981).  Millions of copies have been published in many languages, and it is read by students around the world.  Mr. Strasser continues to promote nonviolence and understanding in his many other books and appearances at schools.

Todd Strasser's home page is:
The book can be found at

Strasser's bio page
Scholastic bio page
2005 Q&A interview with Strasser
List of Strasser's many books

2008 - "Die Welle" movie by Dennis Gansel

German director Dennis Gansel read "Die Welle" (The Wave) as a child in school, and his adaptation of the story was released in spring 2008 as the movie "Die Welle."  It is set in a high school in present-day Germany, and the story is updated with contemporary elements.  It was extremely successful in European theaters after its release, and has won awards in film festivals around the world.  It will finally be released in the US in some theaters on June 9, 2011, and VOD (Video On Demand) on June 8 (preview in NYC on May 27/30/31 & June 2).
Click for page with US trailer

Original Third Wave teacher Ron Jones has a brief cameo in the film as a restaurant patron during the tagging scene.  He also appears in the extras of the German DVD.

The movie home pages have been: and
The trailer can be seen there, and on YouTube
Click for the Dennis Gansel IMDb page
It is available in the US on Netflix: (not for young children)
US June 2011 release:  Press release, BoxOffice Magazine review 
Region 1 DVD (US/Canada) for purchase at (in German, with English subtitles) (confirm Region 1 with seller prior to buying!)
Region 2 DVD (UK in PAL format - not for USA players) for purchase at and (in German, with English subtitles)
     (European DVD has extras that are not on the Canadian one, including alternate ending and Jones visiting the set during filming)
Dennis Gansel interview about Die Welle
Ron Jones interview about Die Welle
Movie review in Sweden

"Follow the Leader", The Guardian review, September 13, 2008
Italian review with Gansel interview (doc file)
La Vague website (French)
La Ola website (Spanish)
Die Welle home page in Japan

Review in Greece
A blog in China  another blog in China

2010 - The Third Wave Musical and Play by Ron Jones

Original teacher Ron Jones has written and produced a new musical based on the Wave story, "The Third Wave", which was premiered by the Marsh Youth Theater's Teen Troupe at The Marsh Theater in San Francisco in January/February 2010, and was presented again by San Francisco's Mercy High School in April 2010.

It was discussed in a Jones interview in the January 30, 2010 San Francisco Chronicle
The Marsh press release
"Light at 11B" made an excellent musical trailer (also on YouTube) and still photos, and a great book of photos from the production
A photo album from the musical is here
San Francisco Bay Guardian review (about 1/3 down the page)
San Francisco Bay Times review
Review by Lick-Wilmerding High School in San Francisco
A blog review is on this page
Another blog review
Announcement of the play
Mercy High School announcement (click on their logo for pdf flier)
The musical is published and available at Dramatic Publishing

Music composers are David Denny, Kathy Peck Denny and Emily Klion

Ron Jones and Joseph Robinette also have a new play out, also called "The Third Wave," also available to schools at Dramatic Publishing

Ron Jones' internet home page is:


2010 - "Lesson Plan: The Story of the Third Wave" documentary film by Philip Neel

Original Third Wave class member and 3-time Emmy nominated producer Philip Neel has completed a movie documentary of the original Third Wave classroom experiment.  He has interviewed many of the original students, the teacher, and others involved in the story at that time and since.  Entitled "Lesson Plan: The Story of the Third Wave", the documentary explores what really happened in 1967 and the lessons the students learned.  This is the first time the Wave story has been told through the eyes of the actual students in the class, as they share their experiences.  The world premier at the Mill Valley Film Festival was sold out on October 10, 2010, and it continues to appear in other film festivals.

The Lesson Plan documentary home page, with screening dates, is:
Lesson Plan is now available to see online Amazon Movies  and  Flixfling
     (still working on the DVD, collecting extras)
Click for the Lesson Plan IMDb page (inaccurate and incomplete)
Click for the Philip Neel IBDb page

Generous grant from the Righteous Persons Foundation
Award:  Lesson Plan receives Spring 2011 CINE Golden Eagle Award
Award:  Winner, Jury Award, Best Documentary 2011, Chicago United Film Festival
Award:  Winner, Audience Favorite, Kansas International Film Festival
Worldwide distribution with Mercury Media International

Showing on TV around the world  (click for countries and networks)

Article in Israel about the "Lesson Plan" documentary,, 4/4/11
Lesson Plan video interview with Philip Neel, David Jeffery, Mark Hancock  June 7, 2011 by Tom Tangney of KIRO, Seattle, WA

Plays and Musicals

There have been other various productions of Wave plays, musicals and school projects, many of which can be found on YouTube by searching The Wave and also Die Welle.

La Ola play by Marc Montserrat Drucker in Madrid, Spain, January 30 - March 22, 2015 at Centro Dramatico Nacional
L'Onada play in Barcelona, Spain originally March 14 - April 12, 2013 at Teatre Lliure  (trailer link
     and back by popular demand!  March 20 - April 20, 2014   (press reviews)
Devised and Directed by Marc Montserrat Drukker:  and  email link

Television/video coverage:    TV3-Televisio de Catalunya  and  BTV-Barcelona Televisio  and  Para Todos La 2  and  El Periodico
Radio coverage:  Catalunya Radio  and  RAC1 Radio
Print articles:  El Pais  and  ARA (subscription)
Blog about panel discussion

"The Third Wave" play by Ron Jones:
"The Third Wave" play, Arts' Options Limited, Hong Kong, China, June, 2014
"The Third Wave" play, Fairview High School, Boulder, Colorado, February 27, 28 & March 1, 2014
"The Third Wave" play, Winchester College, Winchester, England, UK, November 22, 2013
"The Third Wave" play, Western Michigan Christian High School, Muskegon, MI  November 15-16, 2013
"The Third Wave" play, Yeshiva Univ. HS for Girls, Holliswood, NY, June 5, 2013
"The Third Wave" play, Children's Theatre of Charlotte, NC, May 9-11, 2013
"The Third Wave" play, Valley Forge High School, Parma, OH - April 25-26, 2013
"The Third Wave" play by Jerusalem English Speaking Theater (JEST), Israel from February 27 - March 7, 2013

   announcements (Jerusalem Post and Haaretz); during the play (Jerusalem Post); and review (Jerusalem Post)

A major project in Canada is "The Wave" musical by Olaf Pyttlik 2000 (hear it here)
You can purchase the music in North America:, in Europe:, worldwide: iTunes

Play "The Third Wave" by Lawrence Thelen, Washington State University, Feb. 5-7, 1993
Winner of Columbia Entertainment Company Award for Play Writing in 1992

A play in Cambridge, England in November 1999

A play in Venezuela, February 2011

A play in Germany in 2010

Die Welle musical by Thomas-Morus-Realschule, Ostringen, Germany May 27, 28, & 29, 2011
     TV report video of this event

"The Wave" presentation by Jon Kovach of Unity Productions:
November 13-14, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio
July 9-14, 2014  at San Diego Fringe Festival
May 30, June 1,3,7,8, 2013 at Cincinnati Fringe Festival

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  Last modified:   11/06/14