During her visit to Atlanta Public Schools on Friday, famed primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall greeted Jackson Elementary students in English, French, German — and even a little Chimpanzee. Delighted elementary students listened eagerly as Goodall shared her path from animal-loving toddler to world-renowned humanitarian, author and environmentalist.
“As a child, I wanted to live with animals in Africa and write books about them,” Goodall said. “It’s been 50 years since I began that study. That’s half a century, half of a hundred years, wow.”
During that half-century, Goodall and 16 teens devised a Roots & Shoots program that would harness kid power to fuel programs for people, pets and the planet. An idea that began nearly two decades ago has expanded to include thousands of students in nearly 100 countries. The Jackson Roots & Shoots organization began in 2006 when parents Mary Mapes and Liza Purcell approached the school principal, Dr. Lorraine Reich, about a local chapter.
“These parents came to me with kids who wanted to help the environment and wanted to help people,” Dr. Reich told the crowd, which included students from the inaugural group. “Because of them, we are visited by Dr. Goodall.”
Jackson students showed Dr. Goodall examples of their service projects, including a toy collection drive for Scottish Rite Hospital, visits to the Atlanta Community Food Bank and the creation of a teaching garden.
“Jackson Elementary applies the International Baccalaureate reform model,” said Assistant Principal Patrice Austin. “The Roots & Shoots program enhances classroom instruction by embracing an international view of community service.”
But for many students, Dr. Goodall’s visit was the perfect opportunity to share their love of chimpanzees. As Dr. Goodall answered questions, she also complimented the students for making small yet significant changes that improve the lives of others.
“You get a good feeling helping animals, plants and the environment,” Dr. Goodall said. “You are part of something very exciting. Something that is changing the world.”