My daughter was born an animal-lover. She’s the kind of kid that saves tadpoles from drying up puddles (thousands right now in buckets in my backyard). The type that questions zookeepers why the social lemur was alone in a cage (he had gotten in a fight with his “wife” and had his tail bitten off). She was the one that protected a mother duck’s nest from kids at the park for hours while her friends played.
In a recent school project that involved reading nonfiction books, she requested books on animals or famous animal scientists. With Earth Day coming up, I immediately thought of Jane Goodall: a beautiful role model for animal lovers and kid who want to protect our Earth.
Photo credit: Jeekc, taken in Hong Kong on 24 October 2004. Creative Commons.
I thought it was important to include a variety of media to present the kids the following ideas:
- a overview/timeline of her life, including her childhood (how did she get interested in animals? what brought her to Tanzania?)
- what she did/does as a primatologist (living in the jungle for months, observing, writing; now traveling and teaching others about conservation)
- what she discovered while she was observing the chimps (naming them, how chimps make/use tools and engage in emotions, war)
We started with a couple of wonderful children’s books.
The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with Chimps, written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter, is a wonderful biography for the youngest kids (ages 4-8). The simple illustrations tell of Jane’s life from her childhood in London to her adventures in Kenya and Tanzania. It introduces us to her beloved chimps, and describes her findings: that chimps use tools, eat meat, and display a variety of emotions. Even the youngest children will be able to follow Jane into the jungle, observe the chimps, and understand the dangers chimpanzees are facing now.
Another excellent resource for slightly older children is Jane Goodall’s own autobiography My Life with the Chimpanzees (there is also a DVD of the same name), which has been translated into French, Japanese, and Chinese. Ms Goodall retells her courageous adventures and fascinating life in the forests with the chimpanzees- and they really are the stars of the book. Beware… after reading many of the anecdotes, your kids will fall in love with the animals and may start to “saving” for a trip to Tanzania, as mine did! The message is clear: humans must coexist with nature, and everyone must work together to protect the habitats of our vulnerable animals.
The final book we read was The Chimpanzee Family Book, again written by Ms. Goodall herself, and accompanied by Michael Neugebauer’s phenomenal photographs. You children (and you!) will be smitten with these cuddly chimps by the end of the book! Translated into more than 15 languages, including Japanese and Swahili, this book has won awards around the world, with good reason. It tells the story of the adorable, funny, human-like chimpanzee families that endeared Jan Goodall during her life observing them, and reminds us that they need to be protected.
After reading books we watched the IMAX film Jane Goodall’s Wild Chimpanzees, which our library had on DVD. Movies make everything so real; at one point the camera takes on the perspective of a chimp swinging through the trees. I wish I could’ve seen it on an IMAX screen! I loved how this film combined footage of Jane Goodall from early in her career to her current work as conservationist. In the “extras” you can watch how they filmed the movie, and how the chimps would appear out of nowhere to accompany Ms. Goodall as she walked through the forest. You can see how she communicates with them, play with them, and how their relationship has developed to true loving and playful interactions.
14 Awesome educational documents for free download: chimps behavior, how to draw a chimp, map of the Gombe Park, how to identify a chimp, field sketches, animal observations and more.
From the Jane Goodall Institute Research Center at Duke University, here are lots of activities related to chimpanzees. Try to identify chimps by their calls, tour Gombe Park, or meet current researchers at the Research Center.
Become a (free) member of Roots and Shoots, the global conservation and education program for kids founded by Dr. Jane Goodall that attempts to promote positive change for our people, animals, and the environment.
With tens of thousands of young people in more than 120 countries, the Roots & Shoots network connects youth of all ages who share a desire to create a better world…Through service projects, youth-led campaigns and an interactive website, Roots & Shoots members are making a difference across the globe.
Once you log-in you will be able to access tons of activity guides to help you teach your little ones about conserving the environment, or to plan your own event.
Finally, if you’d like to see chimpanzees in action, this Friday (April 20th, 2012) Disney Nature is releasing their awaited Earth Day movie Chimpanzee. If you see Disneynature’s “Chimpanzee” in theatres during opening week (April 20-26), Disneynature will make a donation in your honor to the Jane Goodall Institute, Check their web site for a downloadable 100-page educator’s guide, with a power point presentation, including audio and video clips!