Published: Feb. 12, 2018 By

Globally renowned for her research on the relationship between chimpanzees and humans, Jane Goodall now travels more than 300 days a year sharing her reasons for hope, the greatest of which—she believes—is the power of young people.

Jane Goodall speaking to children

Credit: Jon Orr

Starting this summer, the iconic scientist and conservationist will lead a free online course through a unique partnership between CU Boulder and the Jane Goodall Institute's youth program, Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots. "Compassionate Leadership Through Service Learning with Jane Goodall and Roots & Shoots," which will be offered as a massive open online course (MOOC) through Coursera, teaches participants how to mentor young people to lead change in their communities.

While the curriculum is focused on K-12 educators, the innovative MOOC format allows anyone interested in learning from Goodall and other instructors to easily enroll. CU Boulder MOOCs provide high-quality, free and low-cost educational opportunities around the world, having reached over 500,000 students in more than 165 countries.

"There are many reasons to be hopeful for the future of our planet but perhaps most inspiring is the energy, commitment, and hard work of young people who we can empower as they grow to be better, more compassionate decision-makers within their society," said Goodall, PhD, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace. "I am so glad that through this Roots & Shoots online course collaboration with CU Boulder, we're able to share a message of hope and a call to action with a wider audience than ever before."

Goodall is no stranger to the CU Boulder community, having visited campus in 2015 to deliver the Fiftieth George Gamow Memorial Lecture at a sold-out Coors Events Center. Roots & Shoots also partnered with the Office of Continuing Education in 2015 to launch a series of online courses, which formed the basis for this summer's expanded offering.

CU Boulder Experiential Science Education Research Collaborative Co-Director Bradley McLain, who also serves as a member of the Roots & Shoots National Leadership Committee, will join Goodall as one of the course's instructors. He lauded this year's collaboration for its use of video content to provide access to Goodall's thoughts on engaging young people in leading positive change in their communities.

"The course is video-rich, featuring brand new video from Jane, some of her historic footage and plenty of video from the rest of us instructors," said McLain. "What I like most about the course is that it is firmly rooted in identity-based experiential learning theory. That is, success in Roots & Shoots is not measured simply in how well student efforts benefit the people, animals or environment, but also in how the experience helps students generate new identities as powerful change agents to make our world better."

The course is among 33 MOOCs on Coursera offered by CU Boulder, and there are plans for 150 more over the next two years. 

Another MOOC revving up right now that is focused on K-12 teachers and others who work with young people is "The Teacher and Social and Emotional Learning." Course instructors include CU Boulder education Professors Dan Liston and Ben Kirshner, doctoral student Emily Price, and Harvard Graduate School of Education Associate Director of PreK-16 Programs Randy Testa. Anyone can enroll in the course, and participants can earn three teacher continuing education credits from CU Boulder for this specialization.

"We are deeply proud of our partnership with the Jane Goodall Institute," said William Kuskin, Vice Provost for Strategic Initiatives and leader of the campus MOOC efforts. "MOOCs are a way to change the world–to inspire new ways of teaching, to expand access to education, and to transform higher education for the 21st century–in that I think they fit beautifully with Dr. Goodall's own vision. I congratulate and offer my gratitude to everyone involved."

In its 27th year, Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots boasts a presence in over 100 countries. The program works to advance Goodall's global vision for developing compassionate decision-making skills through courses guided by service-learning curricula.

"In the future we will expand these courses and strive for an ever-growing Roots & Shoots audience worldwide," said McLain.

Past course graduates have created real-world impacts through projects ranging from combatting homelessness in Los Angeles to constructing bat habitats in Berthoud, Colorado. At Horizons K-8 School in Boulder, students were inspired by a 2015 visit from Goodall to plant 10 trees, each dedicated to one of her favorite chimpanzees.

Participants in the new six-week course offered through CU Boulder will have access to more than 13 hours of service-oriented training and activities with Goodall and Roots & Shoots staff.

Register and learn more about the course.