Jane Goodall Lesson for Kids: Biography & Facts

Instructor: Sarah Caughron

Sarah has a master's degree in Applied Anthropology/Archaeology and has worked in formal and informal education since 2006.

Jane Goodall has spent more than 40 years studying chimpanzees. In this lesson, you will learn about the extraordinary life of this scientist and the discoveries she made while living among wild chimpanzees in Africa.

Who is Jane Goodall?

Jane Goodall is a British primatologist, a scientist that studies primates, like monkeys and apes. She is famous for her work with wild chimpanzees in Africa and for her discoveries about these animals.

Jane was born in London in 1934, and her interest in primates came as a young girl when her father gave her a stuffed chimpanzee toy she named Jubilee.

Jane Goodall pioneered primatology, the study of primates like chimpanzees and gorillas
Jane Goodall

Where Did She Work?

As a girl, Jane imagined traveling to Africa, and she worked many jobs to make this dream a reality. In 1957, when she was 23 years old, her wish came true, and she visited a friend in Kenya. During this time, she fell in love with the continent and met a famous British archaeologist, Dr. Louis Leakey, who gave her an opportunity that would impact the next forty years of her life.

Dr. Leakey offered her a job studying the behaviors of wild chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania, a country in east Africa below the equator. No scientist had ever studied chimps in the wild before. Jane was 26 and had not even attended college. Many people questioned Dr. Leakey's decision to send a young woman to study wild animals in the jungle, but she would soon make major scientific contributions because of this groundbreaking experience.

What Did She Learn?

Imagine preparing for such an expedition. It was 1960. Jane had no GPS, no personal computer, no cellular phone, and no technologies that modern primatologists rely on to do their research. Jane entered the Tanzanian jungle with just a notepad and a pair of binoculars, and began to quietly observe the wild chimpanzees that lived there.

Jane spent many decades in Tanzania. During that time, she learned that wild chimpanzees were quite different than people had previously thought. For example, people always assumed that chimpanzee groups were primitive and that they lived simple, uncomplicated lives. Instead, Jane observed that these groups of animals were highly intelligent and emotional individuals.

Jane observed that chimpanzees could feel emotions just like we do, including joy, anger, and frustration. She watched as chimpanzees fought with each other and then consoled one another, as you would console a friend.

In the same way that we gather together in families and groups of friends, chimpanzees also live in complex social groups. Each chimpanzee troop (a group of chimpanzees that live together) has a leader, usually a male, who gets the best girls in the troop. But he has to work for it by fighting off intruders and other male chimpanzees who challenge his authority, both within and outside of the troop.

In fact, Jane lived as an active member of a chimpanzee troop for about two years until a chimp that didn't like Jane, named Frodo, rose to be a powerful member of the group and kicked her out of the troop.

Chimpanzees live in complex social groups.

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