California is one of the Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots program’s most energized, active locations. More than 10,500 students in the Eureka state are working to preserve and improve the environment, express care and concern for animals, and benefit the human community. Support from municipal and state governments is critical to our success, so we were thrilled at the end of last year when Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa endorsed us, and said he wants the program to expand to schools on his “high-priority” list.
"Schools with a Roots & Shoots program have seen increased engagement in the school community,” he wrote. “[They] report that students who participate show higher academic achievement and interest in continuing their education. Students gain real-life skills including problem solving, planning and leadership."
Since 2008, Roots & Shoots has worked with the Los Angeles Unified School District to develop and implement service-learning activities in after-school programs. Currently 40 schools are involved. Roots & Shoots provides expertise, staff support and a framework for integrating service and learning.
At the individual group level, R&S is youth-driven, guiding and supporting students as they identify and learn about problems in their communities and then take action. In California in 2009, students undertook projects such as
- testing water quality and sharing the results with community leaders
- planting native gardens
- cleaning up the Los Angeles River, and
- developing mentoring programs in elementary schools
In 2010, Roots & Shoots in California will expand its program to new schools in Los Angeles, beginning with Mayor Villaraigosa’s 12 high-priority "Partnership Schools
," followed by the mayor’s Infrastructure Academy
schools, which seek to reinvent science, technology, engineering, and math education by combining rigorous courses, service learning, and preparation and placement into jobs.
"System-wide engagement like this is the most effective ways to help schools and teachers build service learning programs – not only as a way to strengthen communities, but as a proven way to help build student self-esteem, engagement and leadership skills."