Adventures With Jane Goodall: A Kid’s Guide to Her Life of Chimpanzees and Activism

Jane Goodall lived among the chimpanzees in Africa. Her life is the closest real life representation we have to Tarzan's adventures in the jungle.

Eva Hagan - Author
By

Apr. 12 2024, Updated 9:09 a.m. ET

Dr. Jane Goodall holds her face to an infant chimpanzee.
Source: Getty Images

Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, "UN Messenger of Peace," is an ethologist, conservationist, and activist, most known for her ground-breaking research of chimpanzee behavior and evolution.

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Jane Goodall's work helped shape a lot of what we know about the similarities between chimpanzees and humans today, and there is so much to learn from her story.

If you're teaching your youngsters about Dr. Goodall's expansive body of work, here are a few things that might help.

An old photo of a chimpanzee walking in the forest while Jane Goodall stands in the back holding up a camera.
Source: Getty Images
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A kid's guide to Jane Goodall's biography.

Before Dr. Jane Goodall became the famous wildlife biologist we all know today, she was just a kid living in London with parents with a growing fascination for animals. In 1934, Jane Goodall was born in London, England to her parents, Mortimer Herbert Morris-Goodall and Margaret Myfanwe Joseph.

According to Khan Academy, Jane was curious about wildlife from a very early age. At the age of four, Jane hid in a henhouse for several hours to wait for a hen to lay an egg. However, while Jane was patiently waiting for a miracle to happen, her parents had no idea where she had gone, and even called the police to report her missing!

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A black and white photo of Jane Goodall where she wears a black coat and looks off in the distance as her hair flies in the wind.
Source: Getty Images

Jane first fell in love with the idea of studying animals in Africa after a childhood of reading adventurous tales such as those of Dr. Dolittle and Tarzan. However, after graduating from secondary school, she could not afford a college education and instead spent her time working to save money to pursue her dreams. Jane worked hard, and when she was 23, she had saved enough money to visit a friend in Nairobi, Kenya, per National Geographic.

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In 1957, Jane met Dr. Louis Leakey, a famed paleoanthropologist who studied ancient human fossils. Dr. Leakey hired Jane to work with him, and eventually, in 1960, when she was just 26, Leakey sent her to study and live among chimpanzees in Tanzania at Gombe Stream National Park, per the National Geographic Society.

While in Tanzania, Jane made five scientific discoveries about chimpanzee behavior that would change the future of primate research. She learned that chimpanzees ate both meat and plants and were not vegetarian as previous research hypothesized. She also learned that chimpanzees were able to build tools, and sometimes fight against each other in acts of war.

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While chimps can be violent like humans, they can also be kind and loving like humans. According to the Jane Goodall Institute, Jane discovered that baby chimpanzees are very close with their mothers and can even learn to comfort one another.

Jane Goodall sits at a panel wearing a black turtleneck with a chimp stuffed animal blurry in the foreground.
Source: Getty Images
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Here are some fun facts about Jane Goodall:

There's no doubt in the fact that Dr. Jane Goodall is one impressive woman. Here are some fun facts to prove she only gets more interesting the more you know.

  1. Jane Goodall was the first person to study chimpanzees in the wild, per National Geographic Kids.

  2. Her first introduction to chimpanzees was a stuffed animal chimp named Jubilee from her father, per Khan Academy.

  3. Jane Goodall eats a vegan diet to advocate for animal rights, the environment, and also for her health, per the AARP.

  4. Although Jane Goodall never went to college, she was awarded a Ph.D. in ethology—the study of animal behavior—from the University of Cambridge, per Britannica.

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Looking for more adventure? Here are some videos about Jane Goodall.

Jane Goodall's story is inspiring, and also a reminder that you should never give up on your dreams.

If you are interested in continuing to learn more about it, here's a fun bedtime story to fall asleep to.

Or, consider going on a little adventure with Jane in the forest!

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