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)
80 minutes (Part A–B); 120 minutes (Part C); 60 minutes (Part D)
Your child 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 days.
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
Vocabulary: primatologist, activist, overpopulation, bushmeat trade, deforestation
See vocabulary definitions below.
Discussion tip: introduce new vocabulary words and use them while going through the discussion points.
Part A: Jane Goodall’s Breakthrough Observations
Watch 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
- 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?
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.
Vocabulary: characteristics, compassion, altruism, poachers
Part B: Observing Chimps in the Wild
Use the worksheet ‘Observing Chimps in the Wild’. Your child 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, your child 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.
Your child describes:
- 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.
Your child describes:
- 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:
NOW WE MUST REDEFINE TOOL STOP
REDEFINE MAN STOP
OR ACCEPT CHIMPANZEES AS HUMAN
Part C: Facing the Issues (Research Report)
Ask your child 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. Use the back of the page if you need more room to write.
Note: Disease is also a major threat faced by chimpanzees, and can be touched on in the report.
Your child can use 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. Watch this helpful video about smart online search tips for kids.
Some good places to start:
- WWF Knowledge Hub of Endangered Species: Chimpanzees: https://wwf.panda.org/knowledge_hub/endangered_species/great_apes/chimpanzees/
- Jane Goodall TED Talk ‘What separates us from chimpanzees?’ https://www.ted.com/talks/jane_goodall_what_separates_us_from_chimpanzees?language=en
- How the Jane Goodall Institute is Protecting Chimpanzees: https://www.janegoodall.org.uk/chimpanzees/protecting-chimpanzees/13-protection
Satisfactory criteria assessment
- writes a clear and brief introduction about the nature of chimpanzee habitat (forested areas located in Africa) and why they are endangered
- outlines one threat to chimpanzee populations and demonstrates an understanding of research material
- describes two to three courses of action that humans can take to mitigate this threat.
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. Your child will learn about four methods of activism:
- community building
Ask your child to think about the issue they researched in Part C. What is an effective way to drive change? Think about how human poverty plays an underlying role in the threat to chimpanzee populations too. Complete one of the suggested activist activities in the handout.
60 minutes or more
Extension activity 1 (Year 3)
Do 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)
Can your child think of any issues they feel strongly about? It could be something like encouraging your neighbours to clean up the local park, or something fun like requesting more spaghetti nights at home! It could also be something big like climate change. Choose a different activist activity from Part D focusing on your child’s chosen issue. They could even put their material in action, whether it’s handing out flyers, writing a letter to their MP or starting a petition online.