Coming Out Of the Chicken Coop with Jane Goodall

Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference. Jane Goodall

It was an honour to be requested to facilitate a youth luncheon with Dr. Jane Goodall in Sydney during her 80th birthday tour of Australia. To the forty youth assembled, Jane shared her wisdom with storytelling and although she spoke of many challenges and the danger of apathy, Jane’s loudest message was of hope.


As a soon-to-be-mom, one story Jane Goodall shared stuck with me. It is of Jane as a curious little girl, not yet five years old, wondering how an egg emerges from a chicken. She decided to find out and spent nearly five patient hours in her family chicken coop, hidden in a corner to observe the chickens. Unfortunately, she told no one what she was up to and her mother was in a panic searching everywhere for her.

At long last, Jane witnessed a chicken laying an egg and excitedly rushed from the chicken coop to share her new discovery. As she ran up to her mother beaming, her mother could have scolded or reprimanded her from worry and extinguish Jane’s excitement. Instead, Jane’s mother pulled out a chair, and said: ‘tell me about it.’

Jane told this story as an example of her early nurturing as a scientist, how her mother continued to listen, support, and encourage her to become the confident and influential person she is today.


I wonder, beyond parenting, what would this nurturing of curiosity look like in a classroom?

I became involved with the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) in Australia while developing Ride To Learn in 2011 when I was inspired by Zoe Weil and the attributes of Humane Education. It was important to me that all our curriculum designers be trained by the Institute of Humane Education so that any resource created had entrenched an understanding of their four elements.

Jane Goodall believes that “everything we do makes a difference. We only have to decide what kind of difference we want to make.” I’d like to imagine that this awareness could be taught in schools and that all our students learn not only the content needed to become successful, but the impact their choices in using what they’ve learned makes.

Roots & Shoots is a youth led movement connected to JGI Australia and will be providing webinars, resources, and support for schools and youth in Australia. If you’d like to learn more about how to incorporate Humane Education into your Teaching and Learning contact Janey, pictured below left on upcoming opportunities.


Topics with JGI Australia are diverse, the importance is to incorporate topics of passion. For Jane it was a fascination with animals. For others, passions may connect to environmental or humanitarian issues. Choosing a topic of passion engages students in their learning and provides the opportunities to make a difference in the world.

Apathy could be the greatest danger to our future. If we choose not to learn about something, we can not care, and if we do not care, we can not act. This is an especially reflective and important message for me as our Australian government refuses to provide information on a boat of 153 Sri Lankan Tamil Asylum Seekers, of which 37 are children found at risk in our waters. There is no information, so how can we learn, care, and act?

This is an issue I care about, and one demanding more information. I’m deeply concerned by the progression of worsening treatment towards people seeking protection in Australia. There are over 1000 children in detention, indefinitely, without proper access to health, education or safety. I agree with Jane’s message that every individual makes a difference and know as a soon-to-be-mom I must raise my voice for the vulnerable children in our care.

The question arises, how can we teach such issues while enabling positive action and confidence in our students and children? Could part of the approach involve the ongoing nurturing and support Jane spoke of? I’m looking forward to learning about the actions a year five/six class took to learn, care, and act on the topic of seeking Asylum in Australia and will share further how the teachers worked through these challenges to inspire and support their students.

If you’d like to know more about what you can do with your students to learn about Refugees, get in touch, or check out the resources and what other schools have done at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and their Facebook page. Chillout focuses specifically on children in detention.

And below are the three extraordinary Melbourne-based youth who lead Roots & Shoots with JGI Australia. I’m sure they’d be glad to hear from you with any of your ideas and interests!