Nebraskan Youth Leading the Charge in Compassionate Crane Conservation


Central Nebraska Roots & Shoots’ project, “Common Ground Program,”  is our March 2018 Roots & Shoots Project of the Month! See more projects we love here.

When you live right next to the Platte River and its adjacent prairie ecosystem, you know a thing or two about cranes. For students of Grand Island Public Schools, their backyard is a migratory stopover habitat for endangered whooping cranes whose wild population is less than 300.  And every spring, the landscape becomes a pitstop for 80 percent of the world’s sandhill crane population.  Central Nebraska Roots & Shoots students are taking part in an animal-focused service learning campaign to help protect these birds and learn compassionate land management skills.

The young leaders are collaborating with Crane Trust, an organization that “protects and manages 10,000 acres of habitat along the river and endeavors to connect people with nature.” In addition to participating in weekly service work at the Crane Trust Nature and Visitors Center, the students receive educational programming about migratory bird species and land management.

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Their campaign goals are to clear 500 invasive young eastern red cedar trees out of the native prairie, add a quarter mile of new hiking trail, and create a new viewing blind for tourists to observe birds without disturbing them. The group leaders hope that by participating in these conservation activities, students will develop empathy and an appreciation for the Platte River ecosystem.

The compassionate crane conservation leaders understand the importance of reflection on their service learning journey. By examining the effects of their project, students get to see exactly how the ecosystem benefits from their work. In addition, students and teachers are incorporating the Roots & Shoots Compassionate Leadership Skills and Traits into their project discussions. Group leaders point out when they see students exhibiting these traits, like empathy or resiliency, and group members are encouraged to self-assess along the way. By the completion of their project, students will have built upon their existing traits and mastered new skills.

Sandhill cranes on the central Platte river in Nebraska. Credit: USFWS

Sandhill cranes on the central Platte river in Nebraska. Credit: USFWS

As of March 2018, this project is in full swing and the hope is that the Central Nebraska Roots & Shoots’ Common Ground Program will continue and expand.

To learn more about the Crane Trust Nature and Visitors Center, click here.

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The Jane Goodall Institute is a global community conservation organization that advances the vision and work of Dr. Jane Goodall. By protecting chimpanzees and inspiring people to conserve the natural world we all share, we improve the lives of people, animals and the environment. Everything is connected—everyone can make a difference.

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About Author

Susan Janowsky is a Jane Goodall Institute Roots & Shoots intern and current senior at Tufts University studying Art History and Anthropology with a focus on Human-Animal Interaction. On campus she is involved in Tufts Animal Welfare, Hillel, and Ski Team. Her passion for animals and conservation has led her to where she is today. Susan has been on an archeological dig in Belize, worked with camels in New York, and has a very handsome labradoodle, Pepper.