[22 September 2008 - By Steven Dahlberg - Reporting from the Global Creative Leadership Summit] Jane Goodall, UN Messenger of Peace, made a gentle-yet-impassioned plea for society to support and encourage children's natural creaivity.
Drawing from her decades of work studying chimpanzees, she described how chimpanzee childhood is marked by sheer joy and the freedom to explore. She said that by exploring the social and physical world around them, chimpanzees learn not only their own strengths and weaknesses, but those of others around them, too. Chimps are curious, inventive and adaptive. They are able to pass on learning to others around them.
This natural creativity in early childhood is not unlike that of human childhood.
Yet, "we are depriving children of their childhood," Dr. Goodall said, because of the over-structuring of their lives and free time.
Dr. Goodall described the Roots & Shoots program that she founded to emphasize experiential learning with a focus on the outdoors and nature -- with its goal of "no child left inside." She said Roots & Shoots helps children develop their own passion, empowers them to come up with their own ideas, and provides opportunities for hands-on action in their communities.
Roots & Shoots participants choose projects that will positively impact people, animals and the environment. Through these hands-on experiences, Dr. Goodall hopes young people gain a better understanding of what it means to "live in harmony."
"Every single one of us makes a difference," she said, adding that she frequently speaks with young people whom have never been told this. "We all have a choice what kind of impact we'll make."