Family-Friendly Outdoor Learning Activities

School may be out for summer, but that doesn’t mean learning and exploring has to stop! Get your learners outdoors this summer to connect with nature with these engaging and educational activities perfect for families.

Not only will they provide a fun break from screen time, but kids can continue developing their observational skills and appreciation for the natural world around them. When children spend time outside, it can improve their creativity, imagination, and overall physical and mental health, among many other positive things.

Family walking through forest

Walking in the Forest

Play detective on your next walk in the woods and discover how plants grow, age, decay, and more.

View all “Walking in the Forest” Family Activities →

forest with sun shining through trees

Learn About Forests

Engage youth in learning about sustainable forest management. Includes tips and tools for forest sector professionals working with youth.

View all “Learn About Forests” Activities →

park with trees that people are sitting under

Exploring a Local Park

Get in touch with trees in your local park and use these family activities to take a closer look.

View all “Exploring a Local Park” Family Activities →

Mom and child playing in backyard

In Your Own Backyard

Uncover nature’s diversity in your own backyard. Look, listen, and meet your natural neighbors.

View all “Backyard” Family Activities →

Teacher and two students measuring a tree with measuring tape

Teaching with i-Tree

Learn about the many ecosystem services that trees provide.

View all “Teaching with i-Tree” Family Activities →

These outdoor learning activities not only provide opportunities for physical activity but also foster a deeper connection with the environment. Whether in your backyard, local park, or nearby trail, these activities are perfect for families to enjoy together while promoting learning and appreciation for nature.

For more outdoor activities, check out these resources:

People of PLT | Celebrating Leaders in Education

Inspiring the next generation of environmental stewards is no easy feat, but for some, it’s a true calling. Each year, the Project Learning Tree (PLT) Leadership in Education Award recognizes those who have answered that call, making exceptional contributions to advancing PLT’s programs and initiatives at the state or regional level. 

Imagine a classroom filled with students, their eyes gleaming with excitement as they engage in hands-on activities that connect them to nature and the environment. This is the reality that PLT Facilitators Jennifer Rude and Jennifer Ortega have brought to life. We are proud to honor them as our 2024 PLT Leadership in Education awardees. We will be celebrating these two individuals at this month’s joint PLT, Project WET, and Project WILD Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas!


Jennifer Rude – Teacher, Twin Lakes Elementary School, Idaho 

Jennifer Rude Teacher at Twin Lakes Elementary School in Idaho smiling with two other educatorsJennifer Rude’s journey with PLT began over a decade ago, and since then, she has become a pivotal figure in promoting environmental education across Idaho. As a PLT facilitator, Rude has gone above and beyond to spread awareness and empower educators to integrate hands-on PLT learning experiences into their teaching practices. Her tireless efforts have transcended geographical boundaries, bridging the gap between urban and rural communities in Idaho. By conducting facilitator trainings and fostering collaborations among educators, Rude has ensured that PLT reaches students, teachers, families, and communities statewide. 

“Jennifer is a person who says ‘yes,'” shares Michelle Youngquist, the Idaho PLT State Coordinator. “Yes, to being a PLT facilitator. Yes, to being her region’s ‘go-to’ PLT leader, equally comfortable leading activities for at-risk youth or adults at a Forest Owner Field Day.”


Jennifer Ortega – Lecturer, Cal Poly Humboldt, California  

Jennifer Ortega’s journey with PLT is characterized by her passion for environmental education and commitment to nurturing future educators. Over the past 12 years, Ortega has been instrumental in promoting PLT programs and advocating for environmental literacy in California. As a lecturer at Cal Poly Humboldt, she has not only incorporated PLT curriculum into her own teaching, but has also inspired countless pre-service teachers to embrace nature-based learning experiences. Ortega’s impact goes beyond the classroom, as she actively participates in PLT’s statewide advisory committee and pre-service educator community, contributing her expertise and insights to enhance the program’s reach and effectiveness. 

“Jennifer has been a leader on the California PLT team for over a decade,” says Cynthia R. Chavez, the California PLT State Coordinator. “She is a joy to work with–her passion for education is transparent in every conversation.” 

Congratulations to all this year’s award recipients and nominees!


Bring PLT Into Your School or Community 

A group photo of 13 smiling new PLT facilitators outdoors in front of a forest

Join our growing network of educators who are empowering the next generation of environmental stewards today! With over 1,200 PLT workshops held nationwide each year, organized locally by PLT’s state programs and led by trained PLT facilitators, there are plenty of opportunities for you to get involved. Whether you’re seeking online or in-person professional development workshops or aspiring to become a PLT workshop facilitator, visit to connect with PLT in your state. 


The Future of Forestry is Female

Every March, we celebrate two special days – International Women’s Day and International Day of Forests. Despite the significance of these events, a reality still exists for women in forestry.  

Women make up just 16% of forestry and conservation professionals in the United States, according to 2019 data from the Society of American Foresters. The field also lacks racial diversity, with the U.S. Census finding that less than 3% of foresters and conservation scientists identify as African American. In Canada, that number is higher, with 17% of women in forestry, but only 7% of the workforce is Indigenous (including women). This underrepresentation of women in the forest and conservation sector, especially Black and Indigenous women, underscores the need for greater inclusion across the US and Canada. 

So, I want to introduce you to three incredible women in forestry. By sharing the perspectives of these women, we hope to encourage and inspire greater participation by women of diverse backgrounds in the forest and conservation sector. After all, if you can see it, you can be it. 


Asia Dowtin smiling in a forest
Asia L. Dowtin, Assistant Professor of Urban and Community Forestry, Department of Forestry

Meet Asia Dowtin

Assistant Professor at the Michigan State University Department of Forestry Member, PLT Education Operating Committee 

Asia Dowtin, PhD discovered her passion for the environment at a young age. Initially fascinated by meteorology, she eventually found her true calling in climatology, earning a master’s degree in Geography and a doctorate with a focus on Urban Forest Hydrology. 

Asia’s journey was inspired by the presence of Black women in the field, notably Vivian Brown, a meteorologist. Reflecting on her early aspirations, Asia states, “I remember being so inspired by seeing a Black Woman on the television screen and by the fact that she was giving national-level insight to weather predictions and recommendations on how folks should prep for pending weather-related hazards. I knew then that I wanted to be like her.” 

Although she ultimately pursued a path different from meteorology, much of the guidance that led Asia to her current position came from accomplished and highly respected women in earth sciences and natural resource management fields. Asia emphasizes the importance of mentorship and sharing, “Receiving those votes of confidence has helped me each step along the way.” 

Asia’s current role involves teaching urban and community forestry at Michigan State University. Her research focuses on quantifying hydrologic and nutrient cycling in urban forests to inform effective management plans. She finds joy in making real-world connections for the scholarship in urban and community forestry. 

“The most rewarding aspect of my current job is that I have an extension appointment. As such, I have the responsibility and privilege to work with a vast array of stakeholders, helping them to find useful applications for the research my colleagues and I are conducting. I appreciate being able to make real-world connections for the scholarship that is being done in urban and community forestry,” says Asia 

Her proudest accomplishments are linked to her students, stating, “I can’t tell you how happy and proud it makes me to see them achieve monumental things while they’re still in school, and all the more, to see the phenomenal things that they go on to do post-graduation.”  

Additionally, she shares, “I am very grateful to have been appointed by the US Secretary of Agriculture to the National Urban and Community Advisory Council. What a time it is to be helping to shape the future of urban and community forestry in the United States, and what an honor it is to be working alongside my fellow council members to do so.” 

Offering advice to aspiring professionals, Asia emphasizes being open and honest about interests and goals. She encourages the development of a supportive community of peers and mentors, acknowledging the different perspectives they bring. 

“The longer I work, the more I realize there’s so much that I still don’t know, despite the degrees, number of years in the field, or accolades. The best ways that I’ve been able to fill these personal ‘knowledge gaps’ is by learning from other people. To me, that is the value of diversity in the field of forestry and conservation,” adds Asia.


A headshot of Beth Hill smiling in front of a tree with yellow fall leaves
Beth Hill, Outreach and Education Manager, North Dakota Forest Service, North Dakota PLT State Coordinator

Meet Beth Hill

Outreach and Education Manager at the North Dakota Forest Service, North Dakota PLT State Coordinator

With a bachelor’s degree in Soil Science from North Dakota State University, Beth Hill has spent her whole career in her home of North Dakota, first as a Soil Scientist, then as an Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent, a Community Forestry Specialist, and now in her current role at the North Dakota Forest Service. 

Her journey into forestry began in high school through participation in the Envirothon competition, a pivotal experience that opened her eyes to natural resource fields. Reflecting on her early exposure, Beth shares, “My advisor, Val Smallbeck, really saw potential in me and encouraged me to join, and I can’t thank her enough! As a city kid, I didn’t have a lot of exposure or experience with the outdoors, so this competition really opened my eyes to natural resource fields like soils and forestry.” 

Beth’s work focuses on outreach, education, and fostering connections between communities and forests in North Dakota. “When people think of North Dakota, trees are definitely not the first thing that comes to mind. It’s incredibly satisfying to see a tree that I helped a community plant grow and flourish,” says Beth. 

Her role involves diverse responsibilities, from managing agency communications to providing forestry education to PreK-12 students statewide. Beth takes pride in her agency’s impact, stating, “Just last year in direct education alone, we reached more than 33,600 students, teachers, and other customers.” 

Beth’s biggest piece of advice is to find a mentor, “Having someone, especially a woman, in the same field to ask questions, help you make connections, and advocate for you is invaluable. Connections are so important!” 

She encourages individuals to surround themselves with peers sharing a common career field, citing her positive experience with an agricultural sorority. Beth emphasizes the importance of not fearing career changes and pursuing personal fulfillment. 

“Often, it isn’t best to just do what we have always done; by challenging the status quo and asking questions, we can see our mindsets change and the resources improve because of it. Each person brings a unique set of skills to the table, and different perspectives are essential for growth,” adds Beth. 


Christine Leduc smiling in front tree
Christine Leduc, Vice President, Communications and Government Relations, Sustainable Forestry Initiative

Meet Christine Leduc

Vice President of Communications and Government Relations at the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) 

Christine Leduc is a Registered Professional Forester with over a decade of experience in forestry, policy, communications, and more recently, Indigenous relations. Holding a Master of Forest Conservation from the University of Toronto, Christine currently leads SFI’s binational communications team. With a unique pathway going from government to private sector to non-profit, Christine is especially interested in investing in young people and encourage women to pursue career in forestry to achieve leadership positions.  

Her academic journey at the University of Toronto ignited her passion for sustainable resource management, laying the foundation for an impactful career in forestry. Being a female forester from the city came with a unique set of challenges when she first began working in the bush. As she transitioned from living in downtown Montreal to Northern Canada, she recounts the shift from the urban setting using the metro as the everyday commute to learning to drive a truck, navigating forest access roads safely, and spending long days alone in the bush, some of which she did while pregnant.   

Reflecting on her experiences, Christine emphasizes the importance of overcoming self-doubt and fear, particularly for young women pursuing their dreams in forestry. Advocating for greater female representation in the sector, she states, “Forestry has historically been male-dominated, yet women represent half the population. How can we make the best decisions when our leadership and our workforce don’t reflect the society we live in?” 

Christine stresses the significance of women bringing unique perspectives to decision-making processes. She encourages women to fearlessly pursue their dreams and apply for jobs even if they feel unqualified, highlighting the exciting transformations occurring for women in forestry. “It’s an exciting time to be a woman in forestry. In my career, I’ve seen so much progress when it comes to creating an inclusive workplace for women. It’s time to join the sector and add to this momentum,” says Christine. 


Black Faces in Green Spaces: The Journeys of Black Professionals in Green CareersDiscover Rewarding Green Careers in the Forest & Conservation Sector 

In celebrating International Women’s Day and International Day of Forests, the stories of Asia, Beth, and Christine inspire and underscore the imperative for greater representation, mentorship, and diverse perspectives in forestry.

Interested in a green career connected to forests? With a wealth of resources available, women and individuals of all ages can discover the many rewarding green careers connected to caring for our forests and natural resources.

Here are some great resources to learn more: 

  • Browse green jobs and assess your STEM skills on Discover the variety of careers available and how you can make a difference. 
  • Learn from Black American professionals in the field with the Journeys of Black Professionals in Green Careers guide, which shares stories and insights to inspire the next generation. 
  • Explore how the PLT Green Mentor program connects young people ages 18-30 with green professionals across Canada and the United States to support the next generation’s efforts to build their forest and conservation knowledge and career goals—and gain new perspectives while networking. 
  • Use the Green Jobs guide to expose youth ages 12-25 to the many green career paths related to forestry and natural resources. Bring lessons into classrooms, youth programs, field trips, and more. 
  • Check out PLT’s Forest Literacy Framework. The framework offers 100 forest concepts for grades K-12, organized into the following four themes: What is a forest? Why do forests matter? How do we sustain our forests? What is our responsibility to forests? 


The Power of Forests: Celebrating International Day of Forests

forest canopyForests provide the very materials that make up our daily lives. From the air we breathe to the products we use each day, forests are essential ecosystems that sustain us. Recognizing the immense value of forests, the United Nations General Assembly declared March 21st as the International Day of Forests, a day to celebrate and raise awareness about our vital forest ecosystems. Every year, this special day is adorned with a new theme, and for this year, the spotlight is on “Forests and Innovation.” 

So, why the emphasis on innovation? Because forests are shaping the future. 

Imagine a world where most of the materials we use in our daily lives come from sustainable sources, reducing our impact on the environment. Thanks to innovative breakthroughs, materials derived from forests and trees are being developed as eco-friendly substitutes for plastics, building materials, fabrics, and various other everyday items.  


Healthy Forests = Healthy People 

Let’s take a closer look at some not-so-commonly thought-of items that come from forests! 

stack of pancakes with maple syrup and fresh strawberriesBreakfast

You might be surprised how many components of your morning routine originate in forests. The wood tables we eat breakfast on, the apple cider we drink, the maple syrup we pour, and even the chocolate we enjoy can be traced back to trees and forests. Beyond flavors, trees also provide essential functional ingredients, like natural cellulose fiber from trees that keep shredded cheese from clumping in your omelet. 


Plastic bottles of body care and beauty products in the bathroomBathroom

Forests are an integral part of our self-care and personal grooming routines too. Tree resins and plant celluloses are core ingredients found in toothpaste, deodorant, nail polish, mascara, lipstick, shampoo, henna hair dye, and many other daily-use products. Take a moment to appreciate the diverse natural origins of the items in your bathroom cabinet. 


clothes hanging in a closet


Did you know much of the fabric you wear could come straight from a forest? Thanks to modern eco-friendly innovations in textiles, fabrics like lyocell, modal, and viscose are made from dissolving wood pulp and tree leaves. Additionally, natural rubber latex extracted from rubber trees forms the basis for rain boots, elastic, and stretchable clothing. With the right materials, trees can provide the raw resources for your entire outfit. 


mass timber buildingShelter

Forests form the foundation for the homes we live in. Wood framing, doors, furniture, lumber, plywood, particle board, and wooden flooring originate from trees. Sustainable forestry practices can provide renewable resources for our shelter needs. 


SFI label on a paper bag

Paper Products

Paper and cardboard come directly from trees and forests, providing us with notebooks, packaging, tissues, paper towels, newspapers, magazines, books, and more. As our reliance on paper products grows, sustainable forest management becomes increasingly important. 


teacher and kids playing with musical instrumentsMusical Instruments

Many instruments like acoustic guitars, violins, drums, and pianos depend on wood from trees like spruce, maple, ebony, and rosewood for their resonant sound. While learning your favorite tune, consider the forest origins of your musical companion. 


SFI paper cup

Food Packaging

Beyond paper, cellulose derived from tree pulp is commonly used for food packaging, straws, and disposable cups, providing an innovative renewable, and compostable solution to plastic pollution. 



From the bark to the leaves, the trees in our forests have been integral to traditional medicine. Cellulose ether, extracted from wood, serves diverse roles in pill production and as a thickening agent in liquid medicines. Additionally, ongoing research unveils forest-derived compounds for treating various illnesses. Take a moment to appreciate the natural roots of the remedies in your medicine cabinet. 


The Impact of Forests Beyond Everyday Uses 

The positive influence of forests extends far beyond the consumer products and materials they provide. Forests offer beautiful natural recreational spaces, clean our air and water supplies, and improve community health and well-being. Most importantly, as natural carbon sinks, forests play a crucial role in combating climate change. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, helping regulate Earth’s delicate climate balance. Protecting and sustainably managing forests is a vital part of ensuring a livable climate for future generations. 


Celebrate International Day of Forests with Project Learning Tree (PLT) Resources 

It’s clear that our forests provide a good deal more to our lives than what meets the eye! So, the next time you use a forest-derived product, remember the untold story of innovation and sustainability that lies within.

Free Family Activity

Use this free PLT activity We All Need Trees to help children discover different products we get from trees and how much we depend on forests in our daily lives.  


Explore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide

Encourage students to be creative and come up with innovative design ideas in the Peek at Packaging activity from PLT’s Explore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide. Additionally, students in grades 6-8 can explore the environmental, social, and economic criteria of forest certification and examine the steps involved in making a certified forest product using PLT’s activity What’s in a Label? found in the Explore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide. 


Forest Literacy Framework

PLT’s Forest Literacy Framework also serves as a helpful and complementary resource that organizes 100 forest concepts for grades K-12 into four key themes: 

  • What is a forest? 
  • Why do forests matter? 
  • How do we sustain our forests? 
  • What is our responsibility to forests? 


On International Day of Forests and beyond, let’s continue to explore, appreciate, and conserve our forests for the well-being of the planet and generations to come! 


Black Environmental Changemakers: Honoring Hidden Figures and Contemporary Leaders

Despite facing marginalization, Black Americans have made significant, but often overlooked contributions to environmentalism. This Black History Month, we want to recognize this legacy, from historical hidden figures, some highlighted in our guide, Black Faces in Green Spaces: The Journeys of Black Professionals in Green Careers, to modern environmental leaders. Their work lays the foundation for a more diverse and inclusive future in these fields.

Legacy of Pioneers

George Washington Carver: Biomimicry and Crop RotationGeorge Washington Carver: Biomimicry and Crop Rotation

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, George Washington Carver emerged as a trailblazer in environmental science. Carver’s groundbreaking work in crop rotation revolutionized resource conservation. His understanding of nature’s interconnectedness, expressed through biomimicry principles, emphasized the importance of considering long-term consequences in any action. Carver’s legacy extends beyond his innovations; it is a testament to the importance of sustainable agriculture and resource management practices.


Hattie Carthan: Urban Environmental JusticeHattie Carthan: Urban Environmental Justice

During the 1930s-70s, Hattie Carthan, a community organizer in Brooklyn, became a trailblazer in urban environmental justice. Her efforts focused on planting trees, establishing community gardens, and combating pollution in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. Carthan’s work led to improved sanitation, air quality, and increased green spaces, showcasing the transformative power of community-led environmental initiatives.

Photo donated by Bernice Green to the Brooklyn Public Library. Photographer unknown


Ralph E. Brock

Ralph E. Brock: First African-American Forester

Ralph E. Brock, the first African-American forester, graduated in 1906 from the Pennsylvania State Forest Academy. His pioneering work with the U.S. Forest Service and West Virginia Conservation Commission involved groundbreaking research on managing eastern hardwood forests. Brock’s legacy paved the way for future generations of Black foresters and conservationists. © Penn State Mont Alto Library Archives


Melody Mobley

Melody Mobley: Breaking Barriers in Forestry

In 1986, Melody Mobley shattered barriers by becoming the first Black female professional forester hired by the U.S. Forest Service. Mobley’s journey extended to earning a Ph.D. in silviculture, making her an inspirational leader advocating for diversity in natural resource fields. Her achievements highlight the importance of breaking gender and racial barriers to create a more inclusive and equitable environmental sector. © Photo by Kirth Bobb


Contemporary Leaders

Carolyn Finney, PhD: Bridging Identity and Environmentalism


Carolyn Finney, a storyteller, author of Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors, and a cultural geographer, works to develop greater cultural competency within environmental organizations. Her efforts challenge media representations of difference and aim to increase awareness of how privilege influences environmental discourse. By emphasizing the importance of diverse perspectives, Finney contributes to a more inclusive environmental movement.

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Georgia Silvera Seamans: Urban Forestry Advocate


As the founder of Local Nature Lab and a member of #BlackBotanistsWeek, Georgia Silvera Seamans designs urban ecology programs for New Yorkers of all ages, emphasizing the importance of city trees. Seamans’ work showcases the vital role urban forestry plays in creating sustainable and resilient cities, challenging the traditional perception of environmentalism as a solely rural concern.


Alexis Nikole Nelson: Foraging Advocate

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Known as the “Black Forager,” Alexis Nikole Nelson gained prominence for her social media presence highlighting foraging finds and sustainable cooking techniques. Her engaging videos on TikTok and Instagram showcase her encyclopedic knowledge of foraging and contribute to a deeper understanding of the indigenous roots of foraging in America. Nelson’s work promotes a connection between people and the land while advocating for sustainable practices in food sourcing.

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Dr. Beverly Wright: Champion of Environmental Justice

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Dr. Beverly Wright is an environmental justice scholar and advocate who has dedicated her career to addressing environmental harm and health inequities. She is the founder of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice. Through her work, Wright highlights the disproportionate impact of environmental issues on marginalized communities and advocates for policies that prioritize justice and equity.

Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson: Environmental Justice Scholar

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A marine biologist and policy expert, Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson co-founded The All We Can Save Project and the nonprofit Urban Ocean Lab. Through her podcast “How to Save a Planet,” she asks the big questions about climate change, emphasizing the need for action. Johnson’s multidisciplinary approach bridges the gap between science, policy, and activism, advocating for comprehensive solutions to environmental challenges.

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A post shared by Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson (@ayanaeliza)

Black In Environment: Contributing to the Visibility of Black Environmentalists

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“Black in Environment,” a nonprofit with a mission to build community for Black people in environmental spaces. Their work aims to counter the false narrative that Black people do not care about the environment by highlighting the multigenerational presence of Black individuals in the environmental movement. Through scholarship, activism, and engagement, this organization contributes to a more inclusive and representative environmental sector.

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A post shared by Black In Environ (@blackinenviron)

Created by Project Learning Tree, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, and Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences, Black Faces in Green Spaces: The Journeys of Black Professionals in Green Careers guide is designed for middle and high school students, pre-professional youth, parents, and natural resource professionals looking to increase diversity within the natural resources professions.

During Black History Month and beyond, we aim to amplify diverse voices and perspectives in the environmental space.