Dr. Jane Goodall, the renowned chimpanzee expert, carries a stuffed monkey with her just about everywhere she goes.
Goodall, 79, is quick to point out to the uninitiated that monkeys are not, in fact, chimpanzees. Then why is a woman best known for her work with chimpanzees always seen with a plush monkey?
The toy, "Mr. H," was given to Goodall 22 years ago, a gift from magician Gary Haun, who is legally blind but performs feats of wizardry on stage behind dark glasses, never letting kids know that he can't see.
It is a reminder that nothing is impossible, Goodall said.
"Every single day each of you live, you make some impact on the planet. You have choices as to what you do," the scientist told third, fourth, fifth and sixth graders at Alexander Valley School on Monday morning.
"In everything you do, you have a choice," she said, encouraging them to be the kid who picks up a single piece of litter every day.
Goodall spoke to every student at the school, sharing stories of her life among chimpanzees in the Tanzanian jungle studying the lives and habits of the primates.
Her work earned her accolades and fame. She was named Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire and United Nations Messenger of Peace.
Goodall earned world renown for her research and methodology. She named chimpanzees rather than numbering them and she interacted with them, coming into physical contact with some animals — practices that also garnered some criticism.
Her first contact with a male chimpanzee was a threatening whack on the head, she said. Her second was chimpanzee "David Greybeard's" refusal of an offered nut. Instead, he reached out and held her hand, Goodall told students.
"He very gently squeezed my fingers. He told me he didn't want the nut, but he was telling me he understood me," she said.
"She was amazing, very amazing," said fifth grader Gabriella Monahan.
Others were drawn to Goodall's determination as a young woman set on paying her way to Africa to study animals.
"When everyone doubted her when she was a little girl saying 'Oh, you can't do that,' I learned anyone can do anything if they just set their mind to it," said Shai Fichtelberg, a fifth grader.
Goodall has expanded the focus of her talks and professional campaigns beyond chimpanzees. The Jane Goodall Institute Roots and Shoots program provides strategies for getting students to embark on environmental and humanitarian projects.
Alexander Valley School has established a Roots and Shoots program, joining similar programs in 132 countries, Goodall said.
Goodall appeared at the school at the behest of Lynn and Jeff Horowitz, longtime supporters of the school who became friends with Goodall through environmental awareness campaigns.
"We just want to make these kids motivated," said Jeff Horowitz, founder of Avoided Deforestation Partners and owner of Rio Lago Ranch and Vineyard in Alexander Valley.
"I want them to be inspired to see that they can make a difference," Principal Bob Raines said. "It's within them already to make a difference right now."