“You have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
— Dr. Jane Goodall
You can now learn Dr. Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots program model through the University of Colorado Boulder on Coursera. It’s is an action-oriented online development course that will teach you how to identify and implement local service-learning campaigns using the Roots and Shoots program model. While designed for K-12 formal and informal educators in the US, the course materials can be easily used by anyone who wants to spark change in their community. We had the opportunity to hear from course instructor Dr. Brad McLain, who serves on the Board of Directors for the Jane Goodall Institute and is the current chair of Dr. Goodall’s Roots & Shoots education program.
What is Roots and Shoots?
Roots & Shoots is a youth service program of the Jane Goodall Institute founded in 1991. The mission is to foster respect and compassion for all living things, to promote understanding of all cultures and beliefs, and to inspire each individual to take action to make the world a better place for people, other animals, and the environment.
What led you to teach this course?
All through my career, I’ve been working in educational psychology and research. Eventually, the winding road led me to encounter Jane through her Roots and Shoots program which is an experiential service learning program.
What is this course about?
Roots and Shoots redesigned their program model into an online course, hoping to reach the largest possible audience. The course will give educators the tools they need to run their own Roots and Shoots clubs all over the world. I research identity based experiential learning theory, which is a philosophy of education. And so my portions of the Roots & Shoots course deal directly with that.
What is identity-based experiential learning theory (ID-BELT)?
It’s an educational philosophy where learning is equated with identity construction. ID-BELT is concerned with learning from direct first-person experience and a holistic perspective that goes beyond content to include the construction of knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, transfer of learning to new situations, personal relevance, meaning-making processes, and Identity Development.
ID-BELT changes the notion of learning from one of only content or skills acquisition to also consider the larger relationship of the learner to new knowledge and its potential integration into his or her self-perceptions as part of the world.
The success of a Roots and Shoots learning experience is not measured by how well a group of kids benefits a community on their first try. Success is measured in how well the experience develops identities for these kids as changemakers who are capable to come together and make the world a better place.
How else are Roots and Shoots impacting communities?
Marc Bekoff, the former professor at CU Boulder, has been conducting Roots and Shoots clubs in jail and doing it with inmates who are in desperate need of hope and in many cases, are looking for ways to not only improve the world but improve themselves.
Who should take this course?
The course is designed for someone who wants to facilitate leadership within their community. It’s designed to be an approachable learning model and a comprehensive pathway for one to engage in their community. It’s a way to get involved immediately so you can already feel like your making a difference.
When someone takes the course, they learn the four steps that are part of the Roots and Shoots process. They also learn the background of experiential learning theory so they can apply it and understand the goals and methods of Roots and Shoots in a deeper way.
How has working for Roots and Shoots inspired you?
What’s really inspired me is working closely with Jane. She is always traveling around the world, spreading her message, showing young people that if she can ignite change in the world, they can too.