Love Letters: Falero, the little heart-breaker

Written By: Cathy McCabe, JGI Canada Volunteer
Category: Youth Power

Dear Falero,

I will love if I saved you forever. I’m so happy you are safe with somebody in the sanctuary with chimps. I love you. What do you love to eat?

Love, Logan”

Three-year-old Falero, one of the younger orphan chimps at our Tchimpounga sanctuary, has captured the hearts of Giselle Verna’s kindergarten class.  Fan mail sent to Falero includes words of comfort and hope that the young chimp receives an endless supply of bananas.

Every year over the past decade, Giselle’s class in Woodbridge, Ontario, has symbolically adopted a different animal. “The children fundraise to adopt the animal,” explains Giselle, “and then we do a whole study on them for a few months, learning about them and how they are endangered.” This year, they adopted Falero.

Since becoming Chimp Guardians, the kindergartners are busy learning everything they can about great apes.

The class began learning about Dr. Goodall and chimpanzees by reading books, watching videos and making different craft projects. Giselle explains that the children built dioramas on great apes. “The children had to choose between bonobos, orangutans, chimpanzees, and gorillas and then they did a presentation each on their chosen great ape.”

The class even decided to transform their space into a mini Gombe Stream National Park. Not only does the classroom now feature paper trees and a sparkling waterfall, but Jane’s Gombe Research Centre has been recreated as well. A desk has been set up with a microscope, binoculars and a typewriter thanks to donations from parents. The students love recording their observations here, asking “Is the Jane Goodall centre open?” whenever they have free play time.

The classroom has been transformed from school space to a mini Gombe Stream National Park.

Surrounded by inspiration from Jane and the chimpanzees, the students were ready to begin the next stage of their Roots & Shoots program: community mapping. With a little help from their assistant teacher, Miss Amanda, they counted each of the classrooms and created a map of their school, discovering the kitchen was the only room with a recycling bin. The students submitted a letter asking for blue bins in classrooms and are now negotiating with administrative staff as to how many are needed.

The action didn’t stop there! After watching the recent Forest is Calling video, where Dr. Goodall explains the impact of cellphones on the environment and why they should be recycled, the students decided to act. They plan to survey their parents, asking if they recycle batteries and cellphones. Giselle says the class is looking into making the school a battery collection site for the community.

Students map their school during the second step of their Roots & Shoots project.

“I think they are very proud of implementing recycling in their own school, I think that’s empowered them,” says Giselle. She plans on incorporating the Roots & Shoots program into her classroom every year, explaining she would like her students to “never underestimate the power that they have.”