Roots & Shoots Archives - Page 4 of 7 - Eva Varga

October 10, 20112

“Roots creep underground everywhere and make a firm foundation. Shoots seem very weak, but to reach the light, they can break open brick walls. Imagine that the brick walls are all the problems we have inflicted on our planet. Hundreds of thousands of roots & shoots, hundreds of thousands of young people around the world, can break through these walls. We CAN change the world.”   ~ Dr. Jane

I first met Jane Goodall at an Oregon Science Teachers Association (OSTA) Convention in the fall of 1997. She greeted us with her infamous pant-hoot and spoke of her desire to see young people come together to make the world a better place.  I of course knew who Jane was .. but this was the first time I had heard of Roots & Shoots. Her message touched me that evening. I purchased her book, Reason for Hope, and as she signed my copy, I informed her that she had always been an inspiration to me but as of today, I would do my part as well.  I wanted to create a Roots & Shoots group of my own.

A dream fulfilled by my children, Oct 2011

I thereby returned to the classroom and immediately started an after-school Roots & Shoots group at one of the two elementary schools at which I worked. Twice a month, a group of students in grades 4-6th gathered in my classroom.  We engaged in a variety of activities and projects … each addressing one of the three goals of Roots & Shoots:  Care and Concern for Animals, Care and Concern for the Environment, and Care and Concern for the Community.  In the fall of 2000, we were invited to participate in a Roots & Shoots Summit in Seattle, Washington.  One student was able to join me … many were involved in sports or couldn’t afford the airfare (we had limited time to raise funds).   We spent the entire day with Roots & Shoots groups from all over the Pacific Northwest; sharing our projects with one another, networking, and listening to Dr. Jane share stories of what had inspired her as a young girl.  It was a wonderful experience for us both.

Meeting Dr. Jane for a second time with a student

Though I left the formal classroom setting when my daughter was born, I maintained my Roots & Shoots membership.  Shortly after my son was born in 2005, I had an opportunity to hear Dr. Jane talk again.  Her presence is so captivating … so at peace.  I knew it was time to again facilitate a group and I thereby started a group for preschoolers.  My children have thereby grown up with Roots & Shoots being an integral part of their lives.  I talk about Dr. Jane frequently and I love sharing her stories with the children.

Before we moved to Northern California, I had known that Dr. Jane was coming to Oregon.  Originally, I had planned to volunteer at the public lecture she was going to give in Bend … but with our move .. that plan changed.  However, I wasn’t going to allow an opportunity for my children to meet her to pass us by.  We thereby made the 7 hour drive to Salem for the Oregon Roots & Shoots Summit.

Clipping invasive blackberry vines
Raking the vines that others had clipped

We arrived in the morning and were thereby able to take part in a service learning project close to our hearts … stream bank restoration; removing invasive blackberry vines. In the afternoon, we took part in the giant peace dove parade and visited the booths of the other groups and several non-profits.

At our booth with Grandma awaiting Dr Jane’s arrival

We had a booth ourselves as well … we chose to exhibit photographs of our projects as well as our nature journals.  Several people showed an interest in how we undertook the interpretive sign project.  Everyone was impressed with the quality of the kids’ illustrations.

Dr. Jane arrives at our booth
Sharing our journals & projects

She posed for a picture with us and suggested the kids hold their journals for the photograph.  As she stepped away she remarked, “Your drawings look like those of an 18-year old.”  The kids were all smiles after that and remarkably, we soon had a small crowd of people curious about our work.

Linked to Hip Homeschool Hop 10/18/11

April 15, 2011

When I was a little girl, I vividly recall going to Beaver Hill with my classmates to plant trees with the forest service. It was one of my most memorable field trips … not because of the distance we traveled but because of the impact I we made. I knew we were planting trees that would grow and mature in our lifetime. Each time I drive south on Hwy 101, I look out the window and recall that day.

When I saw the advertisement for a similar opportunity here with Parks & Rec, I knew immediately that this was a perfect project for our Roots & Shoots group. I thereby invited the other families and made plans to spend the morning at the park planting trees. They shared my enthusiasm and most interesting, one mom had grown up in the area and could recall the fire that burned through the area in the early 90s that we were now replanting.

We drove out to the park and met with the Parks & Rec coordinator, Eric.  Along the way, he talked and provided us with a little history of the area.  We were surprised to learn that a train trellis had actually been built through here at the height of the logging industry in the area.

We got started right away and everyone had a good time.  The weather wasn’t ideal (moments of gropple, rain, wind and even glorious sun), however, and a few of our young workers got quite cold.  They thereby planted about a dozen or so trees and then opted to head back home.  I remained with the 3 diehards and we continued to work another 2 hours.  In the end, our group planted close to 100 trees and put protective tubes around many of the previous planted trees (the previous group had run out of the tubes).

These two energetic young men (pictured below) also spent a good deal of time digging a trench … all the while talking about the advantage a trench was during war.  Where they came up with this, I have no idea … but it kept them engaged for a good hour.  I asked them how many trees they thought they might have been able to plant had they not spent so much time digging their trench but they paid me no mind.  They were having a good time … they were outside getting dirty … that was all that mattered.

When we returned home, we were treated to a wonderful bowl of chicken soup … homemade by one of the moms.  The kiddos played a while and the moms chatted.  It was a delightful day … despite the weather.

February 19, 20112

For the past 6 years (and an additional 6 years when I was in the public school), I have coordinated a Roots & Shoots club for my kiddos.  Roots & Shoots is the Jane Goodall Institute’s global environmental and humanitarian youth program.  It is a powerful, youth-driven, global network of tens of thousands of members in more than 120 countries.

Together, youth from pre-K through college take action to make the world a better place for people, animals and the environment.  I love the concept of Roots & Shoots and have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of this organization.

Care packages for our service men and women on Veteran’s Day

The projects and activities in which Roots & Shoots groups take part are as diverse as the groups themselves.  The membership requirements are minimal, the coordinator’s handbook states that groups must:

  • plan and implement at least one on-going community service project each year;
  • address at least one of the three Roots & Shoots  themes: the environment, animals and the human community;
  • submit an activity report to the Roots & Shoots national office at least twice each year; and
  • pay the membership fee and update their contact information annually.
Interpretive sign benefiting our community wildlife

To receive a Certificate of Recognition and be considered an “active group” you must:

  • plan and implement service projects that cover all three Roots & Shoots themes.  This could mean one of two things:
    • plan at least 3 different projects a year that address care and concern for the environment, care and concern for animals and care and concern for the community;
    • plan one or two larger projects that cover more than one of the major themes.  Some groups focus on one year-long project that addresses all three themes.
  • submit at least 3 activity reports and a year-long portfolio.

We have earned a Certificate of Recognition each year and look forward to someday taking part in the leadership programs. We hope to someday also attend a Roots & Shoots summit whereby we can meet other groups.

February 12, 20111

A few weeks ago, our Roots & Shoots club gathered to learn a little more about ecology.  I first gathered everyone together for a mini-lesson on a few key terms:

  • Ecology
  • Habitat
  • Niche
  • Food Chains
  • Food Web

I then read aloud a favorite book,  In the Snow, Whose Been Here?  by Lindsay Barrett George.  The kids enjoyed trying to guess which animal had been there based on the clues in the illustrations.  Though my own kiddos have previously read this book, as well as George’s others (In the Woods…, In the Garden…, and Around the Pond…) it is always a treat to revisit.  Remarkably, not all their guesses were accurate.

We then gathered around the table to construct a habitat of choice using recycled 2-liter bottles.  I was a little surprised that everyone chose the same … Terra Aqua Columns, but then I think I would have as well.

They were easy to construct and the kids were so intrigued that many went home and constructed a variety of the others in the book.  One little guy, even requested to make Terra Aqua Columns as a part of his birthday party the following week.  How cool is that?!

Construction in Progress

Water, as it cycles between land, ocean and atmosphere, forms the major link between the terrestrial world and the aquatic world. Water drips off rooftops, flows over roads, and flows down the drain of our kitchen sink. It percolates through the soils of fields and forests and eventually finds its way into rivers, lakes, and oceans.

During its journey, water will pick up leaf litter, soil, nutrients, agricultural chemicals, road salts and gasoline from cars, all of which have profound impacts on life in aquatic systems. Water can also be filtered or purified as it percolates through soil.

Construct Your Own Terra Aqua Column

A Terra Aqua Column provides students with a model to explore the link between land and water. The model has three basic components: soil, water and plants.


  • One 2-liter soda bottle
  • One bottle cap
  • Wicking material-fabric interfacing or cotton string
  • Utility knife (adults use recommended)
  • Awl or electric drill
  • Water, soil and plants


Step 1 – Remove label from the 2-liter bottle. Cut bottle 1 cm below shoulder. 

Step 2 – Poke a 1cm hole in the bottle cap with the awl. Alternatively, you can drill a hole with an electric drill.

Step 3 – Thread a thoroughly wet wick strip through bottle top, invert top, and set into base. Wick should reach bottom ofreservoir and thread loosely through cap. 

Step 4 – Fill reservoir or bottom chamber with water. Add soil and plants to the top chamber. To be effective, the wick should run up into soil, not be laying along a side of the bottle. For better drainage, place a layer of gravel or sand in the bottom of the top chamber.

~ ~ ~

The idea for this activity came from a book titled, Bottle Biology.   Within it’s pages, students learn how to explore science and the environment using soda bottles and other recyclable materials. Model a rain forest and grow different plants, create a spider habitat, observe the lifecycle of a slime mold, explore an ecosystem or make Korean kimchee.

You can pursue these and other scientific investigations with over 20 bottle constructions, including the Ecocolumn, the Predator-Prey Column, the Niche Kit and the Terra Aqua Column. Each chapter contains background information, activities and teaching tips.

Here you can see our completed Terra Aqua Columns as well as a Decomposition Column (the tall green one) in the background.  The kiddos have had a great time exploring these mini habitats. They are looking forward to creating a Predator-Prey Column and have ordered a preying mantis egg case specifically for the cause.

September 20, 2010

Jane Goodall carries her message of peace with the natural world through her worldwide outreach efforts, the mission and work of the Jane Goodall Institute, and especially through the Institute’s global environmental and humanitarian youth program, Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots.

“To achieve global peace, we must not only stop fighting each other, but also stop destroying the natural world.”

Each year, in her role as a UN Messenger of Peace, Dr. Goodall calls upon members and friends of Roots & Shoots to celebrate the annual UN International Day of Peace on September 21. Through projects that promote peace among people and the natural world, as well as the symbolic “flying” of their signature Giant Peace Dove Puppets, Roots & Shoots members show their dedication to creating a better, more peaceful future for generations to come.

As I hoped to have several families gather to celebrate the completion of our interpretive sign project, I also planned to fly a giant peace dove for the first time in recognition of Roots & Shoots groups world-wide.

When we woke this morning the weather threatened to ruin our plans. It was pouring down rain for most of the morning. It fortunately cleared off by early afternoon and we were able to proceed. It was very windy however, and our peace dove was a little unwieldy for the kiddos.  I had hoped to get a group picture in front of the dove – moms and kids both – but alas, there is always next year.

September 19, 20104

I live in a subdivision with a large, open meadow surrounding a pond.  Back in the spring of 2008, the kids in my Roots & Shoots club spent an afternoon illustrating some of the plants and animals that are common to this area.   As the kids worked diligently, inspiration struck … Why don’t we create a field guide to the flora & fauna of our subdivision?

I encouraged them to draw several more animals so that the book would be more comprehensive.  I then scanned in all their images and asked many of the older students to write a few facts about each.  As many of our members were very young and were not yet writing … some children exhibited only one drawing while a small few had several illustrations and accompanying text.  For the pictures that lacked written information, I supplied it myself.  I then utilized to publish the book. Our intention was to sell copies to our neighbors as a fund-raiser, but one book was just under $20 so we forgo that idea.

Yet, their illustrations were so good … I needed to find a way to share them with our community.  Late in year, I recalled the interpretive sign projects I had done with my students when I was teaching in the public school.  At the time, we used grant money to fun the construction of the signs but my vision was to ask each homeowner to donate just one dollar to the project.  I was confidant we would succeed if all the members pulled together.

In the spring of 2009, I asked each of the parents to canvas their loop within the subdivision … ensuring we would each speak to the neighbors we knew best.  To my chagrin, no one was willing to do this but each family whose child’s artwork was featured contributed $20.  We were thereby able to pay for the initial part of the sign to be done … putting the children’s artwork onto the plastic weather-resistant board. [Admin Note :: We saved a significant amount of money because I was able to do all the graphics work.]  Raising the remaining funds to frame the board and thereby erect the sign in the meadow was left up to me.

As I began to go door to door, the farther away from my own home I worked, the less inclined the residents were to support the project.  Even though my kiddos accompanied me and I had sample photographs, they weren’t certain what to think of me.  This was going to be impossible, I realized, so I didn’t even finish my loop.  Instead, I decided to present the project at an HOA meeting.

I brought the sign to an HOA meeting in November ’09 … and upon request, also submitted a letter of request to the our HOA quarterly newsletter.  Mistakenly, though they had my letter on hand, it wasn’t included in the newsletter that came out in January.  We thereby had to wait for the next issue in March 2010.  The months that followed were very humbling … I received a small handful of letters from residents within the community that wanted to support our project.  These donations doubled what we had been able to collect previously but were still not quite enough.  I was beginning to think the project was going to come to a dead-end.

Then from out of the blue, I received a phone call from one of the guys on the finance committee. He inquired about our progress and about how much the project was estimated to cost.  Since we first began to pursue this, I had learned that the framing portion was going to be significantly more than they had anticipated.  My contact guy at the sign manufacturer had actually delayed getting back to me for a couple of weeks as he didn’t want to disappoint me.  I demurely explained this to the finance guy in hopes we could brainstorm alternatives means of fundraising.  To me delight and surprise, however, he informed me that the committee had agreed to fund whatever amount we were short (with a maximum of $250).   Thankfully, it was just enough!

The framing was completed in the middle of the summer 2010 and for several months it rested in my den as I worked to coordinate all the necessary parties.  This was proving to be a nightmare so I finally just picked a date.  In retrospect, I should have done this earlier because everything began to fall into place.

The landscape maintenance company was able to meet with me to determine the best location to erect the sign; a neighbor on the open space committee agreed to meet us with cement, a friend of mine lent me a post-hole digger; and another mom brought brownies to share!

I am so, so excited to see this project through.  It took more than 2 years and nearly $500 ~ but it is a life-time achievement of which we can all be proud.