Jane Goodall-Laurel Sydney Tanner
Architecture to Armadillos
Laurel Sydney Tanner
I was in the exact right place at the exact right time when Jane Goodall came into my life. I was an architecture and design student at the University of Colorado interning for the Center for Children, Youth, and Environments. My advisor approached me about working on a small book about children and animals, and I jumped at the chance to design it. Little did I know that it was Marc Bekoff and Jane Goodall’s newest Roots & Shoots book project. It’s not often that a project like this falls into the hands of an undergraduate student, albeit an architecture major, and that random chance changed my professional aspirations a million times over.
While working on the book, I read the genuine, brilliant, and truly selfless words that children around the world wrote about their environments. “I have a dream that all the animals are safe from people,” wrote Darwin. And fittingly, a child named Marc wrote, “My dream is I would like to live with the monkeys.” Their drawings and words opened my eyes to the innate love and respect children have for their environments. I learned that I really wanted to work with children. So, instead of going to graduate school for architecture, I joined Teach for America to teach first grade. In class, we stress the importance of taking care of our environments and our animals. The 5- and 6-year-olds I have taught have written about oil spills, rainforest deforestation, plastic trash piling up in the oceans, and their words have been published in a Teach For America: Detroit publication about how to protect their city.
Jane inspired me to work with kids and create my own publications. She has enlivened my passion for early childhood education and environmental stewardship. While I’m not going to be a schoolteacher forever, I know that I want to merge my design background with early childhood education and environmental stewardship.
I didn’t know how powerful the words and actions of children could be until I worked with Jane. Children know more about our world than we do most of the time. They see it through clear eyes, and they understand that we all share this earth. Jane wrote to me once and said, “The more we can focus our attention on different kinds of animals, from the earliest children up, the better chance we have of making this a better world.” Children can see the beauty and necessity of protecting what we have, no matter what the cost. Young children are the best and most powerful agents of change. Thank you for helping me see that, Jane