An Intergenerational Approach to PLT’s Lifetime of Learning

Here at Project Learning Tree, we aspire to provide a lifetime of learning through our environmental education resources. I’ll be honest, when we initially thought about a “lifetime of learning”, our primary focus was on early childhood through young adulthood.

But leave it to a retired teacher from California to keep inspiring and educating far and wide, exhibiting the true meaning of a lifetime of learning.

Lola Coleman taught science and other subjects to middle and high school students in Southern California for nearly 20 years, even serving as a professional development facilitator for both Project Learning Tree and Project WILD. When she retired from teaching during the first year of COVID, she had hoped to volunteer in Los Angeles, Compton, and Lynwood Unified School Districts and connect students to nature through PLT. However, when that didn’t pan out, she set to work volunteering with a different audience, senior citizens.

Today, Lola co-leads an online-based Wellness Forum with senior-agers (as she fondly calls group members). They meet regularly via Zoom to talk about various aspects of wellness, from physical and emotional to environmental.

In April, Lola reached out to me via email with the subject line of “PLT for Seniors”. I was immediately intrigued. Over the course of their last several meetings, Lola and her co-facilitator, Gretchen, have been discussing the eight dimensions of wellness. Lola shared that she still reads The Branch newsletter and inquired to see if she could use some PLT materials with her group to celebrate Earth Day as their focus would be on environmental wellness.

Yes, yes, a resounding yes!

Lola invited me to participate in their Earth Day celebration and let me tell you, I feel beyond blessed to have had the opportunity! I left with a heart full and a reminder of why I absolutely love what I do.

Environmental Wellness at Every Age

Lola began the meeting by inviting everyone to take a few moments to just breathe. Deep centering breaths. As we did this, I was reminded by how this simple exercise grounds us all. Sometimes I have my own kiddos do this at home, and it has an immediate calming effect.

Before diving into the PLT activity, Lola set the stage, sharing a brief history of how Earth Day came to be and how events like the Cuyahoga River, once one of the most polluted rivers in the U.S, catching fire over 13 times spurred the creation of the Clean Water Act and the Environmental Protection Agency. “We celebrate Earth Day because it’s our home. We wouldn’t keep our house dirty, so why would we do that to our planet?” Lola said.

Lola encouraged the group to be mindful of all aspects of their lives because in doing so, it helps us achieve harmony with our environment. When we think about the impacts of our daily habits, like driving versus walking somewhere or tossing your food waste in the garbage versus composting or putting it into the green waste bin, we can lessen our negative impacts on the environment.

These little things can add up to make a positive difference!

Connecting to Our Environment

Lola led the group in the Personal Places activity from PLT’s Places We Live guide, fostering an incredible discussion about how intertwined we are with our environment and what special place each person has that holds meaning in their heart.

I loved listening to everyone’s stories and learning about what places inspire them.

One woman regularly passes by the Compton Community Garden, founded by Dr. Sheridan Ross. She loves how Dr. Ross took a vacant lot in a food desert, brought it to life with a beautiful garden that now nourishes the community, and teaches children about the value of our land and the environment. She hopes it inspires youth to learn more about our planet.

In addition, several individuals shared how the land they own today was originally owned by their ancestors who escaped slavery. It breaks their hearts knowing that younger generations don’t want to care for that land.

This activity and discussion sparked a deeper conversation into how communities can come together to connect with the environment.

  • How do we inspire young people to conserve and care for land, especially land that has been passed down generationally?
  • How can we turn vacant lots in urban areas and food deserts into community gardens like Dr. Ross did?
  • What can we do to make our planet better for our children when they grow up?
  • How do we harness what each person knows and use that to work together and help each other?

The takeaway from this powerful discussion was that it takes collective education and action to drive change. Lola shared how the seven principles of Kwanzaa can help communities make positive impacts – unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

When we come together for the greater good, amazing things happen.

Consider bringing students to an assisted living residence and leading the Improve Your Place activity from Explore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide. Together, students and seniors can plant a vegetable garden and learn from one another while in nature.

Invite grandparents to participate in some fun nature activities that you can do in your backyard.

Whether you’re an educator, caregiver, parent, student, natural resources professional or anywhere in between, I encourage you to look for ways to cultivate intergenerational conversations, relationships, and work together on behalf of our environment.

Building Community Through Collaboration | PLT-WET-WILD Annual Conference Recap

Coming together for the first time in over 25 years, Project Learning Tree, Project WET, and Project WILD hosted an annual conference that was one for the record books! Over 250 people came to San Antonio, Texas over 4 days of connecting, sharing best practices, and learning from one another. We wanted to share a little recap of some of the highlights from this year’s conference.


Pre-Conference PLT/WET/WILD Educator Workshop

Typically, this conference is limited to PLT/WET/WILD State Coordinators and Facilitators, but this year we offered a pre-conference educator workshop that was free to local Texas educators thanks to a generous sponsorship from Manulife. Over 60 formal and nonformal educators received training and certification to bring environmental education experiences all three Projects into their work with Texas youth.

From learning about the parts of the tree (and literally becoming a human tree through song and movement in the Tree Factory activity from Explore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide) to understanding how land-use decisions are made, educators got a taste of how to incorporate hands-on activities from all three Projects into their programs.

Whether you need a one-time lesson or want to take a theme-based approach, there are so many options to choose from that make learning fun and accessible.

So, if you’ve ever wondered whether you should sign up for a PLT educator professional development event, the answer is YES!

97% of attendees agreed that after this workshop, they felt prepared to use PLT/WET/WILD with their students and 100% of attendees plan to use PLT/WET/WILD with their students within the next six months.

Find a local professional development event near you!


Keynote speaker, Minna Paul, inspired everyone, encouraging us to dream big.

Imagining a Brighter Future

To kick-off the main conference, keynote speaker Minna Paul, the Education and Engagement Officer with the San Antonio River Authority, shared her powerful story of dreaming big and making those dreams a reality.

Minna’s passion for nature and conservation began at an early age, growing up watching her father who was a senior officer with the forest service in India. Since moving to the U.S. 23 years ago, Minna has been laser-focused on achieving her dreams of making a positive impact on the environment.

She is a firm believer in harnessing the power of the collective and engaging communities to get involved. When people come together, they can do great things. Through many of the volunteer-led programs that Minna and her team organize, they are keeping waterways clean, removing invasive species, educating people of all ages, and making a BIG difference.

When you focus on what you want, instead of what you don’t want, you’ll see change happen. But most importantly, when you find where your passion and your work align, you’ve hit the jackpot. As Minna reminded us all, keep dreaming big.


Engaging ALL Communities

(L to R): Tuesday’s General Session – Panelists: Susana Cruz, David Buggs, Dr. Rickey Frierson, and KK Langley. Facilitators: Jerri Taylor and Kate Nagle

Tuesday’s general session brought together an incredible panel of leaders with a long-standing history of leading community work in the conservation and forest sector, facilitated by SFI & PLT’s Director of Education and PLT Network, Kate Nagle and Senior Director of Diversity and Career Pathways, Jerri Taylor. This engaging group discussed best practices for successfully developing collaborative relationships to advance environmental education.

Not every child has access to nature, to environmental education, to green career opportunities which is why all three organizations felt it was critical to have this open and honest conversation about doing the work to ensure access for all communities.

When it comes to fostering relationships, you must embrace being open, authentic, and intentional. The conversations you have may make you feel uncomfortable. But, Dr. Rickey Frierson, Interim VP of Student Success and Community and Engagement at Colorado State University said, “That’s ok. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Give grace and mercy for yourself and others.” You may say something you wish you hadn’t. You may make missteps. But you’ll learn. You’ll grow. You’ll connect.

Outreach vs. Engagement

What many organizations don’t understand is the difference between community outreach and community engagement.

Community outreach is one-sided. You’re sharing information and resources that you think are important to a particular community.

But the reality is that they may not be.

As panelist KK Langley, Tribal Relations Program Specialist for the US Forest Service Southern Region, shared, “There is a lot of hurt in so many communities. Don’t think you know everything when you walk into a room.”

Jerri Taylor said, “Community is much more than belonging to something; it’s about doing something together that makes belonging matter.”

If you truly want to engage and work with all communities to improve environmental education, it’s got to be a bilateral exchange. Relationships shouldn’t be one-sided. Jerri shared, “By taking an assets-based approach to community engagement, it builds on the assets already found in a community and mobilizes individuals, associations, and institutions to come together to build on their assets. Active participation and empowerment—and the prevention of disempowerment—are the basis of this practice.”

You need to understand the strengths and needs of a community and ask for the privilege to come to the table. Don’t come to the table with solutions. Come to the table with open arms, an open mind, and an open heart, and the solutions will come from the community and conversation.

But most importantly, as Susana Cruz, founder of Chicana in Nature, shared, “You have to show up…more than once.” Relationships and trust take time to build, so you must make the effort to show up, continually. 

Moving from Listening to Planning and Doing

Panelist David Buggs, Director of Community Engagement for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department,  shared the importance of not just having a strategy when it comes to community engagement. “Make sure you’re doing the work. What are you going to do?” 

Looking around the room, you could see people nodding their heads. So many organizations get stuck in planning, strategizing, and analyzing mode that change doesn’t actually happen. 

After the general session, everyone was invited to attend breakout sessions focused on engaging with  specific communities. Attendees had the opportunity to have open and honest conversations, ask questions, listen, and reflect.

Everyone left with concrete first steps for starting a conversation with a community-led organization in their own state – for doing the work together to make environmental education accessible to all.


Mexico PLT Coordinator, Cecilia Ochoa, showing students how to do a bark rubbing in their tree journals.

Teaching Little Learners at the Will Smith Zoo School

Imagine this.

Children running, exploring, digging, and creating…outdoors for 70% of their day. All while enjoying hands-on learning about nature, their ABCs, colors, shapes, and more.

Like so many nature-based and outdoor schools around the U.S., the Will Smith Zoo School is fostering sense of self, encouraging age-appropriate risky play, and giving us all hope for the next generation of environmental stewards.

As part of the conference, PLT State Coordinators and Education Operating Committees members had a special opportunity to visit the Will Smith Zoo School. We toured the preschool’s campus, the first daycare in the U.S. to be awarded LEED Platinum Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

After the tour, we broke out into smaller groups with each of the classes and led activities from Trees & Me: Activities for Exploring Nature with Young Children – making “Our Favorite Trees” scrapbooks from My Tree & Me, singing and dancing to “Yippee, Hooray!” from Parts to Play, and creating sun prints from The Shape of Things.

I had the pleasure of being with a class of 4- and 5-year-olds with special needs. We began by asking one question, “Who loves nature?”

Every single hand flew up in the air.

And when I asked, “How much?”, 14 pairs of little arms stretched out wide beside them.

We absolutely loved seeing how excited the kids were doing each activity. Their smiles, laughter, and most of all, love of nature made our hearts swell. Watching kids learn about and explore nature is incredibly fulfilling, and it’s exactly why we love what we do!


(L to R): Cynthia Chavez, California PLT State Coordinator, Jennifer Ortega, Leadership in Education Awardee, Dennis Mitchell, PLT Facilitator, and Rocco Saracina, SFI/PLT Director, Partnerships & Development
(L to R): Jennifer Rude, Leadership in Education Awardee, Michelle Youngquist, Idaho PLT State Coordinator, and Rocco Saracina, SFI/PLT Director, Partnerships & Development

Celebrating Environmental Education Rockstars

The heart of PLT is our network – a collective of passionate, dedicated, creative, and amazing individuals who are boots-on-the-ground, leading PLT professional development in communities across the U.S. and even internationally in Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, and Japan. At this year’s conference, we honored several individuals who have gone above and beyond when it comes to delivering environmental education through PLT.

Leadership in Education Awards

Two incredible educators and PLT facilitators, Jennifer Rude (Idaho) and Jennifer Ortega (California), were honored with this year’s Leadership in Education Awards. We had the chance to celebrate them during our joint awards luncheon at the conference, along with Project WET and Project WILD’s Coordinator and Facilitator of the Year Awardees. Learn more about Jennifer Rude and Jennifer Ortega’s contributions to PLT.

Gold Star Awards

Every year, PLT selects two outstanding individuals, typically PLT State Coordinators, to honor with our Gold Star Award. This year we strayed ever so slightly from the norm—honoring one State Coordinator and one former PLT staff member who now serves as our curriculum advisor.

Wyoming PLT State Coordinator, Hazel Scharosch, recipient of the 2024 Gold Star Award

Hazel Scharosch, Wyoming PLT State Coordinator

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting Hazel Scharosch, our Wyoming PLT State Coordinator, consider yourself blessed. Her warmth and kindness radiate, and she welcomes everyone with a big hug. In her former life, Hazel taught in a one-room schoolhouse with kids from K-6 grades where she discovered PLT.

“I love PLT because it is absolutely essential to get people – especially young people like students – in touch with the outdoors. Folks tend to take care of things they enjoy and know something about. Basic info about our environment is crucial in the task of preserving it. In addition, PLT helped save my entire teaching career. For 30 years, I juggled all elementary grades, K-6, in the same classroom. I had to find ways to present content in many grade levels and subjects, using fewer activities, and PLT does exactly that. It is highly adaptable, very engaging, and allows flexibility over a wide range of age levels. I know for sure that every student learns outside: conducting educator workshops allows me to exponentially reach many more students than I could all by my lonesome self!” 

Hazel went from being a dedicated teacher using PLT with her students to becoming a facilitator who was recognized as an outstanding Educator of the Year in 2007, and then finally serving as the State Coordinator for Wyoming for the past several years. Hazel is incredibly deserving of this award!

Jaclyn Stallard, Independent Curriculum Advisor for PLT at conference
Jaclyn Stallard, Independent Curriculum Advisor for PLT, recipient of the 2024 Gold Star Award

Jaclyn Stallard, PLT Curriculum Advisor

You may have never met her, but you’ve likely seen her name in the acknowledgment pages of PLT curriculum resources.

Behind the scenes, Jaclyn Stallard has been working with PLT for nearly 20 years, serving as PLT’s Director of Curriculum and now as our independent Curriculum Advisor, helping to lead the development of so many of PLT’s incredible learning materials. Jaclyn’s love of nature, environmental education, and all things PLT shines brightly, as evidenced by the fact that when asking PLT State Coordinators if Jaclyn should be honored as a Gold Star Awardee, the answer was a resounding yes!

Jaclyn exudes positivity, empathy, creativity, and spirit. She approaches life with intentionality, and you’ll find that incorporated in every piece of curriculum she touches. We are so lucky to have Jaclyn on our team!

Congratulations to Hazel and Jaclyn for being this year’s recipients of the 2024 Gold Star Awards!

People of PLT | Advancing Environmental Education in Nebraska

If you’ve ever been to an in-person PLT professional development event, you’ve been lucky enough to meet some incredible individuals who are passionate about training educators, advancing environmental education, and having a lot of fun with PLT activities! Our PLT facilitators love sharing their wealth of knowledge, tips and tricks for leading nature-based activities, and inspiring educators to incorporate PLT lessons into their classrooms and programs.

This Earth Month, in our People of PLT feature, we’re celebrating not one, but two amazing PLT facilitators from Nebraska whose enthusiasm for environmental education is visible to all who work with them.

Meet Dena Harshbarger, Ph.D., PLT Facilitator & Professor at University of Nebraska, Kearney, College of Education

Dena HarshbargerBefore she began fostering the next generation of teachers, Dena Harshbarger, Ph.D., spent 18 years in the classroom as a 4th and 6th grade teacher. Today, Dena is a professor at the University of Nebraska, Kearney (UNK), where she teaches elementary education methods courses to preservice teachers. She loves sharing her passion for teaching and classroom experience with her students, so much so that last year the Nebraska State Forest Service honored her for her dedication to environmental education!

In 2022, Dena became a PLT Facilitator after Jack Hilgert, Nebraska PLT State Coordinator, reached out to her about offering a workshop for her elementary science methods students. “I was trained in Project WILD and Project WET when I was an undergraduate student at UNK in 1992. As a result, I have always been an advocate for environmental education and using the outdoors as an extension of the classroom.”

Incorporating PLT into her preservice coursework was a natural fit. “I strive to find ways to create inquiry-based learning opportunities in which students can discover and ponder the world around us. PLT perfectly aligns with my focus on constructivism and experiential learning. I enjoy getting UNK preservice teachers excited about using PLT in their future classroom.” In fact, Dena’s favorite days are when she sees her preservice students teach elementary students during their field experiences. It brings her back to her classroom days and fills her with pride seeing these future teachers in action – “It’s a full circle moment for me.”

Nebraska PLT State Coordinator, Jack Hilgert (far right, back row), with UNK preservice teachers during a PLT workshop

One of the things Dena loves most about PLT is how engaged students (including her preservice teachers) are during activities. Her favorite PLT activity is Every Tree for Itself from the Explore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide. “The students are physically and mentally engaged in the lesson as they actively discover how available resources impact a tree’s growth and survival rate. This type of multimodal learning opportunity deepens students’ understanding and increases recall and retention.”

“Today, many children spend less time outdoors and have a more sedentary lifestyle. My goal for elementary and UNK students alike is to gain background knowledge through experiential learning, so they are informed citizens. PLT provides opportunities in which PreK-12 students can explore the world around them and develop an appreciation of nature.” By training future teachers how to use PLT, Dena hopes that when they do enter the classroom, they’ll feel comfortable using nature as a tool to teach about multiple subjects, know how to create safe spaces to teach outdoors, and be more inclined to use PLT in their lessons.


Meet Hannah Rennard-Ganley, PLT Facilitator & Director of Education and Outreach at Keep Omaha Beautiful

Hannah Rennard-GanleyAs the Director of Education and Outreach at Keep Omaha Beautiful, Hannah Rennard-Ganley teaches educators how to engage students in urban nature. “I love helping people understand that nature exists within the city, how people are part of that ecosystem, and how they can help improve the environment starting right in their own backyard (or schoolyard, business, park, playground)!”

Hannah’s long-time love of all things PLT began nearly two decades ago when she became a facilitator in 2007 (or according to her “a million years ago and 10,000 jobs ago”!). She’s led PLT professional development events in Missouri, Illinois, and now Nebraska. It’s her goal to connect educators to great resources, like PLT, that can be used in formal and informal settings.

“I became a facilitator because I’m passionate about providing great resources to educators, and PLT is a great resource for educators in both informal and formal educational settings. I like empowering educators to feel comfortable teaching about the environment. So often people forget about the urban forest when they are teaching kids about nature. Facilitating workshops for educators allows me to help educators look at the nature within the city in a new way – the whole world outside becomes their classroom – while also providing hands-on, relevant activities.”

Like Dena, Hannah loves just how engaging and fun PLT activities are. Here are her top three favorite activities:

  1. Bursting Buds from Explore Your Environment | “I like Bursting Buds because it can be done at so many different levels. Little kids can understand the parts of a tree and spring renewal from the observations, and older students can learn the anatomy of a tree and participate in detailed dissection.”
  2. The Shape of Things from Trees & Me: Activities for Exploring Nature with Young Children | “Going for a shape walk forces students to slow down and make observations of the world around them. It can also be repeated many times, and kids observe different things each time they do it. And the leaf dance makes everyone laugh!”
  3. Parts to Play from Trees & Me | Hannah thinks the Tree Costumes activity, where children dress like a tree, is fantastic. “Any time you get little kids to dress in costume, they learn so much and have a blast. I really enjoy making Kindergarten ‘forests’!”


Tips for Getting Started with PLT Lessons

When it comes to training current and future educators, there is a delicate balance of teaching to state and national standards and also keeping students with differing backgrounds and abilities engaged with what they’re learning. There are multiple competing priorities for educators today that Dena frequently hears: “I don’t have time to do PLT” or “How do educators use PLT if they are obligated to teach to the fidelity of their program?”.

In the Explore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide, you can find activities by subject, grade-band, setting, and differentiated instruction, plus you’ll find an Index organized by topic. This helpful reference makes lesson planning easy.

Dena says, “PLT does not need to be an “add-on” to your existing curriculum. The PLT lessons include cross-curricular components that potentially deepen understanding and make concepts applicable to real-world phenomena. Finding time to weave a PLT lesson into your existing curriculum or standards-based instruction will potentially accomplish many learning objectives with one lesson. Students can read, write, and discuss environmental concepts in a meaningful way.”

Both Hannah and Dena recommend starting small.

Dena suggests selecting “one or two lessons that would work well with your goals/learning objectives.” Plus, she shares how you can adapt and break apart activities into short and easy-to-implement formats. Hannah agrees. “Don’t be afraid to fit PLT into the time you have. I have built whole semester long units around PLT activities. I’ve also used a fraction of an activity for a quick 15-minute “brain break” during other educational programs. One of the fantastic things about PLT is that there is such a variety in the activities that you can make it fit the time you have.”

Sometimes, educators worry about taking students outside for lessons. Dena recommends you “explicitly teach and model expectations for outdoor activities prior to going out or distributing materials.” Setting expectations up front helps set the stage for success.

Always Be Learning

The beauty of PLT’s professional development is that you’re not only learning how to use nature to teach, but you can be inspired by other educators. Hannah says, “Take as many classes as you can! I am super familiar with PLT curriculum and activities, but I LOVE watching how other people teach them. I feel like I learn something new every time I see someone teach. And when I take classes, I participate in activities that I don’t always teach so it opens up new options.”

But most of all, Dena says, “Get excited and enjoy watching the students get excited about learning using this ‘TREE’-mendous resource and program!”


Ways to Get Involved with PLT

Educator Professional Development: If you’re interested in taking a PLT professional development course, check out events happening near you.

Preservice/Higher Education: PLT is an amazing resource for those working with preservice teachers and natural resource students. Contact your PLT State Coordinator to bring PLT into your preservice or higher education program.

Become a PLT Facilitator: We’re always looking for individuals who want to share their passion for PLT and environmental education with others! Connect with your PLT State Coordinator to learn more about becoming a PLT workshop facilitator.

Inspired Journeys

It’s been a year since we released Black Faces in Green Spaces: The Journeys of Black Professionals in Green Careers. And we’re beyond thrilled that thousands of students, young professionals, educators, counselors, and more have been impacted by the incredible stories shared within the book.

SFI and PLT have been working alongside Auburn University to foster the next generation of green leaders and environmental stewards. On this anniversary, we wanted to celebrate by sharing some new stories – those of Auburn University leaders and Junior MANRRS students who have been inspired by the journeys of others.


Michelle Cole

Academic Administrator, Auburn University College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment

Michelle Cole, Auburn UniversityGrowing up in a middle-class home, Michelle Cole dreamed of becoming an accountant. “I must be honest, a green career was not my first choice.” But thanks to her mentor, she ended up finding her green path.

Ron Smith, who now works for Tuskegee University, used to work for the USDA Forest Service. He shared with Michelle that organizations like the Forest Service need accountants, too. He encouraged Michelle to attend a forestry camp in Florida. “I really liked the camp and all the things it had to offer; however, I still wanted to be an accountant.” It wasn’t until Ron convinced Michelle to take an introductory forestry course in college that everything changed.

“I got an A and never looked back. The next thing I knew, I had an internship in Sheffield, Pennsylvania, and boom! Green career, here I am! I landed one forestry job after the next and finally carved out where I was always supposed to be.”

In Michelle’s work, she has seen the direct impacts of The Journeys of Black Professionals in Green Careers. “The most inspiring thing about the guide for me was seeing all the people who looked like me, people that I knew who had careers in the green industry, and they were doing what they were passionate about. As I turned the pages, I said to myself, ‘I taught him in that class; I worked with her on this project.’ It brought me full circle in my career, and I love it. We are a small niche, but we are here for each other. I was in awe of the guide and was thankful that someone took the opportunity to feature natural resource professionals.”

Michelle is an urban forestry expert and academic administrator in the College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment at Auburn University and advises all the forestry and natural resource management students, the Auburn community, and beyond through MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture Natural Resources and Related Sciences). “I am most hopeful that we will continue to create the next generation of natural resources scientists. Working with MANRRS helps create those connections in professional development.”

Michelle’s advice to the next generation is this: “Take the leap of the unknown. Think outside the bark. Have an open mind about a green career path. My green career has taken me to some pretty amazing places, opportunities, and spaces that I thought were out of my reach. Trust and believe that there is an opportunity out there that has your name on it. It may not be what you thought you would be doing, but everything that you needed! Take that leap!”


Amari Parker and Hannah Padgett

High School Students

Just like Michelle’s mentor pointed out, a green job doesn’t mean you have to be working in the forest. Whether you want to pursue a career in communications, human resources, accounting, or law…your job can still be green! There are so many organizations within the forest and conservation sector needing your talents!

Amari Parker, Vice President of the Junior MANRRS program at Auburn University, is planning to pursue law school. “I’ve always wanted a career in the legal industry where I could assist others.”

Hannah Padgett, President of the Junior MANRRS program at Auburn, is following her dream of going into medicine, where she hopes to become a dermatologist and eventually own her own practice.

Through being a part of Junior MANRRS, both Amari and Hannah learned about green jobs. But after reading The Journeys of Black Professionals in Green Careers, both students discovered just how many more green career opportunities there are.

For Amari, “The most inspiring thing about the Journeys guide was being able to read and learn about the different people who look like me and have found happiness inside their green careers.” Hannah felt “The most inspiring thing to me was seeing all of the African Americans working in this field.”

Amari hopes that more people in his generation “will be open to learning more about green career paths and pursuing careers they are passionate about and love.”

And even if students don’t pursue a green career, they can still be inspired to take care of our planet. Hannah hopes her generation “will do all we can to make the earth a safer and better place.”


Janaki Alavalapati, Ph.D.

Emmett F. Thompson Endowed Dean of the College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment at Auburn University

Dr. Janaki Alavalapati was born and raised in a rural community where he developed a passion for farming and natural resources. He went on to obtain master’s degrees in botany and forestry, getting his first job working for a state forest service agency in India. “After moving to North America, I continued my efforts in advancing higher education related to forestry, wildlife and the environment.”

Today, Dr. Alavalapati leads the world-class College of Forestry, Wildlife, and Environment at Auburn University in Alabama. He is helping develop the next generation of natural resources professionals. “The future of the environment lies in sustainable management and conservation of agricultural and forested landscapes. The youth, considered as our next generation, will significantly influence the ways we produce, consume, and distribute goods and services. These activities will have direct implications for conservation of natural resources.”

He is hopeful that more young adults will choose green careers. “Anyone who is interested in and passionate about natural environments, green career paths [such as] forestry, wildlife conservation, environment-society interface offer a great promise. The importance of these areas for social, economic, and environmental well-being at local, state, national, and global is growing leaps and bounds. Youth in these career paths would be in the front and center of analyzing complex issues and finding practical solutions.”

Resources like The Journeys of Black Professionals in Green Careers guide help increase the visibility of these types of careers, opening a whole new world of possibilities for students and young adults. “The Journeys guide provides youth with valuable information about green career pathways. More importantly, the featured stories in the guide inspire youth to embrace green jobs. Since governmental, non-governmental, and private organizations are increasingly seeking professionals from minority groups, I am very hopeful that the Journeys guide will stimulate the supply of minority professionals.”


It’s up to us to have conversations with young people and expose them to various career paths. Find out what makes a person tick, what they’re passionate about, and what their strengths are.

  • Do you love writing? Communications and marketing are green jobs!
  • Do you love numbers? Accounting and finance are green jobs!
  • Do you love wildlife? Biologists are green jobs!
  • Do you love teaching? Educators are green jobs!
  • Are you fascinated by building designs? Architects are green jobs!

Just think of the endless opportunities. As Dr. Alavalapati said, there are government, non-government, and private organizations that need the talent and passion of this next generation!

Let’s get those conversations started. Explore green careers with your students using PLT’s suite of career education resources, including Black Faces in Green Spaces: The Journeys of Black Professionals in Green Careers, Green Jobs: Exploring Forest Careers Educator Guide, and Find Your Green Job: Youth Personality Quiz

Giant Capitol Christmas Tree a Big Reason to Celebrate Green Jobs During the Holidays

As the holiday season is in full swing, people around the world partake in the time-honored tradition of searching for the perfect Christmas tree. Whether finding one at a tree farm or getting a permit to cut one down in a national forest, it’s a fun way to spend a crisp winter day. But did you know just what it takes to find one of the most famous Christmas trees each year?

The “People’s Tree,” a 63-foot-tall Norway spruce, arrived in Washington, DC, in late November to grace the Capitol West Lawn thanks to dozens of people who work in forestry and other green jobs.

Getting the 39-year-old, 8,000-pound tree to the Capitol involved a 1,000-mile expedition from West Virginia. There were also close to 60 regular-sized Christmas trees for other locations and offices on the Capitol and more than 14,000 handmade ornaments along for the ride.

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Every year, a national forest provides a tree to light up the West Lawn of the US Capitol building for the holidays. West Virginia’s Monongahela National Forest, in partnership with nonprofit partner, Choose Outdoors, transported the 2023 US Capitol Christmas Tree from West Virginia to Washington, DC, with support from sponsors, including the Society of American Foresters (SAF).

Green jobs key to delivering holiday magic

“This wonderful holiday tradition would not be possible without all the people who work in green jobs. We were so pleased to see SAF talk about working in forestry and other green jobs as part of their US Capitol Christmas Tree Forestry FAQs,” said Linda Carnell, Assistant State Forester, Education and Communication, West Virginia Division of Forestry.

The SAF FAQ described how green jobs offer a wide variety of career opportunities based on interest areas and skill sets. Green jobs include positions like foresters, park rangers, wildland firefighters, wildlife biologists, policymakers, public outreach professionals, recreation managers, loggers, and lumber mill workers. Jobs can be seasonal or full-time in both indoor and outdoor settings.

“We were also really pleased to see SAF reference Project Learning Tree’s Exploring Forest Careers. The Green Jobs: Exploring Forest Careers guide includes four hands-on, instructional activities to help youth research forestry jobs and practice managing and monitoring forest resources,” said Carnell, who also serves as the West Virginia Project Learning Tree (PLT) State Coordinator.

The growth of “green jobs”—defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as jobs that produce goods or services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources, or jobs that use more environmentally friendly processes or fewer natural resources—have outpaced jobs in other employment categories by almost 250% over the last decade.

Coming together across West Virginia to celebrate the People’s Tree

The USDA Forest Service took the People’s Tree on a two-week tour across West Virginia, so that residents of the state could give the tree a proper send-off and also learn about green jobs.

“We were so excited to work with so many different entities to make this happen—towns, cities, communities, schools, 4H clubs. Connecting with so many people, especially kids, about green careers was fantastic,” said Carnell. “Kids respond well when they understand what green jobs are all about. We tell them ‘Yes, you can be in hi-tech and use a satellite and a computer to do your job while you work in the woods’.”

PLT West Virginia created a special U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree activity collection to do with youth around the state. It featured several activities found in the Explore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide, including Tree Cookies, Every Tree for Itself, and Our Federal Forests.

Tools, info, and activities to learn about green jobs

Did you know PLT activities also include details about different green jobs? It’s our goal to introduce students to the green job possibilities out there, and we’d love your support in doing so!

Check out some of the green jobs resources that people learned about during the tree’s trip across West Virginia. Explore green jobs that support forests and learn more about career readiness supports through PLT. You can also take a one-time free trial of the PLT Green Jobs Quiz. PLT and SAF are also pleased to announce an online short course – Teaching Youth and Communities About Forests – to help you strengthen your outreach and education efforts to youth and adults. Register Now!

For additional inspiration, get a copy of Black Faces in Green Spaces: The Journeys of Black Professionals in Green Careers.

A holiday tradition dating back to 1964

Massachusetts Senator John McCormack planted a 24-foot-tall Douglas fir on Capitol grounds in 1964. This was the first tree that started the ritual tree lighting on the West Lawn. Sadly, the tree died after three years from wind and root damage.

Today, Jim Kaufmann, Director of the Capitol Grounds for the Architect of the Capitol, chooses the People’s Tree. The USDA Forest Service assesses the environmental impact of harvesting the tree by investigating if the tree is close to any endangered species or water sources and if it provides shelter for wildlife.

In 1970, the Monongahela National Forest supplied the first People’s Tree. In 2024, the Capitol Christmas Tree will come from Alaska.

This Giving Tuesday Help Project Learning Tree Foster a Lifetime of Learning

Imagine what introducing one child to nature through Project Learning Tree (PLT) can do.

Imagine a little girl learned how forests improve water quality through a PLT activity. It sparked her curiosity and ignited a passion for the environment. Now she’s a water quality engineer, improving access to clean drinking water. All because of one teacher doing one activity with this one little girl.

Now imagine the positive impacts 145 million students have made on our environment, thanks to the 765,000 educators who have been leading PLT activities in communities across North America for over 45 years.

This Giving Tuesday, consider making a tax-deductible donation to Project Learning Tree so we can advance our mission of educating PreK-12 students about vital topics like biodiversity, sustainability, and climate-smart forestry and nurture the next generation of forest and conservation professionals. Start building a greener tomorrow today.

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Let’s Go Back to School and Back to Nature

Ahhhhhh…the smell of freshly sharpened pencils, the crispness of notebooks, the excitement of learning new things.

This school year, keep the energy and excitement for learning high with ten fun ways to engage learners.

10 Ways to Engage Students with Nature

  1. Take learning outside. Being outdoors provides so many benefits – social, mental, physical, and learning! – but it also connects children to nature, which is so important in a world where people are tethered to technology and disconnected from the natural world. In PLT’s activity collection, Connecting for Health and Planet, students investigate the physical and emotional benefits of working or playing outdoors.
  2. Play detective. Every child learns differently, but one way to put theory into practice is through inquiry-based learning. Invite students to make observations, ask questions, and set up their own investigations. This helps build their problem-solving and analytical skills while keeping them actively engaged. Check out our Trees in Trouble activity, where students play detective with leaves.
  3. Bring nature inside. We realize that heading outdoors to learn isn’t always feasible, but there are many ways you can bring nature inside. Make your own paper. Observe the changing leaves from your classroom window during the Fall. There are 50 fun activities in PLT’s Explore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide that give you options for learning indoors and outdoors.
  4. Students planting a treeDo a service-learning project. What better way to teach children about giving back than to work on a project that betters your community? Whether you do a quarterly litter clean-up or plant trees in an urban space, students can learn while helping out.
  5. Encourage students to dream big. As an educator, you inspire children every day. PLT’s Water Wonders activity can help you teach about watersheds and the water cycle, and may spark an interest and lead to a student becoming a hydrologist in 20 years. You have the power to encourage children to follow their passion, explore nature, and open their eyes to careers they may have never dreamt about.
  6. STEM it up! Get hands-on with nature-inspired STEM activities. Check out our Pinterest page – there are tons of fun ways to encourage students to build, collaborate, and use their creativity! We also have STEM Strategies with suggestions for enriching activities from the Explore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide.
  7. Learn and imagine. Take your learners on a journey by reading a new book (or two or three!). Reading to children helps to support their cognitive development, improves language skills and creativity, and increases focus and concentration. Check out the Recommended Reading section on our website where you can find different books that teach children about nature.
  8. Start a classroom garden. Plant seeds indoors to observe their growth and then transfer them to an outdoor garden. Learn how to get started using minimal resources!
  9. Become budding artists. Some of the most amazing art is inspired by nature. Encourage your students to get creative and be inspired by trees and the world around them. Check out 21 tree art projects for young learners!
  10. Explore nature through technology. We’re all about putting our phones away for tech-free time. But there are some really cool programs and apps to help you and your students learn more about the environment. Check out i-Tree (calculate the value of benefits that trees provide), iNaturalist (plants and animals identification), and Merlin (bird identification), to name a few!

This school year, take learning to the next level with PLT!


project learning tree's explore your environment guideExplore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide 

Looking for activities for the whole school year? Check out PLT’s flagship curriculum, the Explore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide. Filled with 50 activities suitable for educators working with ages five through fourteen, or kindergarten through 8th grade. The activities are multidisciplinary and incorporate math, science, language arts, social studies and more.




Try Our Digital Activity Collections

If you’ve never tried PLT activities with your students, a great way to get started is with our theme-based digital activity collections. Comprised of three activities that can be done as stand-alone lessons or together as a cohesive unit of instruction, these are the perfect way to take students outside to learn or bring nature indoors. Each collection includes 3 hands-on activities for just $5.99! 





Get the most out of PLT by pairing our resources with professional development.

We know how busy life can get, which is why we have in-person, online, and hybrid training opportunities that work with your schedule. You’ll experience PLT activities, get comfortable leading activities outdoors, connect with an amazing network of educators, and leave with a plan to incorporate activities into your lessons.


Celebrating World Migratory Bird Day

Together for Birds Activity CollectionTogether for Birds

Birds are a wonderful introduction to the natural world and happen to be just outside your door! Whether in the city or a forest, a variety of birds are usually within easy eyeshot or earshot.

PLT and American Bird Conservancy (ABC) collaborated to develop a special new digital activity collection–Together for Birds. The activities are designed for educators to use with students in grades K-2, with variations for grades 3-5. The collection is filled with enhanced bird-specific content such as new enrichment experiences, recommended reading, forest facts, accompanying posters, and charts.  



Birds of a Feather Flock Together

This saying seems fitting as we prepare to celebrate World Migratory Bird Day on May 13, 2023. This special day originated to bring awareness of the threats that migratory birds face, their ecological importance, and why it’s so critical to help conserve migratory birds and their habitats.

According to ABC, “Hundreds of bird species flood back and forth between northern breeding grounds and southern wintering areas twice yearly, each a unique circuit of landscape, habitats, and threats.”

Tree with birds

Why Birds Migrate

Birds migrate for two primary reasons–food and nesting. Birds that nest here in the Northern Hemisphere migrate north in the spring because of ample food supply and places to call home. While some birds do not migrate at all, those that do travel varied distances ranging from simply moving down a mountain to a lower elevation to thousands of miles. What is even more incredible is that while the exact path birds travel may differ slightly each year due to weather conditions, food availability, and other reasons, a bird’s inner compass, so to speak, always gets them back home.

In North America, there are four “avian superhighways”–the Atlantic, Mississippi, Central, and Pacific Flyways. Check out this article from ABC to learn more about the flight patterns of bird species near you!

Home Tweet Home

From wetlands to forests, birds have a host of habitats they call home. Some birds build their nests high up in trees, while others create burrows in sand. You might find a bird’s nest delicately floating in a pond and another attached to a freeway overpass. Birds build nests from various materials, including sticks, grass, roots, lichen, bark, feathers, and even mud.

For a fun activity to do with young learners, do the Tree Textures activity from Trees & Me. Set up a discovery table with various materials, like shredded paper, twigs, and moss, and encourage children to build their own nest.

Trees & Birds–A Symbiotic Relationship

Trees are more than just a place birds call home. Birds often find their food, like insects and worms, flying around trees or in the rich soil surrounding a tree and its roots. But it’s not just birds that benefit from trees. It goes the other way around! Birds are essential for dispersing seeds–they contribute to growing more trees. They also help control insect populations, eating pests that can harm trees and plants. These are just some of the many ways trees and birds thrive from one another.

Acorn Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker (in pastel) by Swapna Shepherd, American Bird Conservancy Fellow

Activities to Celebrate Birds

Here are some fun ways to celebrate World Migratory Bird Day!

  • World Migratory Bird Day – Global Events Map: Check out events happening near you with this easy-to-use map. From guided nature hikes hosted by birders to interactive exhibits, there is something for everyone!
  • Download the Together for Birds activity collection: Take learners on a journey outdoors to discover the birds and other organisms living in, on, and around trees; how coloration helps animals survive; and signs of animals in different habitats.
  • Introduce kids to urban birdwatching: Head outdoors and have your learners to use their bird-spotting eyes and ears (or binoculars!) to observe birds. Bring paper and some colored pencils with you and get creative–encourage students to draw the birds they see in their nature journals.
  • Name that bird: With profiles of over 400 bird species, check out American Bird Conservancy’s Bird Library. Instead of having students write a book report, have them write a bird report. Encourage them to learn more about a bird’s habitat, its population, what it eats, where it lives, and even the sounds it makes–whether to attract a mate or to warn others of nearby danger.

Get Your Copy of Together for Birds – New Activity Collection!

PLT partnered with American Bird Conservancy to create a new bird-themed digital activity collection, Together for Birds. Thanks to generous funding from ABC, this collection is available for free until December 31, 2023. 

Celebrating Leaders in Education

PLT 2023 Conference Attendees
PLT Coordinators, Facilitators & Partners at 2023 Annual Conference in Stevenson, WA

At the end of March 2023, over 100 Project Learning Tree (PLT) coordinators, facilitators, and partners came together to learn from one another and share best practices at our PLT Annual Conference. These individuals work tirelessly to help spread the word about PLT and educate teachers, natural resources professionals, and others about how to incorporate PLT activities with their learners. It’s our collective goal and commitment to inspire children (and adults) to get outside and learn in (and from) nature.

Every year we honor a few individuals who embody PLT’s mission of advancing environmental education, forest literacy, and career pathways by using trees and forests as windows on the world. This year, PLT recognized four outstanding individuals who have made significant contributions over the years.

Gold Star Awards

The Gold Star Award is given to National PLT partners and outstanding PLT Coordinators that are advancing PLT and acting as ambassadors for the program.

Robert Raze – PLT EOC Member & PLT Facilitator, Florida

Robert Raze, PLT Gold Star Awardee
Robert Raze, PLT Gold Star Awardee, and Jess Kaknevicius, SFI, VP Education

Robert Raze has served as an environmental educator for over 40 years, inspiring the next generation to consider a career in forestry. As a member of the PLT Education Operating Committee (EOC) as well as a PLT Facilitator in Florida, Robert is always willing to contribute. Whether providing insights into how we can reach more educators and pre-service teachers to contributing to discussions around reaching underserved communities, he is a shining leader and member of the PLT community.

Robert’s support for PLT includes growing partnerships with college and university preservice programs across Florida with an emphasis on working with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). He most recently served as part of the SFI-MANRRS Advisory Committee and shared his own story in the PLT Black Faces in Green Spaces: The Journeys of Black Professionals in Green Careers guide.

In 2004 when Robert began teacher as a faculty member in the College of Education, St. Petersburg College, he introduced the concept of professional development for preservice teachers through PLT workshops. Robert Raze shares his passion for EE with his preservice students. As one student commented, “Dr. Raze made me realize the importance of including environmental education in my practicum experience.” Another student wrote, “Dr. Raze’s teaching style is one that I want to emulate because I know my students will learn as much as I have if I teach like Dr. Raze teaches.”

“Dr. Raze is extremely committed to environmental education and his expertise is recognized by his students who always give him the highest marks on their evaluations of his teaching.” – Kimberly J. Hartman, Dean, College of Education, St. Petersburg College


Denise Buck, PLT Gold Star Awardee
Denise Buck, PLT Gold Star Awardee and Kate Nagle, Director, Education & Project Learning Tree Network

Denise Buck  – PLT Co-Coordinator, Washington

Denise Buck has served as the Washington PLT Coordinator since 2017 but has been engaging educators and students in environmental education for the past 34 years. During that time, she has served as a facilitator for PLT, Project WET, and Project WILD, training countless educators in all three programs.

Denise has lent her experience and passion to numerous working groups and committees for PLT, including service on PLT’s Education Operating Committee (EOC). This strategic advisory group provides insight and leadership over national programs. Her role on the EOC was the Coordinator Representative, where she gathered insights from the full PLT state network and served as their voice at the highest level. Denise has also been a leader in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts through her work to partner with tribes across Washington in the delivery of environmental education.

She even postponed her retirement to host the PLT Annual Conference in her home state when COVID shut down initial plans that began back in 2019! She has been a tireless advocate for PLT and a constant source of positivity for those she’s touched over the years.

Her colleagues describe her as a charismatic, warm, and enthusiastic leader creating a culture of care, inclusion and belonging. As Denise begins her next chapter retiring from her role as Washington PLT Co-Coordinator and Program Director for the Pacific Education Institute, her passion will be greatly missed, but the mark she has made will be forever imprinted on the PLT community.

“Denise is pretty fantastic – she has been sparking joy with PLT for many years. Her empathy and enthusiasm for our work and personal lives help connect and bond us as a community of friends.” –LeeAnn Mikkelson, PLT EOC Member

Leadership in Education Awards

Chanda Cooper 

Chanda Cooper with PLT Team
(L to R): Matt Schnabel, South Carolina PLT Co-Coordinator; Beth Foley, South Carolina PLT Co-Coordinator; Rocco Saracina, PLT Sr. Manager Partnerships & Development; Chanda Cooper, PLT Leadership in Education Awardee

Chanda Cooper, an educator with the Richland Soil and Water Conservation District, was recognized for her more than a decade of leadership in championing PLT.

“Chanda rises to any challenge put before her. She works across the county, reaching more than 50,000 students at more than 100 schools in three school districts with her tireless message that learning about forest and conservation science isn’t just important—it can be a lot of fun too,” said Matt Schnabel, Environmental Education Coordinator with the South Carolina Forestry Commission and the South Carolina PLT State Coordinator, “Chanda acts as an ambassador for PLT in South Carolina.”

Cooper co-designed and co-facilitated South Carolina PLT’s strategic planning process in 2019. In 2020, Cooper led the South Carolina PLT Marketing Subcommittee through the development of a state marketing plan. She also co‑authored the final PLT 2020-2024 strategic plan and ushered it through full PLT Steering Committee approval. As a part of this process, she assisted with the reorganization of the South Carolina PLT Steering Committee’s subcommittees.

As the current chair of the South Carolina PLT’s Marketing Subcommittee, Cooper has been instrumental in the development of several new PLT outreach materials over the past year. She facilitated subcommittee work sessions to recommend and review new designs for PLT’s informational brochure and four pop-up banners. In 2022, Cooper scripted, filmed, and edited a series of six video testimonials featuring PLT Steering Committee members, then posted the videos on the South Carolina PLT Facebook page.

Cooper was recognized as a National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2018 and 2017, and as the South Carolina Jerry L. Shrum Project Learning Tree Outstanding Educator of the Year in 2016. She was also named South Carolina’s Environmental Educator of the Year by the Environmental Education Association of South Carolina in 2022.

Dennis Mitchell 

Dennis Mitchell with PLT Team
(L to R): Cyndi Chavez, California PLT Co-Coordinator; Jonelle Mason, California PLT Co-Coordinator; Dennis Mitchell, PLT Leadership in Education Awardee; Rocco Saracina, PLT Sr. Manager Partnerships & Development

Dennis Mitchell, a retired teacher from Evergreen Elementary in Cottonwood, California, was recognized for his tireless work over a quarter century delivering PLT education programs to a diverse range of students.

“It is hard to overstate Dennis’s rich experience in developing and delivering education curriculum programs as a middle school educator. He has proven his dedication by contributing to multiple rewrites of PLT’s Explore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide, delivering consistent workshops, training new coordinators, and being a monumental resource as California PLT has grown,” said Jonelle Mason, the Northern California PLT State Coordinator at the University of California. “Dennis spreads his deep love for our natural world with ease. He is a role model for all education professionals.”

Mitchell provides PLT trainees throughout California with a critical understanding of both natural resources and education techniques. He plays an important role as the Sierra Education Director for the Forestry Institute for Teachers programs, where he certifies PLT participants annually. This week-long camp involves vigorous planning and coordination to align PLT education curriculum with natural resources concepts. He works closely with natural resources partners, local foresters, school districts, and Sierra Pacific Industries.

Through the Forestry Institute, Mitchell brings his decades-long experience applying PLT in the classroom to elevate the role of forests and the people who work in and care for them. He has a close relationship with many local foresters and natural resource professionals, bringing them in as guest speakers during workshops. These enthusiastic professionals’ specialties include wildfire, law, wildlife, and forestry. By bringing in outside sources, Mitchell gives PLT educators the opportunity to speak to working professionals and then bring that knowledge back to youth learners.


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

Check out more photos from this year’s PLT conference on our Facebook page!


Bring PLT Into Your School or Community

If you are interested in connecting with PLT in your state, whether you’re looking for online or in-person professional development workshops to learn how to incorporate PLT resources with your learners or you want to become a PLT workshop facilitator, visit:


Seeds in Outer Space! Moon Trees LIVE – April 2023

At Project Learning Tree, we’re pretty big fans of trees, so when we found out about #MoonTrees, we thought, Seeds + Outer Space = the perfect STEM pairing.

One of the original #MoonTrees planted at the Tilden Nature Area in Berkeley, CA.

Did you know that NASA and the USDA Forest Service partnered up over 50 years ago to send seeds to orbit the Moon on Apollo 14?

Well, in December 2022, they did it again!

This time around, Artemis I carried seeds from five different tree species – loblolly pine, Douglas fir, American sycamore, coast redwood, and sweetgum.

After returning from a six-week mission orbiting the moon, the seeds will be germinated back here on Earth, and seedlings will be planted in various locations throughout the U.S. and around the world.


Bring Moon Trees into Your Classroom

Did you know that many of the original Moon Trees from the 1971 Apollo 14 mission still stand today and are thriving? Some have even produced a second generation and may be planted closer to home than you think!

Check out the list of moon tree locations around the United States — and if you take a visit to see one in person, pair the trip with PLT’s “How Big Is Your Tree” STEM Strategies exploring science, technology, engineering, and math-related aspects of these interstellar trees. A simplified, free, family-friendly version of this activity is also available in English and Español.

Here are a few more steps you can take to engage your students in learning more about Moon Trees:


Step 1:

During the month of April, join experts from the Forest Service and NASA for a four-part video series that looks into the splashdown of Orion, seed viability, germination, and more.

Tune in throughout the month of April to Natural Inquirer’s Youtube channel!

Tune in every Friday in April for Moon Trees LIVE 2

  • Episode 1 – Splashdown: Return to Earth (April 7)
  • Episode 2 – Viability: Testing Survival (April 14)
  • Episode 3 – Germination: To Sprout or Not to Sprout (April 21)
  • Episode 4 – Live Stream: Expert Q&A with the Audience (April 28)


Step 2:

Continue the conversation about trees and space. Check out the Forest Service and Natural Inquirer’s learning module, Countdown to Moon Trees, which incorporates several fun and engaging PLT activities to help your students explore trees, what they need, and how they’ve gone to space. The module contains seven units that can be used throughout the year (or compressed to a few weeks).


Step 3:

Want to go one step further? The Forest Service is seeking 4th and 5th grade classrooms to help evaluate this program. If your class is interested, please reach out to Rachel Bayer at [email protected].


Be the Next Home to a Moon Tree

Apply for your school or organization to be the future home of an Artemis I Moon Tree! The Forest Service and NASA will choose Moon Tree recipients through a competitive application process.

Inspire the next generation of nature explorers. Who knows, maybe one of your students will be the next person to take tree seeds into space!