Thursday, January 16, 2014

Schools : Dian Fossey, a great woman in the mist

Google doodle Dian Fossey's 82nd birthday

Wow ! Here I am writing about a new Google Doodle. it's a resource that we can't miss to introduce a new subject in our lessons or just to surprise students with something different as a motivation to know more about a special woman they saw on Google homepage - you know students are the Google Gen - but don't have a clue. Or may be yes, they have. Who knows? We always have the smartest kids in the classroom right?
Google is celebrating the 82nd birthday of the American zoologist Dian Fossey. The doodle features a group of gorillas, with one touching Dian Fossey’s hair while she takes notes.
Another great woman breaking gender barrier? Remember Amelia Earhart ? Yes, great women that broke gender barrier following their dreams on dangerous careers.

Gorillas in the Mist
Michael Apted, 1988
Everybody watched the film Gorillas in the Mist. The Story of Dian Fossey (1988) starring Sigourney Weaver as the naturalist Dian Fossey. It tells the true-life story of her work in Rwanda with Mountain Gorillas and was nominated for five Academy Awards

Gorillas in the Mist
Dian Fossey, 1983

Based on Portions of Dian Fossey's Gorillas in the Mist (1983) and the Hayes article. The book covers Fossey's scientific career in great detail.

  • Some biographic information:
Fossey an American zoologist studied gorillas living in the mountain forests of Rwanda, Africa, in great depth over a period of 18 years.

Her extensive research greatly enriched the scientific community’s understanding of mountain gorillas.

Dian Fossey

According to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, which is dedicated to the conservation and protection of gorillas, Dian Fossey's early interest in animals and her childhood dream of becoming a veterinarian. 

After studying the subject at San Jose State College, she changed her major to occupational therapy. However, her love for animals never faltered, and she was at the same time becoming increasingly interested in Africa.

National Geographic, 1970

Revealed in 1970 by National Geographic cover, which shows Fossey touching the hand of a wild gorilla, she obtained her Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Cambridge in 1974, at age 42. 

By 1966, she had won funding from the National Geographic Society and the Wilkie Brothers’ Foundation to begin a research project in the Congo.  She had to move the study to Rwanda due the political situation.

She is considered as a reference in the defense of animal rights, and was one of the first Americans to settle in Africa, adapting to the lifestyle and local traditions.

In 1967, she founded the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda's Parc National des Volcans.

Sigourney Weaver | Dian Fossey
credits Reuters
Fossey died in 1985 when she was killed in her cabin in Karisoke. Theories about Dian Fossey’s murder are varied but have never been fully resolved.

The Digit Fund, which she created to finance her anti-poaching patrols (1978), was renamed the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International following her death. 

Thirty years later, Dian Fossey was laid to rest in the graveyard behind her cabin at Karisoke, among her gorilla friends and next to her beloved Digit.

Just three years after her death, her life story was made into the 1988 film Gorillas in the Mist starring Sigourney Weaver.


“When you realize the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate on the preservation of the future.” 

Dian Fossey, Gorillas in the Mist

As my usual readers, teachers and parents, know, I plead for Environmental education in every school curriculumMy goal is to help students to appreciate and understand the science of ecology, and subsequently gain the capacity to apply it to their lives becoming a new generation of environmentalists.

Linking school success with individual student growth controls for factors outside the classroom that may affect an individual student’s ability to learn. I write about it since the beginning of this blog.

Dian Fossey

But Dian Fossey is more than an ecologist. She is a woman researcher (there are not many in the field). So, she can be a good reference for girls students at school. Later, in college, young women can become researchers in the fields of ecology and zoology and other fields in science.

This effort will translate into a citizenry that is more motivated, competent and confident to protect and improve the quality of the environment and wild animals.

Dian Fossey
credits: The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International

My post celebrates Dian Fossey. I expect to help improve the understanding and appreciation of the science of ecology in Education.

As teachers, we can create a customized program that focuses on activities and research to enhance students enthusiasm and understanding for ecology or zoology.

The centerpiece is motivating students for the resources studies: documents, maps, newspaper articles, oral histories or photographs, videos, films, from which students are asked to gather, examine, analyze information, discuss and synthesize insights. 

  • Other resources: Video with Dian Fossey:


Making friends with Mountain Gorillas | National Geographic

Fossey also critised touristic programs, often paid for by international conservation organisations that interfere with both research and tranquilty of wild animals. 

I can't agree more after the last newon a safari in the Kruger National Park, South Africa, where an elephant was killed.
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