A visit to the East Kootenay by world-renowned primatologist Jane Goodall is already having an impact on one local elementary school, as Windermere Elementary School has begun its own version of the worldwide Roots & Shoots program.
“Definitely after having Dr. Goodall come to the valley, it was an inspiration to pick up the idea of Roots & Shoots and run with it,” said organizing teacher Tara Whittick.
The Roots & Shoots program was founded by Goodall and 16 students from Tanzania in 1991, and today there are tens of thousands of young people in over 120 different countries worldwide who take part in the program. The program focuses on motivating young people to take an interest in local and global issues, and helps them design and implement their own projects as a means to solving them.
“The goal of the Roots & Shoots club is to have the youth come up with the ideas of projects that are important to them, local projects that will positively impact our environment, people and animals,” Whittick said. “For me, as the club leader, my goal is to really empower the youth to come up with the plans themselves, and take action themselves, and for me to act as sort of a guide and facilitator along the way, to really empower them to see that their ideas are good ideas, and that if they can put a plan together and take action, they are going to see some incredible results.”
Whittick said that the club formed pretty much directly as a result of the recent Goodall presentation, that it served as a perfect “springboard” to start the club at the school. Grade 6 and 7 students at the elementary school had an opportunity to watch a live webcast of Goodall’s talk to Cranbrook students on October 1 and Whittick attributes the club’s high turnout to that presentation.
“I think that’s why there was such a good turnout for the club,” Whittick said. “I think that she connected with quite a few of them and inspired them to show up to our first meeting.”
The club currently numbers 16 students in grades 6 and 7, and recently held its first meeting. Students were tasked to come up with a local issue that they would like to see solved, or a way to make the community better as a whole, and will present their findings at the club’s next meeting when they will decide as a group where they would like to focus their efforts.
“(The club) gives the students three different focusses to take action on — one focus is to do something that will help the environment, one is to help people and one is to help animals,” Whittick explained. “We have lots of kids at the school who are quite passionate about one or all, so it was quite easy to see the club was something that could take root and grow.”
As part of the event Whittick was also able to attend a special teachers only presentation. Fifty five educators from across the Columbia Basin attended, including 10 from the Invermere area, and Whittick said it was a highly motivating presentation from Goodall that connected with everyone in attendance.
“She just had such an aura about her,” Whittick said. “She connected with educators, she empowered us, she expressed in her opinion how important a role we play in making a difference.”
Goodall’s talk was sponsored by the Columbia Basin Environmental Education Network (CBEEN), which relocated its head office in March from Kimberley to Invermere. To learn more about CBEEN, visit the website at www.cbeen.org or contact executive director Duncan Whittick at email@example.com or 250-341-6141, or stop by the CBEEN office in Invermere at 20-2598 Mountainview Crescent.
For more information on the Roots & Shoots program, visit www.rootsandshoots.org.