PLT Releases New Activities For Exploring Nature With Young Children Ages 1-6

image of a tree on a white background surrounded by a yellow illustrated sun blue illustrated clouds orange illustrated bird and a purple illustrated squirrel sitting on top of the title trees and me

Project Learning Tree® (PLT) released a new resource today for families and teachers to connect children ages 1–6 to nature, with a focus on trees. Trees & Me: Activities for Exploring Nature with Young Children offers hundreds of ideas for fun, indoor and outdoor, learning experiences for toddlers and preschoolers to explore nature through their senses, experience trees throughout the seasons, and connect with their community.

The hands-on activities are designed for families and caregivers, childcare providers, and early childhood or PreK-Grade 1 educators to use in a range of settings, including preschools, childcare and nature centers, and at home. Special instructions tailor many experiences for children under 3 years of age.

white arrow pointing downward with the number 3 inside a purple circle
This icon suggests activities for children ages three and under

Get your copy of Trees & Me from PLT’s Shop, from Amazon and other places where books are sold, or by attending a local PLT workshop conducted by PLT’s 50-state network of 75 coordinators and 1,000 facilitators across the country. 

Trees & Me combines the fascination that young children have for trees with research-based findings about the lifelong benefits of early exposure to nature,” says Jaclyn Stallard, PLT’s Director of Curriculum. “The learning experiences improve children’s emotional and physical well-being, enhance literacy, math, and critical thinking skills, promote positive social behavior, and make kids more likely to care about their environment throughout their lives.”


Easy-to-Do, Hands-On Activities, Loaded with Fun Features

QR code to track 11 of Trees and Me Yippee, Hooray! by Billy B.
Try it for yourself! Track 11: Yippee, Hooray! by Billy B.

Caregivers can easily adapt the 12 hands-on activities to meet each child’s unique needs, the different environments where they live, and the materials available.

“I love seeing so many options in the PLT Trees & Me guide that make it really easy to use, like the QR codes that grant access to songs for the Music and Movement activities,” said Tia R. Prostko, Early Childhood Well-Being Coach at South Carolina Program for Infant/Toddler Care in Easley, South Carolina, one of hundreds of educators and childcare providers who field-tested the activities with children.


“It’s also a wonderful resource for teachers who aren’t quite as comfortable yet with teaching outdoors or using nature for learning,” she added. “Each activity includes specific suggestions with the “Take It Outside!” box, and there’s enough information in the “Background for Adults” sections for answering the questions of “why?” that are basically guaranteed in a preschool environment!”

Within each Background section there are Forest Facts, designed for adults, that connect an activity’s theme to forests.



A Plethora of Learning Tools

White outline of a lightbulb in a green circle

The ideas for learning featured in the Group Experiences and Free Exploration sections empower children to work independently and in groups.

Art is integrated throughout the guide and children practice STEM through ten essential skills, integrating science, technology, engineering, and math. They also explore careers through dramatic play and skill practice that plant ideas for a child’s future.


Early Learning Standards

The activities connect with early learning standards in science, English language arts, math, and social studies—as well as programs like the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), Head Start, and established nature-based preschool practices—so children learn concepts they need to succeed in school.

Example from Activity 11: Community Explorers — Connections to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Math, and C3 for Social Studies


“Including the career connections of relevant community helpers, such as farmers, park rangers, foresters, and scientists, is an easy foray into the “what do you want to be when you grow up?” conversation,” said Jessica Kratz, Coordinator at Greenbelt Nature Center in Staten Island, New York. “Kids are conditioned to want to be the types of “helpers” they hear about, and this is a perfect way to begin.”


Learning in Preschool, Reinforced with Learning at Home

Trees & Me includes many supporting resources, such as tested techniques for engaging early learners, tips for outdoor learning, and bringing nature inside.

It also suggests ways to connect parents as partners in their child’s education. 

Family & Friends pages reinforce a child’s learning at school with learning experiences at home, including ways to help out in the community.

Other unique and distinguishing features include Traditional Knowledge and a Gratitude Walk, and Woodworking with real tools.

Trees & Me offers something for everyone and anyone who cares for the future of a young child,” said Linda Kinney, Education Specialist and Manager Playful Pedagogy at North Carolina Zoological Park in Asheboro.


Explore the Guide

Learn more about the Trees & Me activity guide and its supporting resources at

Watch this 4-minute video to explore some of the guide’s features:

Purchase the 176-page guide now from or get it through your PLT state program by attending an in-person or virtual professional development workshop. Find contact information for your state at

The guide comes with a self-guided, online interactive tutorial to help you get the most out of Trees & Me based on how you interact with young children. Choose your path as a childcare provider, Pre-K-Grade 1 educator, or as a parent, caregiver, or nonformal educator. 

Awards for PLT’s Explore Your Environment

Published last year, PLT’s Explore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide continues to get praise, and we’re thrilled about the editorial reviews and awards it has received so far!


Academics' Choice Smart Book Award Winner Seal in gold and black

Academics’ Choice Smart Book Award

In December, Academics’ Choice presented a 2021 Smart Book Award to Project Learning Tree and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative for its Explore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide in recognition of “mind-building excellence.”

The independent Academics’ Choice Awards program and its seal of excellence are recognized worldwide by consumers and educational institutions as a mark of genuinely effective learning tools that stimulate the mind and provide the potential for students to fully develop higher order thinking skills.

The Academics’ Choice Advisory Board consists of leading thinkers and graduates from Princeton, Harvard, George Washington University, and other reputable educational institutions. The board, in collaboration with product-appropriate volunteer reviewers, selects the winners. Entries are judged by category, subject area, and grade level, and evaluated based on standardized criteria rooted in constructivist learning theory. The Academics’ Choice Smart Book Award is a prestigious seal of educational quality.

“Perfect timing for this book to be released! After sitting inside on Zoom for hundreds of hours, kids and adults alike need to get outside and learn! As a teacher with 20 years of experience, this book is one of a kind. The lessons are easy to follow, aligned with standards and offer great ways to differentiate instruction. Another strong reason I support this curriculum and approach is that it teaches more about how to think, not what to think. Buy this book, get out of the classroom, and give your students a chance to interact, explore and discover the world around them!” — Academics’ Choice Award Reviewer

Read more comments from Academics’ Choice Awards reviewers about PLT’s Explore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide.


Kirkus Star, Top 100, and Other Recognitions from Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus Reviews The Best Books of 2021

Blue circle with Kirkus Star and a star shape in the middle

Kirkus has been a leader in the publishing industry since 1933 and is an industry-trusted source for honest and accessible reviews.

You may have noticed a Kirkus Review on the back cover of a best-selling book.

Kirkus reviews around 10,000 books every year, from big publishing houses to small presses, genre publishers, and more.

That’s why we were honored to receive a great book review last June, followed by The Kirkus Star, which is awarded to books of remarkable merit, and a feature in Kirkus Reviews in August. 

Most recently, in December, we learned we made their Top 100 list for Best Indie Books of 2021!

“An important and engaging tool for teachers. The activities are consistently fun throughout and offer a path toward creating a new generation focused on environmental issues.”EXPLORE YOUR ENVIRONMENT | Kirkus Reviews


Design Awards

Not only is the content being noticed, but so is the graphic design and layout of the activity guide!

We spent a lot of time with educators to improve the organization and layout of the guide. New icons and graphics not only make Explore Your Environment look contemporary and visually appealing, but they also make the guide easy and efficient to use. 


Hermes Platinum Creative Awards Statue with two angel-like wings

Hermes Platinum Award

The Hermes Awards are one of the oldest and largest creative competitions in the world, administered by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals, and Explore Your Environment won a platinum Hermes Creative Award.

Winners range in size from individuals to media conglomerates and Fortune 500 companies. Other award winners include well known entities such as Airbnb, Fidelity Investments, PepsiCo, and more.



MarCom Platinum Statue


MarCom Platinum Award

Explore Your Environment also earned a platinum MarCom award for print design.

Since it was founded in 2004, MarCom has grown into one of the world’s largest and most-respected creative competitions. More than 6,500 print and digital entries are submitted from dozens of countries each year.




What Educators Are Saying

Here are just a few of the many testimonials we’ve received from educators who have used Explore Your Environment with their students.

“The guide is attractive, easy to follow, and perfectly outlines everything needed for a flawless environmental education experience.” — Mandy Kern, nonformal educator (Kansas)

“The strategies for differentiation and enrichment help to meet the diverse needs of my students and make the experience relevant.” — Robin C. McLean, Ed.D., Career and Technical Education middle school teacher (New Jersey)

“These activities provoke students’ curiosities and inspire wonder. They are engaging and easy to implement.” — Megan Lee, 3rd grade teacher (Colorado)



Cover of PLT Explore Your Environment K-8 GuidePLT would love to know what you think of our new activity guide!

Drop a note to Jaclyn Stallard, PLT’s Director of Curriculum, at [email protected].


New Releases and Free Resources: PLT Year in Review

Project Learning Tree uses trees and forests as windows on the world to engage youth — from early childhood through to young adult — in exploring nature. Our activities are fun and full of learning! They’re flexible and easy to use in all kinds of educational settings. They connect children to the outdoors, increase young people’s awareness and knowledge about their environment, introduce green careers, and provide real-world opportunities for students to develop and apply skills like STEM, critical thinking, problem-solving, communications, and youth voice.

As 2021 draws to a close, we wanted to highlight our newest releases, as well as the training and resources we deliver for free, thanks to our partners and sponsors.

Bookmark and explore all our resources and professional development opportunities!


NEW! Explore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide

This 432-page guide (available in print or e-book) is our most popular new release in 2021, with nearly 10,000 copies already sold!

It contains 50 hands-on, multidisciplinary activities to connect students to nature and the outdoors, no matter if you live in a rural or urban area. The activities combine science with art, English, math, and social studies. Each activity is tied to academic standards and other benchmarks. They include ways to take learning outdoors, incorporate STEM, and differentiate instruction depending on the individual needs of your students and many more new features designed for flexible instruction.

Learn more about this guide and all it offers in this 3-minute video:


  • Featured in Kirkus Reviews (see page 253) “ An important and engaging tool for teachers. The activities are consistently fun throughout and offer a path toward creating a new generation focused on environmental issues.”
  • Awarded The Kirkus Star “One of the most coveted designations in the book industry, the Kirkus Star marks books of exceptional merit.”

light green button that reads buy now




To help you get the most out of your Explore Your Environment guide, we developed a self-paced, interactive online course, and our PLT state programs offer in-person, blended, and virtual professional development workshops (tailored to your state, educational setting, and grade level).

Plus, curated resources, downloadable student pages, recommended reading, correlations to academic standards, suggested Units of Instruction, and much, much more! Download these resources for free at


PLT's Trillions of Trees and Nature of Fire covers of curriculumNEW! Activity Collections

Not ready to purchase the full Explore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide yet? Try an Activity Collection instead!

Organized around a specific theme for a particular grade level, each collection offers three activities from the new guide, available for purchase as a downloadable PDF.

The activities that comprise each collection can be used as individual, stand-alone lessons, or all together as a cohesive unit of instruction using a storyline technique.

Trillions of Trees for grades 3-5 and Nature of Fire for grades 6-8 are the newest releases in this series. Others include Sensational Trees for grades K-2, Biodiversity Blitz for grades 3-5, and Discover Your Urban Forest for grades 6-8.

Purchase these Activity Collections directly from, or ask your PLT State Coordinator about a mini in-person or virtual professional development workshop.


FREE! Learn About Forests Toolkit

Kids taking soil sample in forest

It’s hard for people unfamiliar with teaching kids to know how to translate good intentions into effective, age-appropriate lessons. Weyerhaeuser partnered with PLT and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative to develop PLT’s free Learn About Forests toolkit, in part to better equip its own natural resource professionals with a way to connect with students.

Learn About Forests consists of 12 hands-on activities to do with children ages 10 to 16. The activities provide non-educators an easy-to-follow path to confidently teach about themes related to sustainable forest management, stewardship, and green careers. These are topics that many of today’s young people want to know more about, for example:

  • Every Tree for Itself: Explore how trees compete with each other for nutrients, sunlight, space, and water
  • Living with Fire: Explore the burnability of different fuels and the role of fire in ecosystems
  • What’s in a Label: Understand what certification is and why it matters
  • Who Works in This Forest: Learn about forest-related careers


The free supporting toolkit provides tips and tricks for working with youth, for example: 

  • Tell a captivating story. You might start each activity by sharing a personal anecdote from your own experience.
  • Model thinking skills. When the group discovers something unfamiliar, you might say, “I don’t know–let’s explore that together” or “What do you think is the best solution?
  • Silence is okay. Give youth adequate time to process information and respond.
  • Focus on the experience. Try not to get bogged down in the details by encouraging youth to make their own observations, ask questions, and draw conclusions.


Download the activities and toolkit at

For a similar project that engages younger children, try our Pocket Guide: Seeds to Trees (for ages 3-6), which was developed with support from International Paper.



cover of plt's forest literacy framework with four different children inspect leaves in front of a white backgroundFREE! Forest Literacy Framework

Also launched this year, PLT’s Forest Literacy Framework translates the language of forests and sustainable forest management into concepts for everyone at any age. It provides a roadmap to hundreds of hands-on activities PLT has developed to use with youth ages 5 to 18, organized by grade level, hot topic (such as climate change, wildfire, and urban forests), and theme (such as why forests matter and sustainability).


The framework offers 100 forest concepts for grades K-12, organized into four themes:

  1. What is a forest?
  2. Why do forests matter?
  3. How do we sustain our forests?
  4. What is our responsibility to forests?

Thanks to the U.S. Forest Service for their support and collaboration on this project.

Learn more and download the framework at



Let Us Know How We’re Doing!

We’d love to hear your feedback about our new resources and ways we can improve them. PLT is all about continuous improvement and we welcome and invite your suggestions about how we can make our work even more relevant to you and the youth you reach.
Please write to us at [email protected].

Preschool in Virginia Earns Recognition as PLT’s First Certified Early Childhood GreenSchool

The Country Day School (CDS) celebrated an environmental education milestone today when the school became certified by Project Learning Tree’s (PLT) GreenSchools program. The school in McLean, VA, near Washington D.C., is the first early childhood center in the country to be honored as a certified PLT GreenSchool.

PLT’s GreenSchool certification recognizes the efforts of teachers and students to make their school a greener and healthier place. The Country Day School has taken significant steps to enhance and fully utilize its school grounds, reduce energy use, conserve water, recycle, reduce waste, and improve air quality, among other projects. Certification also recognizes the school’s strong commitment to engaging students in environmental and sustainability education and taking students outdoors to learn.

Students and teachers at The Country Day School designed and implemented action projects to complete the five investigations for certification. Some projects included: partnering with a local organization to plant six new trees on the school campus, starting a school-wide recycling initiative to utilize recycled materials in the curriculum, building a platform for the rain barrels used to collect and conserve water for water play activities, creating signs to communicate to families to turn off their cars at carpool to reduce air pollution.

masked students plant a tree outdoors

“I would like to thank the Country Day School staff. They worked through the pandemic year to complete this extensive project. The community rallied together to research and support this project. The children were very engaged. They had a wonderful time in the outdoor classrooms learning how to make Country Day greener” said Diane Dunne, CDS Head of School.  “Many parents have commented to me about ways the children have brought this project home.”

PLT’s GreenSchools program inspires K-12 students to take responsibility for improving the environment at their school, at home and in their community. PLT’s Early Childhood GreenSchools program specifically meets the needs of early childhood educators and younger learners.

An adult leader guide offers ideas and activities for early childhood educators to green their centers while facilitating environmental experiences with their students through art, movement, sensory exploration, and time outdoors – all of which are inherently appealing to young children. A set of student investigations teach young children about their environment and how they can make a difference while developing their skills in language, mathematics, and science. These resources can be downloaded for free at

“More than 5,000 schools across the country participate in the PLT GreenSchools program, but only a few have done everything it takes to achieve certification,” said Jessica Kaknevicius, Vice President of Education for the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). PLT is an initiative of SFI. “The Country Day School is even more extraordinary as it gives the youngest of learners a voice and a role in the projects they undertake.”

The Country Day School is an independent private preschool and kindergarten. The campus includes 9 playgrounds and 4 wooded acres used for outdoor classroom learning activities. The CDS program’s focus is on developing children’s pleasure and excitement for learning. Country Day is NAEYC accredited and serves children 18 months to 6 years old.

PLT Releases New Explore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide

PLT book cover K-8 Activity Guide Explore Your EnvironmentProject Learning Tree® (PLT) released a new curriculum guide today to engage kindergarten through grade 8 students in exploring their environment. Fifty field-tested, hands-on activities integrate investigations of nature with science, math, English language arts, and social studies.

Educators can obtain a copy of PLT’s Explore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide directly from PLT’s Shop, from Amazon and other places where books are sold, or by attending a local PLT professional development workshop conducted by PLT’s 50-state network of 75 coordinators and 1,000 facilitators across the country. 

Project Learning Tree is a long-established, award-winning environmental education program that uses trees and forests as windows on the world to advance environmental literacy, stewardship, and pathways to green careers. This new, cutting-edge resource for educators offers robust, real-world learning experiences for students designed to bolster STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning, promote civic engagement, and help young people acquire the skills they’ll need to be creative problem solvers. The activities develop students’ critical thinking skills as they participate in hands-on learning, debate real-life environmental decisions, and engage with their community in action projects.

“The guide is fresh, it’s user-friendly, and it works indoors and outdoors, in classrooms and nonformal settings, in urban, suburban, and rural settings” says Jaclyn Stallard, PLT’s Director of Curriculum. “Educators can easily integrate the activities into their existing curriculum or other programming to actively engage students in learning about both the natural world and the built environment. Every activity in the guide suggests ways to take student learning outside, which has only increased in importance to many parents and educators over the last year due to Covid-19.”


Hands-on classroom studies and outdoor field investigations

“For teachers that have challenges with moving out of the classroom, sometimes a gentle push is all someone needs and the ‘Take It Outside’ feature provides just that,” said Tony Napoletano, a public school teacher at Central Elementary School in Helena, MT, one of more than 40 educators who field-tested the activities with students. “The ‘I Love My Green Job’ highlights are also exciting. They show kids early on what careers they might want to pursue and just how many options there are in the green job field.”

PLT uses experiential learning, inquiry-based investigations, outdoor education, and service learning to help educators make learning relevant and fun for students. In addition, every activity includes career connections to further link learning to real-life experiences.

open book

To ensure that PLT meets the needs of educators, hundreds of professional educators and technical experts help develop, review, field test, and evaluate all of PLT’s curriculum materials. The process includes research, surveys, writing workshops, and reviews with educators and natural resource professionals; revisions based on field testing; and formal assessment of impact on student learning by independent evaluators. 

“There are a variety of ways to incorporate the activities into what I am already teaching,” said another pilot tester, Dr. Robin C. McLean, Agriscience teacher and Career and Technical Education at Northern Burlington County Regional Middle School in Columbus, NJ. “The strategies for differentiation and enrichment help to meet the diverse needs of my students and make the experience relevant for them.”

“I like how you list ideas for adapting activities to different age groups,” said Laura Bland, a state park naturalist with Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “This is important to me as I work with a variety of ages.”

PLT is committed to accessibility and this guide was developed through a critical lens of justice and inclusion. PLT’s model of professional development also helps to ensure that instruction and content strategies can be modified to meet the needs of all learners.


Engaging and Easy to Implement

Birds and Bugs. Web of Life. Forest in the City. These are three examples of the 50 activities found in the 432-page guide that is organized by grade level. Each activity provides educators all the information they need to plan, organize, and conduct the learning experience, as well as assessment and enrichment opportunities. Importantly for educators, each activity displays explicit connections to practices and concepts mandated by the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English Language Arts and Mathematics, and College, Career, and Civic Life Framework for Social Studies (C3).

Pullout teacher quote

Another hallmark of PLT is professional development that offers educators the opportunity to participate in PLT activities, enhance their teaching skills, and become comfortable teaching outdoors. PLT’s 50-state network trains 15,000 PreK-12 educators every year through 800 workshops held across the country.

An online course option for educators to learn on their own schedule how best to use PLT’s new K-8 Activity Guide specific to their setting will be published later this year (August 2021).

“Exposure to nature has many proven benefits for physical and mental health and learning outdoors can enhance academic achievement,” says Jessica Kaknevicius, Vice President of Education for the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). PLT is an initiative of SFI.

“Furthermore, engaging students in exploring their environment provides important opportunities for youth to become engaged in real-world issues” she says. “From the earliest grades on up, they see the relevance of their classroom studies and acquire the skills needed for green careers in the 21st-century workplace.”

PLT Featured on CNN: Outdoor Classrooms Reenergize Kids During the Pandemic

We were thrilled to see PLT featured so prominently on CNN last month! Check out the article “Outdoor Classrooms Reenergize Kids During the Pandemic” and accompanying video published on CNN Health on November 18, 2020 that showcases how PLT is supporting educators and parents in a growing movement to get kids outdoors, not only during the pandemic which has forced schools to move to online learning, but also as a way for using nature and the outdoors for improving children’s health and social and emotional learning.


(CNN)When the pandemic forced his school to go to online learning, fifth-grader Bergen Manzella spent six hours a day staring at his computer screen.

“My eyes were drooping a lot and red. I was really tired staring at a screen, not being able to move around that much,” said Bergen.

His mother, a math tutor, didn’t like what it was doing to him. The truth is, even before remote learning, she was seeing her son come home from school tired and wrung out.

“That more sterile environment in an indoor classroom can be fatiguing,” Brynn Manzella told CNN.

So she decided to homeschool him. Around that time, Manzella heard about another teacher holding an outdoor class once a week in her Loveland, Colorado, neighborhood with other elementary school kids.

The class came at the perfect time, said Manzella, because her son needed more outdoor time to explore and socialize with other kids in a safe way during the pandemic.

“I think it creates an opportunity for kids to be really resourceful and to think outside of the box.”


Fresh air, nature and no screens

Project Learning Tree is an environmental education program that gets children from prekindergarten through 12th grade out into nature to explore and learn about their environment — with a focus on trees. It’s part of the non-profit Sustainable Forestry Initiative.
“It’s super fun. We do a whole bunch of activities,” 10-year-old Bergen told CNN. “I just love all the colors of nature being outside.”
The program, offered in all 50 states, aligns with Common Core State Standards in science, social studies, language arts and math. Just in time for fall, they learn why leaves turn yellow.

Children sit in a circle during a Project Learning Tree outdoor classroom activity.
Children in Loveland, Colorado, circle around teacher Michele Mandeville during a Project Learning Tree outdoor classroom activity.
“The stuff inside them that makes them green, goes inside these tubes in the leaf so the tree can store it for the next year,” said Bergen. “Then the leaves turn yellow and fall off the tree.”
Students also learn about pollinators and how bees help produce the food we eat. They learn how seeds travel through the wind and grow in the soil where they land. They create nature journals — like so many scientists have from John Muir to John James Audubon.
The kids develop their creative writing skills that way — crafting stories from their observations, sitting under a tree for 10 or 15 minutes, said Michele Mandeville, a facilitator for Project Learning Tree in Colorado.
“If we give kids the opportunity to get outside to learn in nature, to engage with nature and others within an outdoor space, they’re really going to learn to preserve nature and just kind of fall in love with it,” Mandeville told CNN.
The kids choose a tree to “adopt” and they learn about that species; from the bark to the type of leaf, and watch how it changes through the seasons. They pretend to be trees and gather the nutrients they need for them to survive, collecting different colored squares for each element.
A student writes in her nature journal outdoors.
A student works on her nature journal, describing a yellow leaf from a tree she adopted.
“There was green for nutrients, yellow for sunlight, blue for water and red for fire,” said Bergen.
They learn to “read” a cross section of a tree to see how old it is through the number of rings and what happened in each year from beetle kill, to forest fires which Colorado is dealing with now.
Mandeville also teaches them to spot the species of birds in their trees — from downy woodpeckers to western bluebirds.
And classes are held all winter long in many places, unless it drops below freezing. Birds are easier to spot when the leaves are off the trees and kids learn to build shelters, and check for animal tracks.
Project Learning Tree shares these fun winter activities parents can do outside with their preschoolers.

Using five senses to observe

Children learn to focus and observe using their five senses just as scientists need to hone their power of observation. Mandeville has the kids map out sounds they hear, called “sound mapping.”
“They close their eyes and kind of put on little ‘deer ears’ by cupping their ears,” said Mandeville.
They write down everything from bird tweets to traffic sounds, to rustling leaves and rushing water and indicate the direction they’re coming from.
“We’re not engaged with sound because we’re so stimulated by our vision,” said Mandeville.
She encourages students to lift up a log in the river and discover what may be hiding underneath.
She explains how mushrooms and moss help decompose wood in the river.
“They can collect data and you can even spend time building bar graphs, comparing different elements in nature they found,” said Manzella. “You can’t do that in a classroom with four walls. They’re able to learn in a different way.”

The power of nature to soothe, and spark creativity

Bergen’s mom says after he takes the class, “he comes home enlivened.” Studies have found numerous health benefits of spending time outdoors in nature and children in particular benefit greatly.
Bergen explains it this way, “I feel like, you can breathe and you can just be closer to the ground, to this earth.”
Mandeville, who has a Masters of Education degree, took a year off from teaching in school to do outdoor education, which ended up coinciding with the pandemic.
Ten-year-old boy taking a core sample from a tree.
Ten-year-old Bergen Manzella learns how to take a core sample from a tree.

“There really has been a rise with students getting really nervous and anxious when they’re in the classroom and just kind of the rush in the quick change of subjects that they have to go through and not giving them a lot of time to process and get outside and really engage.”
Teachers need to get outside too.
“I know that they are burnt out and overwhelmed with trying to engage kids through a screen.”
Mandeville is a facilitator for Project Learning Tree, giving other teachers, and informal educators workshops — now online — about how to teach this outdoor education curriculum.
“Many students who are quiet in the classroom and don’t want to be called on tend to really excel outdoors,” said Mandeville who herself was a shy kid.
“The quiet ones… their eyes open up. They want to explore, they feel like they have a little more room to just go poke around and maybe lift a log look and see what’s under there.”
Kids tend to have very short attention spans when they’re looking at screens all day, said Mandeville.” It really is about going outside and just opening up our sense of awe and wonder and looking and seeing what we have not seen before.”

No formal class needed to get outdoors

A student looks at the rings of a tree through a microscope.
A student looks at the rings of a tree through a microscope. The students learn how to tell a tree’s age and what happened in each year of its life.

Whether you are an educator, a parent, or a volunteer interested in the outdoors, you can find free nature activities and games for kids to download or pull up on an I-Pad on Project Learning Tree’s website. Or you can get training online to hold an informal class in your own community.

Parents can get their kids outside and away from their screens whether they find a class or not, said Mandeville.

“It’s just something very simple such as going into your backyard, finding a place to sit — we call that a ‘sit spot’ — and observing all that’s around them,” picking out bird song, traffic noise, leaf blowers and the sound that wind makes through the leaves.

That encourages self-awareness, to learn to sit quietly and just be.
“I find that nature has always been a place for me to heal and find hope in the world,” said Mandeville. Bergen’s mother agrees.
“Oftentimes we’re outside and we’re just not noticing all the life that’s happening around us even in the middle of a city.
And as soon as we start noticing, I really believe that we can’t stop noticing.”


View the story produced by Amy Chillag, Producer, CNN Special Projects Producer on CNN here

Provide Input on United Nations Assessment of Forest-Related Education

Project Learning Tree is supporting a Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) initiative to gather input via a survey that will inform a global assessment of forest-related education. The information gathered is intended to build the case for renewed investment in forest education globally.  

Project Learning Tree is a leading partner for North American engagement around this survey. Our support of this initiative aligns with PLT’s goal to advance environmental literacy, stewardship, and career pathways using trees and forests as windows on the world. It also aligns with our commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 4, Quality Education.

About the Survey

The survey will take 15-30 minutes. It seeks input from individuals at all formal levels of education (from K-12 schools to colleges and universities) who are knowledgeable about or involved in education related to forests and trees, or who hire recent graduates from forest-related programs.

For example, if you teach at the elementary level, the survey will ask you, among other questions:

  • to what extent are forest-related topics included in your curriculum?
  • to what extent certain topics (such as plants and animals that live in or around forests) or skills (such as observing the environment) are included in your curriculum?
  • are forests used as a teaching environment or classroom?
  • what resources are available to you?

The FAO understands that the recent COVID-19 outbreak may be influencing your involvement in forest education and prefers that you respond to the survey questions based on your pre-COVID experience.

The survey is available at Your responses will be invaluable in FAO’s efforts to chart a path forward for forest education and to shape a new international initiative to reinforce it. Responses to the survey will be treated anonymously.

About the Organizers

The survey is being undertaken by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), and the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) and funded by the Government of Germany. The North American (Canada and the U.S.) effort is being overseen by the Faculty of Forestry at the University of British Columbia in partnership with the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science at Michigan Technological University and Project Learning Tree (PLT)—an initiative of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).

Prize Drawing

If you wish to be entered into a lottery for a fully funded prize to participate in the International Conference on Forest Education to be held at FAO Headquarters in Rome (tentatively scheduled for November 2020), click here to participate in the lottery.

Online Green Jobs Personality Quiz Helps Students Chart Their Future

Young Woman Overlooking Forests

Giving your students a chance to answer a few simple questions could put them on the path to a rewarding green career. In just minutes, Project Learning Tree’s interactive Find Your Green Job online personality quiz produces a personalized report with six job options.

Green jobs represent one of the fastest-growing and changing segments of the global economy. At the same time, today’s youth are seeking rewarding careers that will help the world move toward more sustainable lifestyles and greener economies. Some of the most exciting—and perhaps greenest—jobs involve forests.

There are 36 green jobs options currently profiled in PLT’s Find Your Green Job youth personality quiz. Additional resources to support the quiz include Career Facts, a STEM skills self-assessment, and more.


Take advantage of a one-time free trial 

Educators can try a no-cost version of the green jobs quiz to find out how easy it is to administer this quiz to youth. After completing the free trial, educators receive their quiz results by email along with information about purchasing access codes. 



For just 10 cents per student, open a whole new world of career and educational possibilities

Educators can buy 30 student quiz access codes for just $2.99 from Each student will enter their unique access code at to complete the online quiz. Based on the characteristics each student selects, the results will specify the student’s personality type and suggest some ideal green jobs. Each student will see their results displayed on screen. 


PLT Green Jobs Qiuz Results


Young Forestry Professionals Outdoors

Building rapport with students

Educators can log in to their account to access each student’s results and download PDFs for each students. See an example. These personalized career reports are a great way to start a conversation that engages students about their future.


Green Jobs: Exploring Forest Careers

The companion guide Green Jobs: Exploring Forest Careers helps youth discover careers in sustainable forestry and conservation. Anyone can use this resource with youth aged 12–25 in settings ranging from community youth programs and school classrooms, to college and career prep, to field trips and forest tours.


get the guide button


Now more than ever, we have to be hopeful for the future

In today’s challenging times, it’s important to inspire young people to consider career plans that involve caring for the planet. In the wake of COVID-19 and the climate crisis, more and more people are beginning to understand the importance of a more resilient and lower-carbon society. The quiz and supporting materials give students a sense of purpose and a hopeful view of a future that includes a rewarding career.


Green jobs offer opportunities for people with diverse backgrounds, skills, interest areas, and personal qualities

There are 36 green jobs profiled in PLT’s Find Your Green Job online quiz. They include:

  • Arborist
  • Architect
  • Environmental Educator
  • Forester
  • Forest Engineer
  • Logger
  • Lumber Mill Worker
  • Park Ranger
  • Policy Advisor
  • Social Media Director
  • Soil Scientist
  • Sustainability Manager
  • Wildland Firefighter
  • Wildlife Biologist


50% off PLT online trainings with e-curriculum

All of us at Project Learning Tree want to say first and foremost that we hope you and your families are safe and well.

We recognize these are challenging times for all, including teachers, parents, and students. We are here to help as much as we can.

Previously we shared our free Activities to Do with Children At Home. Now, with the 50th anniversary of Earth Day taking place this month, we are supporting educators in their transition to remote instruction by offering 50% off our online materials.

Also, be sure to check out the smartphone videos highlighted below that our PLT community is creating. They demo for you some favorite PLT activities from our curriculum that your students can easily do at home. Or, share with your students’ parents for ideas of activities they can do together!


E-Curriculum + Self-Paced Online Training for Educators

PLT currently has six online trainings with e-curriculum for educators to teach youth about the natural world and sustainability. Our curriculum, included with each online workshop, is designed for adults (teachers and other educators) to access and use for their lesson planning.

The prices below reflect a 50% discount, available through the month of April.

To purchase, go to and enter code EARTHDAY50 at checkout. This 50% off code will expire on April 30, 2020.


Helpful Features

  • Each of our online workshops are self-paced courses composed of several 20-30 minute learning experiences, called “coursels.” They are designed to help educators integrate PLT’s environmental education materials into their instruction.
  • Our curriculum, included with each online workshop, is designed for teachers and other educators to access.
  • Our e-books are downloadable PDFs; our e-units are all online.
  • Each curriculum includes lots of activities and lesson plans, many of which provide ideas for students to get outdoors for some learning—even if it’s just outside their front door.
  • Our activities include downloadable Student Worksheets.
  • Educators can load these Student Worksheets as “assignments” within Google Classroom. The “Technical Support” index for each of our e-units, for example, provides instructions for how students can complete their assignments within the Google Classroom platform.


Supporting Videos

Project Learning Tree has a vast network of State Coordinators and Facilitators in every state. In a normal year, they organize hundreds of in-person PLT professional development workshops for thousands of educators across the country. Of course, most of these events in the coming months have been cancelled or postponed.

But our community is strong, creative, and compassionate.

Many PLT Coordinators and Facilitators are moving their events to virtual learning experiences. And they are creating videos that support PLT activities and connect people with the outdoors. These videos are not slick productions, our Coordinators are just using their smartphones to create these videos as they can to help parents and teachers in this time of need.

More videos are being added each week. You can see what we have in a new “PLT Videos” YouTube account we created to house these.

We encourage you to reach out to your PLT Coordinator in your state for more information about what they can offer. They are compiling and creating online resources to support teachers and local communities in their state. However, please recognize that some states may be better equipped to respond promptly at this time than others, and if we at the National office can help instead, we will.

Remember, we’re all in this together. Stay safe!

PLT Takes Root in Chile

Project Learning Tree is now in Chile, thanks to a new licensing agreement with Fundación Ibáñez Atkinson and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). PLT is an initiative of SFI. The program officially launched the week of January 13th with a series of PLT workshops held in Santiago, attended by a total of 54 participants.

Educators in front of a finger painting of trees
Educators and an activity from the first PLT Early Childhood Workshop in Chile

Under the SFI/PLT licensing agreement, Fundación Ibáñez Atkinson, based in Santiago, will train educators and families to use PLT activities to teach Chilean youth about their relationship to the environment. Through PLT, the Foundation hopes to encourage behavioral changes in individuals and improve health and sustainable development in Chile.

“Fundación Ibáñez Atkinson is interested in programs that generate social, environmental and economic value, and which demonstrate innovation, replicability and the ability to reach a considerable number of beneficiaries,” says Antonia Ibáñez Atkinson, Environment Manager with Fundación Ibáñez Atkinson. “We researched several programs and chose PLT as our partner for expanding our operations in the realm of sustainability and care for the environment.”

The Foundation plans to develop a scalable PLT program to reach Chilean youth through grade-specific curriculum and educator professional development. PLT activities will be adapted to the local environment and translated into Spanish.

“Fundación Ibáñez Atkinson has a successful track record of implementing teacher training programs in different program areas, and we are thrilled to work with them to grow PLT internationally,” said Melina Bellows, Chief Education Officer for Project Learning Tree at the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. 

A series of multi-day PLT workshops for PreK-8 and Early Childhood educators took place January 13-17, 2020, hosted at the International School Nido de Águilas in Santiago. Mexico PLT Coordinator, Cecilia Ochoa, and Rafael Salgado, former co-chair of PLT’s Education Operating Committee and Executive Director of Cal-Wood in Colorado, traveled to Chile to facilitate and model these initial PLT trainings.

A total of 54 individuals attended the trainings, including teachers and representatives from the Education department of the Chilean Ministry of Environment. Eight people were also trained as PLT facilitators and will be responsible for hosting future workshops in the country.

Newly-certified Chilean PLT Workshop Facilitators
Newly-certified Chilean PLT Workshop Facilitators 

“Cecilia and Rafael were wonderful, and the teachers in Chile were very excited about the program. They are eager to take PLT to their classroom,” said Antonia Ibáñez Atkinson. “The facilitators’ training was incredible too! I think we have a very good group of facilitators to grow the program in Chile.”

“At last, a program that allows students to incorporate curriculum learning in a multidisciplinary way with an emphasis on the importance of trees and our natural environment,” said Nicola Holtung, a teacher at Villa Maria Academy, who attended the PreK-8 workshop and also became certified as a PLT facilitator. “The activities are adaptable to all subject matter and emphasize student-centered learning. As a teacher, it’s incredible to see my learners grow not only academically, but also become more conscious about the important role that nature plays in their lives and vice versa.”