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Ephesus Elementary Second Grade Students Hear from Jane Goodall

All of the second grade classes at Ephesus Elementary School tuned in to a Skype session with the iconic primatologist and environmentalist, Dr. Jane Goodall, on the morning of April 9. Before 9:00 a.m., the children in Courtney Sears’ class were quietly gathered on the rug in front of the screen to hear what Goodall had to share.

In preparation for the Goodall event, Sears and her students spent days learning about the scientist and the work of the organization she founded, Roots and Shoots,  the youth education branch of the Jane Goodall Institute. Many EES students prepared questions for their teachers to type into the question boxes on the Skype screen.

The event was hosted by Microsoft Education, with school children of all ages participating from countries around the world. Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, welcomed viewers before introducing Goodall. The broadcast opened with a brief video highlighting Goodall’s early years and her development into one of the premier experts on primates. As Sears’ students listened, they occasionally called out, “We learned that!”

Goodall joined Smith on camera, seated in an armchair with a stuffed monkey and cow on either side of her. She answered a series of questions Skyped in by students from the United Kingdom, Uganda and India. Goodall told her audience that she had loved “all creatures” her entire life, but her interest in Africa arose from her devotion to Tarzan and Dr. Doolittle. She described how she built trust in the wild over many months, when she first began observing chimpanzees. “I didn’t try to get too close too quickly, and I wore the same clothes everyday, so I would look the same. If you want to learn about animals, you really have to have patience.” Her mentor, the anthropologist Dr. Louis Leakey, always told her he believed women are “better observers” than men.

Sears listened along with her students, as she typed their questions into the comment box. One student had woken up sick that morning and couldn’t come to school; her mother reported she was crying from the disappointment of missing Goodall. So Sears typed that student’s question first, “If you were to pick another animal to study, what would it be?” The students understood that none of their questions might receive answers, but they were excited when they heard other participating students ask similar questions.

During the 40 minute session, students learned that chimpanzees are eight times stronger than most humans, that Goodall has always loved being barefoot, “because it makes me feel closer to nature,” and that she travels 300 days out of every year. The scientist made clear that her own work no longer includes direct research with chimpanzees, but that she travels and speaks around the world to “help save the apes.”

The main message of the youth education group, Roots and Shoots, is that “every one of us makes a difference every single day.” Goodall said to the children, “Every single day you live, you have choices about how to act.” She emphasized that the best way to help chimpanzees and other animals in the wild is to help people in poverty and work to heal the environment.

Before Goodall signed off, she offered students the opportunity to take a selfie with her. Sears and her students scrambled into position in front of Goodall’s projected image on the screen and sang out "Chimpanzee" to the count of five. They now have a class selfie with an 85 year old Dame of the British Empire who is an inspirational hero to many humans and animals alike.