How small changes can make a big impact - Education Matters Magazine

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How small changes can make a big impact

Cool Australia has teamed up with the Jane Goodall Institute Australia to launch a series of primary lessons that encourage critical thinking about issues including deforestation, climate change and waste. Education Matters speaks with celebrated scientist and environmental activist Dr Jane Goodall ahead of her upcoming Australian tour.

Dr Jane Goodall founded the institute in 1977, with the Australian arm launched in 2007. She explains the role of this non-profit and registered environmental organisation.

“The core objectives are primate conservation through rehabilitation, research and working with communities to address the drivers of habitat loss for primates like chimpanzees; and youth-led action through Roots & Shoots which gives a platform and voice to people who want to make a difference for animals, people and the environment,” she explains.

“It is vital we not only teach young people but also listen to them; and it is also why I started Roots & Shoots so that there was an avenue for them to be able to engage with the issues that matter to them and pursue them in their local communities.”

Cool Australia’s 15 new primary lessons are inspired by the global Roots & Shoots program, which aims to empower young people to take responsibility for creating solutions to the big challenges currently being faced around the world.

“Cool Australia helps teachers find fun ways to critically engage, involve and switch on young Australians to learn for life. The Jane Goodall Institute Australia approached us to collaborate on a package of lessons designed to encourage students to make ethical consumer choices and consider the impact of their choices on people, animals and the environment. With our resources being used by at least one educator in 81 per cent of Australian schools, Cool Australia is ideally placed to spread the Roots & Shoots philosophy far and wide,” explains Cool Australia’s Content Project Lead, Gabrielle Munro.

The lessons are broken into two units, with the lower primary unit focusing on deforestation and endangered species and the upper primary unit looking into consumer choices and behaviours. These lessons reflect the overarching message of the Jane Goodall Institute to “inspire actions that connect people with animals and our shared environment”.

A strong focus of the lessons is to encourage young people to observe their own environment and create a plan to improve the interconnectedness of animals, people and the environment.

Dr Goodall first visited Africa at the age of 26.

“The first trip to Tanzania was difficult because getting to Gombe on Lake Tanganyika is hard enough now, but it was very difficult in 1960. It was decided that it was too risky having a young woman travelling on her own so my mother joined me for a time. The first three or four months observing the chimpanzees was slow and it was difficult to get close to them,” she recalls.

“At first I would head out into the jungle and set up in a vantage point and watch them from a distance but this was not going to yield me much information so I stumbled upon the idea of using bananas to draw them to my camp and soon I was able to watch them at close quarters and start to document their behaviour. The discovery that chimpanzees also use and modify tools to source food was the big breakthrough that transformed my work and established my reputation. And while I left Gombe in 1977 to start a new journey establishing the Jane Goodall Institute, the chimpanzees of Gombe are always in my heart; and the research work continues there to this day.”

Dr Goodall says that there are numerous wildlife conservation challenges that exist in today’s world. “Apart from the direct challenges like wildlife trafficking, habitat loss and fragmentation, disease, conflict with human communities and competing needs for natural resources, the biggest challenge is apathy or the idea that there is nothing you can do about the challenges. This is not true and it is why I speak about hope through action because every person can make a difference every day through their actions for the environment that we share with our precious wildlife.”

Mapped to the Australian Curriculum, the Roots & Shoots units each have three lessons, which focus on students taking action on an observed problem in their school or neighbourhood.

“These lessons are scaffolded to show the steps at each stage of a social action project so that teachers are supported in their teaching. The other lessons within the unit can be taught as a sequence or as stand-alone lessons. Lessons are also downloadable as a Word document to allow greater flexibility for teachers to add and edit activities to suit their students’ needs and time requirements,” explains Ms Munro.

The lessons have been designed so they can integrate into multiple learning areas including HASS, science, maths, English, and civics and citizenship.

“We have used a range of different approaches and strategies to engage students with complex concepts including conservation, deforestation, extinction, consumerism and biodiversity,” Ms Munro adds.

“We have had great feedback from teachers about the upper primary consumer choices lessons that focus on factors that need to be considered when purchasing products. The Consuming Our World lesson develops students’ understanding of needs and wants, and evaluates what things people really need. They then explore how the consumption of a range of products impacts other people, animals and the environment.”

Dr Jane Goodall will be touring Australia for two weeks in May, visiting Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.

“The theme of the tour is to Rewind the Future which refers to the idea that there is still time if we act now,” says Dr Goodall. “While there are many reasons to be concerned we must not lose hope for it is hope that will propel us to be the change we want to see in the world.”

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