UCL Roots & Shoots: Inspired by Jane, Empowered by Hope

Susie Cramp tells us all about the origins of Roots & Shoots, and how the UCL society is helping to educate children about environmental issues.

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We are a student-led project at UCL striving to let the younger generation know how powerful they are in enacting change. Through conversation, we guide children along the journey food makes on its way to our plates, showing them how we rely on our environment as much as any other organism on this planet, and leaving them confident that each and every one of us can make a difference.

Together, the actions taken by each individual weave together to create a tapestry of hope…a powerful ripple of change.— Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots

In the midst of so many doom and gloom headlines, it is all too easy to give up trying.

However, instead, like Jane Goodall, we’re going to celebrate the fact that everybody can make a difference. Jane Goodall has inspired hope in hundreds of thousands of people across the globe by spreading precisely that message, through her Roots & Shoots program. It rekindles hope and motivates action, through the four simple steps below.

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With hope people believe that they can make a difference, and with that belief, change happens.  We can see this in Roots & Shoots projects across the globe. From the ingenious ideas of individuals and small groups, thousands of projects have grown, leading to improvement in the lives of countless people, animals and the environments. Projects range hugely – from saplings planted in Tanzania that have now grown into forests, to diversity awareness to creating safe spaces for teenage girls to express ideas – but they’re all based on three central aims:

  1. To foster respect and compassion for all living things
  2. To promote understanding of all cultures and beliefs
  3. To inspire each individual to take action to make the world a better place for people, other animals, and the environment

This allows projects to focus on the problems specific to their areas and communities, but with crucial guidance and support of the Roots and Shoots network.

UCL Roots & Shoots

Like hundreds of thousands of others, here at UCL Roots & Shoots we’ve been inspired by Jane. It was founded almost a decade ago, and Georgia Law and I, the current project leaders, have been involved for the past three years.

Our project involves interactive, discussion-based workshops in primary schools around London. We tell the story of how food gets to our plates, from pollination to plastic packaging. The session’s aim is to show how we humans are an intrinsic part of nature, and that we are all powerful in making the world a better place.

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Running through our work shop ‘Where does food come from?’, which involves looking at the ingredients on a chocolate bar and drawing their journey on a map.

On top of that we instil the importance of learning, caring and sharing: Learn about your world, care about your world and share what you learn with others, so that they too, care.  Just like that, seeds of hope are planted. And with the support and guidance of the wider Roots & Shoots network, these seeds are growing.

In each session, we split the class into groups of roughly ten kids. Each table has two of our volunteers, and we guide them through a conversation. The general formula is:

  1. Ask a question about a problem, to gauge how much they know
  2. Play a game that teaches them about the problem
  3. Finish off by discussing what the solutions could be

In this way, three different issues are covered per session. We have two different flavours; the timeline of food, which covers habitat loss, fertilisers and pesticides, and food waste, and the origin of food, which covers overfishing, plastics and where food comes from. We end the session by reiterating the Learn Care Share message, urging them to learn more, care more and tell everyone they know about what they have learnt.

One school, Brindishe manor, took this to the next level. After our session last year, they went on to write letters about plastic to Sir David Attenborough, Theresa May, Prince Philip, and other well-known people in the UK. It was fantastic to see their wall full of written replies from these influential figures, and see how our sessions do not end when we leave the classroom!

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The responses to letters about plastic by students at Brindishe Manor Primary School, from people such as Sir David Attenborough, Theresa May and Prince Phillip.

How can you get involved?

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, please check out our Facebook page, Instagram and blog, for more about who we are and what we do! You can also check out our platform on the UCL Volunteering Services Unit here!

We are in the process of gearing up for the new term, and we’d love you to get involved –come along to our training session at 5pm in the UCL Anatomy hub on 17th January 2019!

Thank you so much for reading, and hopefully see some of you at the meeting!

About the author: Susie Cramp is a 4th-year MSci Biodiversity and Conservation student at UCL, and the co-project leader of UCL Roots & Shoots

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