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Role Models #5: Jane Goodall

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Lesson Overview:

In this lesson students learn about one of the world’s most acclaimed and best-loved scientists, Dr. Jane Goodall.  Bring binoculars and a stuffed chimpanzee to generate interest!  The children will listen to two short picture books and watch two short video clips, both of which will leave them wanting to know more.  Since all children love to learn about animals, follow up with more books, resources, and activities on this topic.

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:



Understand the major events and themes that shaped Jane Goodall’s life and contributed towards her becoming the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees.  (AASL 2.2.4, “Demonstrate personal productivity by completing products to express learning.”)

Suggested Time:

40-45 minutes

Success Criteria:

Each student will complete an assignment in which he or she writes six short sentences to represent important themes, events, or activities in Dr. Jane Goodall’s life.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Ask the students to share a few of the highlights they have learned about role models.  As a “hook” for this lesson, ask the students whether they have ever been very still and very patient, and observed something.  Ask them to share examples of times when they were great watchers.  Ask how long they would be willing to sit patiently and watch without distractions from an electronic device or even another person.  How many of them could patiently sit and watch for ten minutes?  For an hour?  For four hours?  For an entire day?  For a month?  For a year?  For many years?

Tell the children that today they’ll be learning about a woman who spent so much time watching one group of animals that she became the world’s expert on those animals!  Explain that today they will be learning about Dr. Jane Goodall, a British scientist, who has become a role model to the entire world because of her studies and activism.

2. Main:

Point out the binoculars and the stuffed monkey.  Let the children take turns holding the monkey and looking through the binoculars.  Tell the children that they are doing some of the things that Jane Goodall did, both as a child and as an adult working in Tanzania.

Share/teach the two texts.  Begin with Me . . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell to introduce Dr. Jane Goodall.  The text is very simple and short, yet powerful.  Follow that up with The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter.  Winter’s text has a bit more detail, but some of the same elements are repeated.

If you have time, show two video clips of Dr. Goodall.  There are many available, but I like these:

Pass out the student assignment sheets (attached) and give the children enough time to complete the short, written work.

If there is extra time at the end of the lesson, show the children other photos and video clips of Dr. Goodall and her environmental activism.

3. Conclusion:

Draw the group back together.  Ask the children questions so that they can reflect on this lesson and their learning.  Why do they think so many people admire Dr. Goodall’s life and her work?  What contribution has she made to the world of science?  What does the world know now that we did not know before Dr. Goodall?  Do you think that this was easy or hard for Dr. Goodall to accomplish?

  1. The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter.
  2. Me . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell.
  3. A pair of binoculars, two if you can find them.
  4. A plush monkey for the children to hold.
  5. Copies of the student assignment sheet (attached).
  6. Globe or map to show where Tanzania is.

After this lesson the children will be very interested in Dr. Goodall, her work, and every kind of primate.   I recommend that you pull books and magazines from the library’s collection that connect to these topics and have them on hand so that the children can check them out at the end of the lesson.

Please adapt this according to the resources you have and the expertise you have at school.  If you have a member of staff who has visited the Gombe National Park, invite them to join you.  If you can take your students to the local zoo, arrange for a field trip as an extension of this lesson.  All children love to learn about animals, so extend and adapt the lesson to get a stronger connection to the Unit of Inquiry.

More books are certainly available about Dr. Goodall and her work.  I’ve chosen two of the newest and easiest because this lesson was planned with Grade 2 students in mind.

Recommended books for this lesson:
  1. The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter
  2. Me . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell
Key Terms:

Jane Goodall, Chimpanzees, Animals, Africa, Gombe, Tanzania, Jane Goodall Institute, Roots & Shoots, Animal Welfare, Conservation


Student Handout, Jane Goodall