Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Roots and Shoots and Parks: Jane Goodall Wants to Connect Kids to the Outdoors. and She Has a Program

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Roots and Shoots and Parks: Jane Goodall Wants to Connect Kids to the Outdoors. and She Has a Program

Article excerpt

Jane Goodall is a woman of contradictions. Although she talks softly, her voice is full of strength. Even though she has travelled the world and seen some of the most amazing places on the planet, a small garden in the Bronx of New York has brought her to tears for its beauty. And though her research that she began 50 years ago focused on chimpanzees in a remote part of Tanzania, she has the global vision to create a youth program that has been successful in more than 120 countries.

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When you mention Jane Goodall's name, most people stop and say, "Oh, the monkey lady?" Well, yes and no. In July 1960, Goodall began her landmark study of chimps that led to the discovery that they are more similar to humans than anyone had realized. Her research redefined the relationship between chimps and humans.

It's also true that she has continued her chimpanzee work in Tanzania, and established the Jane Goodall Institute in 1977 to protect the animals in their habitats. She has written numerous books on the chimps, as well as been featured in at least five different Animal Planet specials. Her research is now housed at Duke University and will be digitized for scientists to use for years to come.

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"Roots creep underground everywhere and make a firm foundation. Shoots seem very weak, but to reach the light, they can break open brick walls. Imagine that the brick walls are all of the problems we have inflicted on our planet. Hundreds of thousands of roots and shoots, hundreds of thousands of young people around the world, can break through these walls."--Dr. Jane Goodall

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But Goodall is now more than just a naturalist and a researcher--with the establishment of the Roots & Shoots program in 1991, she can also add "community builder" and "inspiration to youth" to her list of accomplishments. The program attempts to implement positive community change by engaging youth in projects that help them learn, care about, and interact with the environment.

"I was traveling around Africa, North America and Europe and meeting so many young people who seemed to have lost hope," Goodall recalls. "They were looking around and felt like we had messed up the planet, and there was nothing they could do about it. It's true--it is horrifying and shocking what we've done to the planet, but it isn't true that there isn't anything that can be done."

About the same time, she gathered a group of high school students in Tanzania from nine schools and began to talk to them about wildlife and habitats, and how life is all interconnected. "I wanted them to see that we all depend on the environment--to care about animals is to care about people too."

She says this meeting became her "call to action," and she undertook creation of a program for youth, from preschoolers to university students, that would inspire them to "live in harmony with the natural world."

Goodall says she was met with some resistance when she first began developing the program. "I wanted to make it flexible, so it could grow anywhere," she says. "But people told me I had to target people or animals or age groups ... make it for after-school or in-school curriculum, but not both. But I didn't listen to them because I wanted it to be able to grow anywhere. …

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