Did you know that when Dr. Jane first came to Gombe National Park to observe chimpanzees, her mother, Vanne, was with her?
At first, the chimpanzees fled whenever they saw Jane. But she persisted, watching from a distance with binoculars, and gradually the chimpanzees allowed her closer. One day in November 1960 she saw chimpanzees David Greybeard and Goliath strip leaves off twigs to make tools for fishing termites out of a termite mound. Up until this time, scientists thought humans were the only species to make tools, but here was evidence to the contrary!
One key to success for Dr. Jane, while she was at Gombe, was her ability to be a keen observer. Although most people will not have the opportunity to observe wild chimpanzees, students need to be sharp observers because careful observations are the foundation of scientific inquiry – what we observe determines the questions we ask.
Activity: Become an Observer
– Examine a stainless steel spoon and describe the difference in the reflections of the inner and outer side of the curved surfaces. Did you notice this before?
– Select an object and describe it using as many of your senses as possible and then share your description of it and see if another person can guess what it is. Be sure not to mention the name of your object in the description.
– Find and carefully observe a natural object in your environment from at least three different perspectives (e.g. up close, a few feet away, etc.) Write down three observations from each perspective and hypotheses for what you see. Discuss how the observations were affected by perspective and how the explanation changed with the addition of information.
– Now that you’ve practiced your observation skills, what are some of the things you notice about Dr. Jane’s Gombe home?