Trinity University Press

Jane Goodall-Mike Weddle

Dr. Jane Inspired the Creation of Our School

Mike Weddle

    I first met Dr. Jane in the Colorado Rockies in 1996 during the Roots & Shoots North American Summit. Over those four days, I had several opportunities to talk and work with her. The most memorable was an afternoon spent together hiking from one camp to another--just the two of us, not quite able to see the trail because of a dusting of snow, making plans for the future of Roots & Shoots. For me, as a teacher and as a person, that afternoon was life-changing. Over the next few years I had several more chances to work with Jane and JGI. In 1998 my wife, Karen, and I traveled to Tanzania and South Africa to gather material for the first Roots & Shoots manual. We visited Gombe and the six Roots & Shoots groups in villages around the park. Seeing the work those groups had done, along with what TACARE (the Jane Goodall Institute’s community-based conservation program) was also doing in the villages, was truly inspiring.

    Our school’s Roots & Shoots group, which started as an after-school club, became a class. Then, in 2000, it became a charter school--the Jane Goodall Environmental Middle School (JGEMS). Over the past fourteen years, the school has embodied the Roots & Shoots philosophy, working with community organizations on innumerable environmental restoration and research projects. It has become a model in the state of Oregon for its innovative field-based curriculum that provides amazing opportunities for students as well as an academic focus that has brought outstanding state test scores year after year.

    Dr. Jane inspired the creation of our school, and she still provides inspiration to every one of our students. The first book our students read in sixth grade is Dr. Jane’s My Life with Chimpanzees. During their three years at JGEMS, our students are constantly focused on showing care and concern for animals, the environment, and the human community. Dr. Jane has been wonderful in her support of JGEMS and all the Roots & Shoots programs in Oregon. Every three years, like clockwork, she has come to Oregon for our statewide Roots & Shoots Summit. For the students, meeting Dr. Jane and sharing their projects with her is a life-changing experience. Could there be a better role model? I hope she will continue visiting Oregon for the next 25 years.

    Mike Weddle taught for 35 years in Oregon before retiring. In 2000 he helped create the Jane Goodall Environmental Middle School, a public charter school in Salem, Oregon.