The way America's youth learn about the environment will largely determine the future quality life for generations to come. Environmental education is necessary to help students understand the environmental challenges of not just today, but also of tomorrow. Quality environmental education teaches students the skills they need to be informed decision makers, and provides critical tools for a 21st century workforce faced with devising solutions to increasingly complex environmental issues, like climate change and energy.
Project Learning Tree® (PLT) is a program of the American Forest Foundation that uses the forest as a window on the world, engaging the next generation of America's thought-leaders and decision makers. We provide educators with peer-reviewed, award-winning environmental education curriculum resources that can be integrated into lesson plans for all grades and subject areas.
Developed in 1976, our 50-state network includes more than 500,000 trained educators and materials that cover the total environment. PLT in the classrooms helps educators teach tomorrow’s decision-makers how to think, not what to think, about complex environmental issues.
The Case for Environmental Education
A recent analysis by the National Center for Education Statistics determined that American students lag behind their international counterparts in science and math. Studies consistently show that when integrated into the core curricula or used as an integrating theme across the curriculum, environmental education increases student engagement in learning, improves student achievement and raises test scores.
A PLT School in Louisiana, for example, has received national recognition for its successful integration of environmental education to bolster student engagement and improve test scores. Oil City Elementary Magnet School was an underachieving school that infused PLT throughout the curriculum. By bringing students outside and using the environment to teach math, language arts, and other subjects, enrollment is up, and test scores now surpass the state average. The school was recently cited in Newsweek (Sept. 15, 2008) as part of a growing trend of school systems “going green” at little added cost.
Environmental education is not just about raising test scores for today's students; it is also about engaging and educating tomorrow's decision makers about environmental issues. Investments in green education and green schools will strengthen our economy by preparing the next generation for the green jobs of the future.
Project Learning Tree & Service Learning
For more than 30 years, Project Learning Tree has provided the training, resources and support teachers need to provide quality environmental education. PLT is one of the country’s most time-honored environmental education programs. But PLT is more than classroom curricula. PLT also encourages educators and students to transfer lessons learned into action.
Our service-learning programs, like GreenWorks! and GreenSchools!, provide powerful teaching opportunities to engage students in meaningful service through a process carefully integrated with learning objectives.
Our GreenWorks! grant program provides assistance to school community service projects. Through a GreenWorks! grant, High school environmental science, physics, and calculus students in Washington, DC turned garbage found in the Potomac River Watershed into a "Green-Skate Laboratory." Designed by physics students, this laboratory is used as a physics classroom and community recreation site.
The GreenSchools! program provides a blueprint for school communities to teach, learn, and engage together in creating a more green and healthy learning environment at their school. It combines environmental education, service learning, and leadership opportunities for students to help turn their school into a model green school.
The Future of Environmental Education
We believe the future of engaging and effective education requires the highest quality professional support and access to resources. That's why Project Learning Tree distributes its curriculum materials through well-developed professional development workshops. PLT trains educators with demonstration activities, helping them make outdoor experiences part of their everyday lesson plans.
Project Learning Tree curriculum resources are tools for classroom and outdoor educators, helping them prepare the leaders of tomorrow for environmental decision making. The future of the environment and natural resources begins with the education of today's youth.
PLT’s 2012 Annual Report (pdf)