animal rights lesson plan


When Jane Goodall went to Gombe to study chimpanzees, she discovered a breakthrough observation. “I arrived here as a scientist and left as an activist.”


Year Level: 3–4

Learning area: Science, English

General capabilities: Critical and creative thinking; personal and social capability; literacy; sustainability (cross-curriculum priority)

Lesson duration:

80 minutes (Part A–B); 120 minutes (Part C); 60 minutes (Part D)


Learning Outcomes

Students will:

  • learn about the unique characteristics and features of chimpanzees
  • understand how science knowledge about chimpanzee behaviours led to widespread discussion about habitat loss
  • understand how human activities contribute to habitat loss for chimpanzees
  • learn about different methods of activism, including community building, lobbying, petitioning and protesting
  • plan, draft and publish an imaginative, informative and persuasive text for the purpose of activism.

Science curriculum codes:

  • ACSHE062: Science knowledge helps people to understand the effect of their actions (exploring how science has contributed to a discussion about an issue such as loss of habitat for living things or how human activity has changed the local environment)
  •  ACSSU044: Living things can be grouped on the basis of observable features and can be distinguished from non-living things

English curriculum codes:

  • ACELY1682: Plan, draft and publish imaginative, informative and persuasive texts demonstrating increasing control over text structures and language features and selecting print and multimodal elements appropriate to the audience and purpose
  • ACELY1690: Identify characteristic features used in imaginative, informative and persuasive texts to meet the purpose of the text

Tip: This lesson can be divided up by parts over three or more sessions.


Scroll to the top to download this lesson’s material:

  • ‘Observing Chimps in the Wild’ and ‘Observation Report’ worksheets
  • ‘Research Report’ worksheet
  • ‘Threats to Chimpanzees’ handout
  • ‘Making an Activist’ handout with suggested activities

Recommended optional resources (external):

  • My Life with the Chimpanzees by Jane Goodall, book published in 1996. Buy it here or check your local library
  • Hero (video) published by National Geographic. Watch it here
  • Does Tool Use Define Man? (video) by National Geographic. Watch it here

20 minutes

Vocabulary: primatologist, activist, overpopulation, bushmeat trade, deforestation

See vocabulary definitions below.

Discussion tip: introduce new vocabulary words and use them during class discussions.

Part A: Jane Goodall’s Breakthrough Observations

Play the video from ABC’s Catalyst program, where primatologist Jane Goodall talks about her study of chimpanzees at the Gombe National Park in Tanzania. She recounts a number of breakthrough observations and how her research went on to reshape her mission and career later in life. After the video, talk through the discussion points below.

Video © Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Discussion points

  • What was the biggest thing Jane learned about chimpanzees that surprised other scientists?
  • What are some other things Jane learned about chimpanzees. Did any of them surprise you?
  • What does Jane consider to be the biggest threats to chimpanzees?

Vocabulary definitions

primatologist (noun): a scientist who studies primates, such as gorillas, orangutans and chimpanzees.

activist (noun): a person who believes in a political or social change and takes part in activities (e.g. public protests) to try to make this happen.

overpopulation (noun): the condition of being populated with excessively large numbers (e.g. human overpopulation).

bushmeat trade (noun): the commercial hunting of wild animals for food.

deforestation (noun): the action of cutting down a large number of trees covering a wide area, usually for obtaining resources like wood and fuel and to clear land for farms and cities.

60 minutes

Vocabulary: characteristics, compassion, altruism, poachers

Part B: Observing Chimps in the Wild

Hand out the worksheet ‘Observing Chimps in the Wild’. Students will complete the sentences about some of the characteristics Jane observed about chimpanzees.


(1) nests; (2) primatologist; (3) tools; (4) grass stem; (5) fingers; (6) communicate; (7) culture; (8) emotions; (9) rocks; (10) altruism

In the ‘Observation Report’ worksheet, students will imagine what it was like when Jane first saw David Greybeard using a grass stem as a tool to extract termites. They will then write a recount of this breakthrough moment.

Criteria assessment


Students describe:

  • how the chimpanzee used a grass stem as a tool and for what purpose
  • how scientists thought humans were the only species who used tools.

Above satisfactory

Students describe:

  • how the chimpanzee made a tool by removing leaves from a grass stem
  • how the discovery could change the way humans see their own species as well as others (e.g. speculate that other animals may be more complex than we think and that the distinction between humans and other animals could be smaller than we realise.)

Fun fact: When Jane cabled the news about her discovery to her mentor Louis Leakey, he sent her this response:





  120 minutes

Part C: Facing the Issues (Research Report)

Ask students to choose one threat that chimpanzees face: human overpopulation, bushmeat trade or deforestation. They will then research this issue and complete the ‘Research Report’ worksheet.

Note: Disease is also a major threat faced by chimpanzees, and can be touched on in the report.

Students can refer to the ‘Threats to Chimpanzees’ handout as a starting point for their research report. They should also find out more information by using books, videos and online articles.

Some good places to start:

Satisfactory criteria assessment


  • write a clear and brief introduction about the nature of chimpanzee habitat (forested areas located in Africa) and why they are endangered
  • outline one threat to chimpanzee populations and demonstrate an understanding of research material
  • describe two to three courses of action that humans can take to mitigate this threat.

60 minutes

Discussion: Which method of activism do you think is most effective? Which do you think is least effective or even damaging? Can you think of other forms of activism?

Vocabulary: lobbying, petition, protest, cooperative, rally, boycott, sit-in, strike

Part D: From Science to Activism

Use the ‘Making an Activist’ handout for the final part of this lesson. Students will learn about four methods of activism:

  1. community building
  2. lobbying
  3. petitioning
  4. protesting

Ask students to think about the issue they researched in Part C and complete one of the suggested activist activities in the handout.

What is an effective way to drive change? Students should also think about how human poverty plays an underlying role in the threat to chimpanzee populations.



60 minutes or more

Extension Activity

Extension activity 1 (Year 3)

Students will conduct research to find out what other animals use tools. First write a list of potential animal species, make predictions and then sort them into three categories: (1) animals that don’t use tools; (2) animal that do use tools; (3) animals that do use tools and make tools.

Extension activity 2 (Year 4)

Students will think of an issues they feel strongly about. It could be something like encouraging their neighbours to clean up the local park, or something big like climate change. They will then choose a different activist activity from Part D focusing on their chosen issue.