Project Learning Tree uses trees and forests as windows on the world to increase students’ understanding of the environment and actions they can take to conserve it. Since 1976, PLT has reached 135 million students and trained 750,000 educators to help students learn how to think, not what to think about complex environmental issues.
Project Learning Tree helps develop students’ awareness, knowledge, and appreciation of the environment, builds their skills and ability to make informed decisions, and encourages them to take personal responsibility for sustaining the environment and our quality of life that depends on it. From its beginnings in 1976, PLT has exemplified high-quality environmental education. Review our mission and goals.
Project Learning Tree® (PLT) is an initiative of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. Learn more.
How PLT Works
The PLT program is characterized by three equally important components:
- high-quality instructional materials for grades PreK-12,
- carefully designed professional development, and
- an extensive distribution and support network.
PLT’s instructional materials for early childhood through grade 12 can be used with students in formal school settings and with youth in nonformal settings. Our hands-on activities make teaching and learning fun. They connect children to nature, engage students in learning, improve student achievement, and grow 21st century skills – including the ability to think critically and solve problems.
The materials are distributed along with professional development through in-person workshops or online courses. More than 20,000 educators attend PLT workshops annually. Some materials can be purchased directly from shop.plt.org.
PLT’s high-quality units and lesson plans supplement existing curriculum in schools and enhance educational programming in nonformal settings. The activities can be integrated into lesson plans for all grade levels and subject areas (especially STEM, reading, writing, and social studies). Topics range from forests, wildlife, and water, to community planning, waste management, and energy.
The activities are practical, hands-on, and fun, and aligned with state and national academic standards, including the Next Generation Science Standards, Common Core State Standards, College, Career, and Civic Life Framework, Head Start, and the National Association for the Education of Young Children. In addition, PLT connects with nonformal education programs. For example, PLT activities meet the requirements for Girl Scout Badges and Journeys. Learn more.
Hundreds of teachers, nonformal educators, and resource professionals help develop, review, field test, and independently evaluate all of PLT’s instructional materials. The process includes research, surveys, and writing workshops; revisions based on pilot testing and field testing; and formal assessment of impact on student learning by independent evaluators. Independent evaluators conclude that PLT activities increase students’ knowledge, reasoning, and academic skills. Learn more.
PLT’s professional development helps educators learn how to integrate environmental education into their teaching and become comfortable teaching outdoors—in urban, suburban, and rural environments. Workshops and online courses teach educators how best to use PLT’s instructional materials with their own students in their own setting and how to engage with (and draw upon) their community in learning about and taking action to address local environmental issues. Continuing education credits are available in most states.
In-person trainings include one-day workshops, in-service days, a series of classes spread throughout a semester, week-long institutes, and other sustained and intensive models. These events are planned and conducted by certified facilitators and customized for specific grade levels, topics, and teaching situations. Learn more.
An online course can be completed in your own time, wherever you are. The courses for early childhood, K-8, and becoming a GreenSchool include demonstration videos, simulations, planning exercises, and state-specific resources. Learn more.
PLT is delivered in all 50 states and several countries through a large and diverse network of partners. These sponsors include nonprofit organizations, state education and natural resource agencies, and colleges and universities. Learn more.
Because PLT programs are directed and implemented locally, educators also receive state-specific supplements to PLT’s educational materials that address the local environment; professional development that meets school districts’ and educators’ individual needs; plus community connections, local resources, and other collaborative support. Learn more.
Growing the Next Generation of Environmental Stewards
PLT helps develop students’ awareness, knowledge, and appreciation of the environment, builds their skills and ability to make informed decisions, and encourages them to take personal responsibility for sustaining the environment and our quality of life that depends on it. Through the community action components of many PLT activities, plus PLT’s service-learning programs GreenSchools and GreenWorks!, PLT encourages students to improve their school, home, and neighborhood based on what they learn in the classroom.
By teaching students how to think, not what to think, about complex environmental issues, we are helping young people learn the problem-solving skills they need to make informed choices about the environment. We are also helping to prepare a 21st century workforce faced with devising solutions to increasingly complex environmental issues, like climate change and energy.