Project Learning Tree & Sustainable Forestry Initiative are working together to teach students about the environment and actions they can take to conserve it.
Project Learning Tree (PLT) provides teachers with training and materials to teach students about trees, forests, and the environment and to take students outside to learn. Through fun and engaging, hands-on activities, students investigate environmental issues and make real changes that add up to improved habitat for wildlife, less waste and carbon emissions, energy and water savings for the environment and money savings for their schools.
“Students are really taking charge of their own learning and becoming active participants in what is happening in their schools,” Christina Stallings Roberson, education consultant and former Oklahoma Project Learning Tree coordinator, said. “These citizen scientists are the ones who are making recommendations to their school boards.”More than 4,000 schools across the country participate in PLT’s GreenSchools program, and 20,000 teachers attend PLT professional development workshops every year.
The PLT program began more than 40 years ago and recently found a new home at the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). Integrating PLT into SFI provides an opportunity for the program to expand its reach and impact. At the same time, PLT’s expertise will support SFI’s increasing focus on education, a key component of its community engagement work.
How PLT WorksPLT uses trees and forests as windows on the world to increase students’ understanding of the environment and actions they can take to conserve it. PLT provides educators working with students in PreK through grade 12 with multi-disciplinary instructional materials aligned with state and national education standards, professional development, and other resources to integrate environmental and sustainability education into lesson plans for all grades and subject areas. Throughout all its programs, PLT uses the outdoors to engage students in learning about the world around them.Teachers and school administrators that want to make their school more green and healthy can do so with the help of GreenSchools, PLT’s service-learning program. Students form a team with a student leader, and the team is facilitated by their teacher. Five PLT online investigations help students analyze their school’s environment in terms of:
- Energy use
- Waste and recycling
- Water consumption
- Indoor air quality
- School transportation
- Chemical use
- Physical site
Using the results of their investigations, student teams design a project and measure improvements. As funding permits, PLT provides GreenWorks! grants to support projects. The annual deadline to apply for a GreenWorks! grant is Sept. 30 and this year grants up to $1,000 are available.
Sample Student Projects—and SavingsStudents in grades pre-K through 12 participate in PLT. Projects range from preschoolers raising butterflies to high schoolers re-building campus running trails.Here are just a few examples of the measurable results:
- Energy: By analyzing energy use and implementing changes – like using the natural light admitted through classroom windows, rather than turning on electric lights in classrooms – students were able to save their school $100,000.
- Waste & Recycling: Students in the sixth to eighth grades conducted a waste audit and established a recycling and re-use plan, including composting, that reduced their school’s landfill waste by 40%.
- Physical Site: Through a school club, high school students planted 3,000 trees in a local watershed habitat to sequester an estimated 15 million tons of carbon over the lifespan of the trees.
According to Kathy McGlauflin, executive director of PLT and senior vice president of education with SFI, “As PLT moves into its fifth decade of teaching students how to think—not what to think—about the environment and their responsibility for it, we look forward to expanding this renowned program under SFI’s leadership.”
Kathy Abusow, President and CEO of SFI Inc., said, “We have big plans for the future and are committed to continuing PLT’s work as a high-quality education program. Ultimately, we would like to be able to say that every teacher across North America and beyond recognizes Project Learning Tree as an invaluable resource for professional development, environmental education curriculum, and taking children outdoors to learn.”
Find out more about the link between sustainable forestry and the environment and see how schools and communities can make a difference at sfiprogram.org.