By Samantha Paisley, Class of 2021
In October 2019, the Rowland Hall Roots & Shoots club had an incredible opportunity when, through the connections made by biology teacher Rob Wilson, they were invited to a lecture given by Dr. Jane Goodall at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law. Samantha Paisley, co-president of the club, and four other members attended this event and met Dr. Goodall. Below, Samantha reflects on the experience and shares how Dr. Goodall inspired her.
We were all so excited for the opportunity to listen to Dr. Jane Goodall. I took notes, trying to capture every bit of knowledge that was being absorbed by the room. Every time I looked around, the audience was captivated, fixated, listening. We learned about her childhood and her lifelong love for animals. We learned that as a young woman she had followed her passions and, once she had saved enough money to get on a boat in England, she went straight to Tanzania.
Dr. Goodall’s research redefined what it means to be human.
As I write this reflection on Mother’s Day, I am looking back at Jane’s origin story and am in awe of the amount of support she got from her mother, Margaret Joseph. Her mother was the one who got her her first animal book when she was little, and her mother encouraged her to hop on a boat with very few plans. It was also her mother who saw Jane’s love for animals. Margaret knew what Jane was capable of, and she did whatever she could to help her daughter follow her dreams. Mind you, this was in the 1960s. And Margaret was onto something, as Dr. Goodall’s research redefined what it means to be human.
After the lecture, our club was led out the back entrance of the room, down a very long hallway, down some stairs, and finally ushered into a waiting room with other small groups. The Rowland Hall Roots & Shoots club was then escorted into a brightly lit conference room. At once, Dr. Goodall walked into the room. The first thing she said was, “Bahh please, you must turn these lights off. There is no need for ceiling lights when we have beautiful natural daylight!” That's all I needed to hear. After that one sentence, I was satisfied. I was standing less than 10 feet away from Dr. Goodall, and she had captivated the room by walking in and noticing that the lights didn't need to be on in the middle of that day. I have never met anyone with such influence. I guess if someone is an icon it doesn't really matter what they do. Nevertheless, I couldn't have been more humbled to meet such a well-known woman who cared more about the lights and conserving energy than she did about fame and popularity.
She sat down right next to me and asked us what we were doing with our club. I told her my co-president Elena Barker and I had designed our chapter of the Roots & Shoots club as an educational platform to teach lower schoolers the importance of the environment. I told her about the learning games we played with the kids at the Sunnyvale Neighborhood Center’s aftercare program.
I know Dr. Goodall wouldn’t stop even if the entire world were shut down. Therefore, during this time I have not stopped being conscious of my carbon footprint and I try to minimize how much plastic I use on a daily basis. I have also continued to brainstorm ideas for next year, which will hopefully be the best year the Rowland Hall branch of the Roots & Shoots club has ever seen.
She thought this was good but something told me it wasn't good enough. To put Dr. Goodall’s influence into perspective, at the age of 86, she travels almost every day, all around the world, spreading her message. She must be exhausted, but activism and the education of the youth of the world are most important to her. It's incredible that after she gives a talk, she then takes the time to sit down with a few high schoolers to discuss how to best educate little kids on the importance of protecting the environment. The conversation didn’t feel rushed or artificial either. I sensed she genuinely cared.
Elena and I took her motivation to heart. We needed to be doing more, but it needed to be meaningful. So we decided to continue with our theme of education, with a goal to connect our community, just like Dr. Goodall had connected the world. In addition to the Lower School kids, we set our sights on influencing a tougher crowd—sixth graders. We joined the sixth grade on a snowshoe hike to learn about the watershed, the trees, and the animals in the Wasatch. We had plans to play interactive games similar to the ones we created with Sunnyvale. We were also planning a trail cleanup and maintenance day with them this spring. Unfortunately, everything was canceled due to COVID-19. But I know Dr. Goodall wouldn’t stop even if the entire world were shut down. Therefore, during this time I have not stopped being conscious of my carbon footprint and I try to minimize how much plastic I use on a daily basis. I have also continued to brainstorm ideas for next year, which will hopefully be the best year the Rowland Hall branch of the Roots & Shoots club has ever seen.
Top photo, from left: Rob Wilson, Grace Smith, Katie Kern, Dr. Goodall, Samantha Paisley, and Heidi Paisley.