As Disney Conservation Fund celebrates two decades of conservation efforts to reverse the decline of endangered animals around the world, that is only half the story. The real legacy lies in their continued commitment to the future: to increase the time kids spend in nature, and to engage them in the process of conservation. To this end, they have collaborated with and supported numerous programs around the world. One such program is “Roots & Shoots,” founded by Dr. Jane Goodall, who spoke about their partnership recently at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Roots & Shoots

Scarlett Macaw, appearing at Animal Kingdom’s Disney Conservation Fund Event. Photo credit: Kymri Wilt / Photo TravelingMom


“You’ve probably heard people talk about conservation. Well, conservation isn’t just the business of a few people. It’s a matter that concerns all of us.” – Walt Disney, 1950

As the Disney Conservation Fund marks its 20th birthday this year, there is certainly much to celebrate. For the past two decades, the Disney Conservation Fund has developed global partnerships in environmental conservation, animal welfare, sustainability, and educational programs affecting many people and places on our planet. But along with such legacy comes great responsibility. Naturally, Disney has a far-reaching impact: they have the name, the means, and most importantly, the desire to conserve and protect the planet. While there is cause to celebrate, this is no time for resting on laurels. In the big picture, they – and we – are only just getting started. Perhaps the most important aspect of the Disney Conservation Fund is their two-part commitment to the future: Increase the Time and Reverse the Decline. I’ll get into the second part in a second post, but right now let’s look at ways that Disney, in partnership with the Jane Goodall Foundation, is working toward the first part with Roots & Shoots.

Increase the Time

These days, kids seem to spend more time focused on a screen than in nature: doing schoolwork at computers, homework on iPads, and texting and watching videos on phones. This is unfortunately apparent when travelling – kids are glued to their devices instead of appreciating the scenery around them. We have a responsibility to our children to keep them engaged with the natural world and make sure they get plenty of fresh air and hands-on time with the earth. We all need to work to increase the time spent in nature for the next generation.

Here’s what Dr. Jane Goodall says about her childhood time spent in nature:

She makes the point that she was born with a love for animals, and was lucky to have had a mother who encouraged her. As mothers (and fathers), we have an important role to play. As our children grow, we must continue to encourage them to be curious about animals and nature as they grow up. All too quickly, play-dates in the park become hours in front of the television. As they get older, more and more technology and devices get between kids and their experience of nature. Here are some simple ideas to encourage your growing kids to spend more time in nature:

Disney Conservation Fund and Dr. Jane Goodall - Roots & Shoots

Photographing flowers is a great way to increase the time kids spend in nature. Photo credit: Kymri Wilt / Photo TravelingMom

* Go climb a tree. I mean really, go climb a tree!

* Walk barefoot on the beach, lakeshore, or riverbank. Pick up any trash you find.

* Sit at a park and listen to birds, keep track of how many different ones you hear.

* Take pictures of flowers, as many as you can find on a walk. (device allowed)

And here are a couple of ideas that require bigger planning:

* Dedicate an entire family trip to Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World.

* Participate in, or organize your own local chapter of Roots & Shoots.

What is Roots & Shoots?

Roots & Shoots is a global program founded by Dr. Jane Goodall whose vision is “to place the power and resources for creating practical solutions to big challenges in the hands of the young people.”  The Disney Conservation Fund has been collaborating with Dr. Jane Goodall since 1996, and has played a large part in support for “Roots & Shoots” programs around the world. Speaking at a recent event celebrating 20 years of collaboration, here’s what Dr. Jane Goodall had to say about Roots & Shoots.

A Traveling Mom’s Roots & Shoots

As Dr. Jane Goodall spoke about Roots & Shoots, I could hardly stand still (evident in the handheld video). I wanted to raise my hand and share how my own family’s participation in our local Roots & Shoots chapter, when my daughter was just in kindergarten, shaped the way she grew up, the way she interacts with nature, and the choices she makes now that she is a teenager.

How We Live

Just like Dr. Goodall, my daughter was born with a love for animals, and she has parents who encourage and foster her continued love for animals and appreciation for nature. Born to two vegetarian parents, as a baby, she had no opportunity to eat meat at home. But now that’s she’s a teenager old enough to make her own choices, she still chooses not to eat animals of any kind. When asked her reason, she simply says, “It’s just the right thing to do…not killing animals.”

How Important is Travel?

Perhaps the mere fact that my daughter, at age 14, has already visited 32 countries, is answer enough. But more than anything else, it’s the opportunity to view wildlife and spend time in nature that influence our family travel destination choices. Even when we took our first family trip to Walt Disney World, we stayed as close to Animal Kingdom as possible, watching wildlife from our balcony at Kidani Village, and spending more time at Animal Kingdom than any other park. At age 7, my daughter and her grandparents went with us on their first African safari, visiting South Africa and Namibia.

Roots & Shoots encourages everyone to get to know our fellow earth creatures.

Traveling Mom Kymri Wilt and her daughter come face to face with a Sea Lion in the Galapagos Islands. Photo credit: (Husband of) Kymri Wilt / Photo TravelingMom

A few years ago, we visited the Galapagos Islands, which is probably the best place on the map for older kids and tweens to intimately learn about nature, animals, the ocean, and the planet. And most recently, we returned from our third trip to Costa Rica – our family favorite for the variety of animals and eco-friendly lodgings.

How Will You Increase the Time?

Efforts to increase the time spent in nature can be as simple as picking up trash at the beach or in the park, or as grand as taking a safari in Africa for your next family vacation. Whether your action is local or global, the important thing to remember is this:

“Every single one of us matters, and has a role to play… every single day we make a difference.” – Dr. Jane Goodall, 2016