New PLT Curriculum Introduces Youth to Green Careers

Do your students want to find a job they can be proud of? To feel like they are making a difference in the world? Green jobs are not just in the renewable energy, manufacturing, or technology sectors. Some of the greenest jobs involve forests and Project Learning Tree has a new resource for helping youth ages 12-25 explore green careers in forestry and conservation.

PLT’s new Green Jobs: Exploring Forest Careers unit introduces youth to the array of career options in this field. Designed for adults working with youth, the activities can be used indoors or outdoors, in settings ranging from school classrooms to community youth programs, field tours, and college and career prep programs.




Pathways to Green Careers

Green jobs represent one of the fastest growing and changing segments of the global economy. According to the International Labour Organization, there were 9.8 million green jobs in 2017 and by 2030, there will be an additional 15-60 million new green jobs. 

Moreover, today’s youth are seeking rewarding careers that help us move toward more sustainable lifestyles and greener economies.

Some of the most exciting–and perhaps greenest jobs–benefit forests and ensure that the forest products we depend on are sustainable.

Youth and adults alike might be surprised at the wide array of job openings related to forests—indoors and outdoors—that offer opportunities for people with diverse backgrounds, skills, interest areas, and personal qualities. Some of the jobs profiled in PLT’s Green Jobs: Exploring Forest Careers unit 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


Activities for Youth

PLT’s new Green Jobs: Exploring Forest Careers unit includes four hands-on instructional activities for youth to research forest jobs and practice managing forests. The activities can be used as individual, stand-alone lessons, or all together as a cohesive unit of instruction. They include connections to science, math, English language arts, and social studies standards. 


  1. Who Works in This Forest?—As an introduction to some of the people who work in and on behalf of forests, learners research different forest sector careers to learn what it takes to perform these jobs.
  2. If You Were the Boss—Acting as foresters, learners grapple with decisions about how to manage a forest sustainably while serving different needs.
  3. Monitoring Forest Health—Through a variety of health indicators, learners assess the health of a forest area and see how soil scientists, wildlife biologists, arborists, and other forest professionals monitor forests.
  4. Seeking Sustainability—Learners explore the concept of sustainability by examining the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, while also taking a look at some jobs involved in ensuring forest sustainability.


Envisioning a Green Career

Employers are looking for workers who can communicate and collaborate, and who are creative leaders. PLT’s Green Jobs: Exploring Forest Careers includes a self-assessment for youth to analyze their leadership and people-oriented skills (often referred to as “soft” skills), as well as their technical skills in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

These quizzes can help any job seeker in the green economy envision the right career for them, whether or not they are aiming for a STEM career. Youth can match their personality type with an array of forest-related career opportunities and learn about the skills needed for different jobs.

Green Jobs: Exploring Forest Careers also suggests additional resources to broaden and deepen learners’ exploration of forest careers, for example, green job boards, forestry career websites, and where to connect with forestry professionals.


Get the Guide

Green Jobs: Exploring Forest Careers is available either as an e-book (PDF) or printed guide and can be purchased directly from



PLT also offers training for teachers and other educators, career and guidance counselors, scouts, 4-H, and FFA leaders, foresters and natural resource professionals, etc. through state-run in-person workshops. Workshop participants receive a copy of the Green Jobs guide, see the activities modeled, learn how best to use the unit with the youth they reach, and make local connections. Contact your state’s PLT Coordinator for information about PLT workshops in your state.

Also check out some of the downloadable and online resources available from our website to support PLT’s Green Jobs: Exploring Forest Careers unit, including the student worksheets, career cards, and job factsheets. See this month’s collection of EE Resources for a sample of online resources, and login or register to access all the supporting resources we’ve curated to date for Green Jobs: Exploring Forest Careers.

Last chance! Our Holiday Sale Ends Tonight

In case you’ve missed it: We’ve extended our 2019 Holiday Sale by one day!

You now have until midnight tonight, Dec. 3, to save 25% off select PLT curriculum and online courses. Enter the code SAVE25 upon checkout. 


But don’t delay, our sale ends tonight!


Take Our 4-Minute Survey and You Could Win a $50 Gift Card


Whether you’re new to PLT or have used PLT resources for many years, we want to hear from you! Participating in this survey will help us understand your needs and the materials and resources that would be helpful for you.

Taking the survey is easy and it only takes four minutes to complete! We’re looking to hear from people from many different sectors and with different kinds of experiences. Familiarity with PLT’s curricula is not required.


Survey participants will be entered to win one of ten $50 Amazon gift cards. Plus, you may even be selected to receive a complimentary copy of our newest product: Green Jobs: Exploring Forest Careers.   




PLT Launches Green Jobs: Exploring Forest Careers Curriculum

Project Learning Tree (PLT), the award-winning environmental education initiative of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), has developed new supplementary education materials to help youth discover careers in sustainable forestry and conservation.

Green Jobs: Exploring Forest Careers includes four hands-on instructional activities to help youth research different forest-sector jobs, and practice managing and monitoring forest resources. Anyone can use this resource with learners aged 12–25 in settings ranging from community youth programs and school classrooms, to college and career prep, to field trips and forest tours.

PLT’s Green Jobs: Exploring Forest Careers unit is available through a PLT in-person professional development workshop offered by our network of state coordinators or can be purchased from An online course is also being developed.

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 help us move toward more sustainable lifestyles and greener economies. Green Jobs: Exploring Forest Careers inspires youth to become lifelong forest supporters and conservation leaders and gets youth excited about green careers as they explore forest-related jobs.

Employers are looking for workers who can communicate and collaborate, and who are creative leaders. Green Jobs: Exploring Forest Careers includes a self-assessment for youth to analyze their leadership and people-oriented skills, as well as their technical skills in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), along with career connections that can help any worker in today’s job market.

“Some of the most exciting and greenest jobs involve forests. These jobs benefit forests and ensure that the forest products we depend on are sustainably sourced,” said Kathy Abusow, President and CEO of SFI Inc. “At SFI, we advance sustainability through forest-focused collaborations and we are thrilled to engage our accredited partners and diverse professional networks in growing pathways to green careers with this latest resource from Project Learning Tree.”

Support for the Green Jobs: Exploring Forest Careers unit and accompanying online resources was provided by the U.S. Forest Service and the Society of American Foresters.

“SAF is proud to support this exciting, new resource from our partners at Project Learning Tree and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative,” said Terry Baker, CEO at the Society of American Foresters. “Forests and trees are poised to be a major part of the solution to many of our world’s most pressing issues, which is why inspiring the next generation of forestry professionals and conservation leaders is fundamental to our future.”

“Exploring “green jobs” is a timely topic,” says Tinelle Bustam, Director (acting), Conservation Education, U.S. Forest Service, State and Private Forestry. “All too often I am asked, “So, how does a person get into your position?” This training curriculum provides the answer to that question as well as a deeper look into the role of a land manager as decision maker and change agent.”

Educators, career and guidance counselors, Scouts, 4-H, and FFA leaders, foresters, and job training advisors in particular can use this resource to help youth envision forestry career opportunities and point out pathways to green careers.

Carbon & Climate Curriculum Wins 2020 Teachers’ Choice Award

Teachers-Choice-Award-PLT-Curriculum-Carbon-ClimateProject Learning Tree’s Carbon & Climate curriculum has been selected a Learning® magazine 2020 Teachers’ ChoiceSM Award for the Classroom winner, earning the seal of approval for outstanding educational value. For 6th-8th grade teachers, Carbon & Climate helps introduce students to some of the complex issues involved in climate change.

“I would recommend the unit lessons to teachers because they are thorough, engaging, and standards based,” said one teacher who tested the unit with their students. 

Another reviewer said, “I would especially recommend the Carbon & Climate unit because I have not found other resources that were as explanatory or hands-on as these to teach this subject matter.”

Another teacher commented, “The lessons were interesting to the students and generated solid discussions about climate.”

This is the third Teachers’ Choice Award for PLT curriculum. Last year PLT’s Energy in Ecosystems for grades 3-5 and previously PLT’s Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood also received Teachers’ Choice Awards for the Classroom. Project Learning Tree is an initiative of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. SFI’s Education programs expand the knowledge, skills, and opportunities to sustain communities, forests, and the environment.


About the Teachers’ Choice Awards


For more than 25 years, Learning® magazine’s Teachers’ Choice Awards have spotlighted the very best in classroom-tested, teacher-recommended products. Teachers’ Choice is the only awards program that is exclusively judged by teachers in the classroom.  Each year a team of teachers evaluates products for their quality, instructional value, ease of use and innovation, and names the standouts. Over the years, the program has grown to become one of the most recognized and prestigious awards in the educational market. 

For the 2020 awards for the Classroom, 23 winners were chosen based on their scores from evaluations by a panel of teachers across the country.


More Comments about Carbon & Climate from the Teacher Judges

Teachers who evaluated PLT’s Carbon & Climate curriculum praised the unit.

When asked what aspects of this product did you like most, one teacher said, “The lessons are extremely well thought out and thorough. They are standards-based and follow a research-based framework for implementation.”

Another reviewer said, “Project Learning Tree has a long history with me personally for quality materials. Going digital has really stepped up their game in presenting this valuable content; it makes everything engaging and accessible.”

Another teacher who tested the unit with students said, “The video explanations in the online training are helpful to witness the lessons in action. I like that pre and post assessments are provided, as are worksheets and extensions.”

When asked how this product would need to improve to better support your curriculum, a teacher-judge commented, “The lessons themselves are thorough enough that beginning teachers can use them. Couple the lessons with the online tutorial, and I don’t think there is anything else that can support my curriculum.”


About Carbon & Climate for Grades 6-8

PLT-curriculum-Carbon-ClimatePerhaps more than any other environmental issue, the topic of climate change challenges science teachers to accurately convey data, reveal assumptions, and engage critical-thinking skills. Designed for 6th-8th grade teachers, PLT’s Carbon & Climate e-unit provides activities and resources to help educators introduce students to some of the complex issues involved in climate science and its associated social, political, and environmental challenges. 

PLT’s Carbon & Climate explores these essential questions:

  • What is climate?
  • How does climate affect living systems?
  • What role does carbon play in climate?
  • What can we learn from past changes in the global climate?
  • What can individuals do about climate change?

This supplemental curriculum is flexible:

  • Teachers can use activities as stand-alone investigations or move through all the e-unit activities from beginning to end.

The lessons are engaging:

  • Students learn climate science through real-world scenarios and local applications, no memorizing facts!

The unit meets academic standards:

  • With its online format, teachers have at their finger-tips comprehensive—and interactive—connections to academic standards that they need for using this resource in their classroom: Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Math, and the C3 Framework for Social Studies.
  • Of special note, these PLT lessons have not just been aligned with NGSS, instead they have been constructed around NGSS targeted performance expectations.

Learn more.


Get PLT’s Carbon & Climate e-unit now!

New Tree Campus K-12 Program of the Arbor Day Foundation

Photo courtesy of the Arbor Day Foundation

Tree Campus K–12, a new recognition program of the Arbor Day Foundation, provides access to resources and a simple framework for using campus and community trees as a learning tool — and the opportunity to earn recognition as a result. Any school that already has a “green team,” celebrates Arbor Day, or covers tree-centric curriculum (for example… Project Learning Tree!) at any level, is already on the path to earning recognition.


2019/2020 Back to School Launch

Tree Campus K–12 can help drive student engagement in nature-based learning and offers an easy-to-follow framework through its four program goals, which can be completed throughout the school year individually or in combination. Beginning with the 2019/2020 school year, all elementary, middle, and high schools can earn recognition by meeting four goals:

  • Establish a Tree Campus Team
  • Create an Education Plan
  • Lead a Hands-On Experience
  • Hold an Arbor Day Observance

Schools that already use PLT curriculum or are working on a School Site Investigation are prime candidates for Tree Campus K–12 recognition as one or more program goals may already be fulfilled. Links to PLT materials are featured in the Tree Campus K–12 Learning Hub.


Tree-centric Introduction to Environmental Education

If your school already participates in any sustainability programming or tree-centric activities throughout the year, you may have a head start on the path to becoming recognized as a Tree Campus K–12 school and celebrating with your community. If not, Tree Campus K–12 may be the perfect opportunity to introduce environmental education to your school.

If you are a community member or organization that’s passionate about trees, find out how you can participate.

Visit to learn more about the program and how to get it going at your school, including a helpful to-do list.

PLT Activities Can Now Help Scouts Earn Their Merit Badges

Project Learning Tree recently collaborated with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to correlate PLT activities to eight Cub Scout Adventures and six Scouts BSA merit badges. These correlations provide Scout leaders with ideas and hands-on, outdoor activities to help support children, ages 5 to 17, with youth development goals. They also help introduce youth to careers in the outdoors, including jobs in forestry and natural resources conservation.

“I first became introduced to PLT when I was volunteering as a troop leader. Immediately I was hooked,” said Jane Thornes when she was a 4th grade teacher at Heyburn Elementary School in St. Maries, Idaho. “The easy-to-follow approach that PLT uses to educate young minds is smart, refreshing, and fun.”

PLT activities are fun. They get kids outside, connect children to nature in meaningful ways, and grow understanding of our environment. The activities are easy to do, with minimal prep time. Many can be conducted in an hour and rely on simple materials that you likely already have on hand.

They also build 21st century skills such as collaboration and teamwork, creativity and imagination, critical thinking and problem solving. In addition, they provide leaders with lots of useful tips for managing active child behavior both indoors and outdoors.


PLT Correlations for Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts

Project Learning Tree activities have been correlated to eight Cub Scout Adventures and six Scouts BSA merit badges.

Cub Scout Adventures

This correlation is designed to assist parents, den leaders, and Cubmasters in helping Cub Scouts (ages 5 to 10) meet the following Adventure requirements. While the PLT lessons referenced will not satisfy all the requirements a Cub Scout must fulfill to secure an Adventure, they will assist leaders in covering over half of the requirements for each of the following:

  • Mountain Lion (Lion)
  • Ready, Set, Grow (Lion)
  • My Tiger Jungle (Tiger)
  • Fur, Feathers, and Ferns (Bear)
  • Grow Something (Wolf)
  • Spirit of the Water (Wolf)
  • Into the Wild (Webelos)
  • Into the Woods (Webelos)

For example, in PLT’s Activity 47 “Are Vacant Lots Vacant?” found in the PreK-8 Guide, Scouts are invited to look closely over one small square and find that plants of all kinds thrive in vacant lots, along with a host of animals including insects, birds, and mammals. This activity transforms a nearby vacant lot, overgrown strip, or a landscaped area into a rich laboratory for Scouts to examine elements of an ecosystem. This activity supports the Tiger “Backyard Jungle” Adventure first requirement of “taking a 1-foot hike.”

BSA Merit Badges

This correlation is designed to assist merit badge counselors and Scoutmasters in helping Scouts (ages 11 to 17) meet the badge requirements for six merit badges. While the PLT lessons referenced will not satisfy all the requirements a Scout must fulfill to secure a Merit Badge, they will assist leaders in covering over half of the requirements for each of the following:

  • Environmental Science
  • Forestry
  • Nature
  • Pulp and Paper
  • Soil and Water Conservation
  • Sustainability

For example, in PLT’s Activity 32 “A Forest of Many Uses” found in the PreK-8 Guide, Scouts are taught how privately and publicly owned forests are managed to provide many different resources. Scouts learn how forests are managed to meet a variety of human and environmental needs. This experiential learning fulfills the Forestry Merit Badge’s Requirement 3.A (2), which necessitates that Scouts can “describe contributions forests make to social well-being.”


World Jamboree, SFI and PLT

The 24th World Scout Jamboree will take place at the Summit Bechtel Reserve from July 22 – August 2. The World Scout Jamboree is organized by the World Organization of the Scout Movement and is typically attended by several tens of thousands of Scouts from around the world, ages 14 to 17.

In 2016, about 13,000 acres of forest at the Summit were certified to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) Forest Management Standard. Overall, more than 100,000 acres of BSA land is certified to the SFI Forest Management Standard. To learn more, see SFI and Scouts.

SFI and PLT will be at World Scout Jamboree! We’ll have a large tent and will conduct several PLT activities with Scouts each day. We’ll be located at the base of the Sustainability Treehouse, a living education center for visitors to learn about sustainable building practices. Just like a tree, the building itself gets its energy from the sun and recycles its water and waste. Come find us there if you’ll be at World Jamboree!


How to Engage Your Local BSA Council

If you would like to introduce PLT to your local BSA council, we recommend you:

  • Locate your local council by zip code. There are more than 250 local BSA councils across the country. Each is its own nonprofit organization, with its own board, chartered by the national BSA organization. Each council has employees, but many more volunteers.
  • Speak to:
    • Program or Camping Director (employee at council level)
    • Program Chair (volunteer)
  • Ask to present PLT at:
    • Round Table meetings, monthly (district level)
    • University of Scouting, annual (council level) – this is a supplemental training opportunity for adult Scout leaders that many councils host over a full weekend.

We also suggest you contact your state PLT Coordinator for help, especially if a local BSA council is interested in hosting a PLT workshop for its Scout leaders.

You might also want to draw your council’s attention to an opportunity to experience PLT activities at BSA’s National Outdoor Conference, September 25-29, 2019, at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. Hundreds of Scouters—volunteers and professionals—who deliver outdoor programs at any level will attend the conference. PLT will be there to demonstrate some of our outdoor activities in a session titled “Tackle Merit Badge (and Adventure) Requirements with Award-winning Outdoor Activities” as part of the conference Workshop Electives.

PLT GreenSchools Honored as 2019 Green Ribbon Schools

Students at Dutch Fork Elementary School, named first Green Ribbon School in South Carolina by U.S. Dept of Education

Project Learning Tree is thrilled that 5 schools and one school district that highlighted PLT’s professional development, curriculum, and GreenSchools programming in their nominations are recognized this year as U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS).

Delaware  — The Jefferson School, Georgetown, and Caesar Rodney School District, Wyoming

Massachusetts — Boston Green Academy, Brighton

Missouri — Raintree School, St. Louis

Pennsylvania — State College Friends School, State College

South Carolina — Dutch Fork Elementary School, Irmo

They are among 35 schools, 14 school districts and 4 postsecondary institutions that have been awarded for their innovative efforts to address the three “Pillars” of the ED-GRS program:

  1. reducing environmental impact and utility costs
  2. improving health and wellness
  3. ensuring effective sustainability education

Congratulations to these awardees and to all the schools and school districts who have been honored with the ED-GRS award this year. Thirty-six percent of all 2019 ED-GRS honorees serve a disadvantaged student body. ED-GRS is part of the U.S. Department of Education’s effort to identify and communicate practices that result in improved student engagement, academic achievement, graduation rates, and workforce preparedness. The honorees were named from a pool of candidates nominated by 28 states. 


Two PLT Highlights

Here are some highlights from the nomination packets of two registered PLT GreenSchools recognized this year as U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools.

Boston Green Academy, Massachusetts

Boston Green Academy (BGA) serves a diverse population: 80 percent of students are considered high needs; 67 percent are economically disadvantaged; 32 percent are students with disabilities; 35 percent are students for whom English is not their first language; and 93 percent are students of color. Through outdoor learning experiences, real world interdisciplinary projects, and diverse leadership opportunities, BGA empowers its students to create a more just and sustainable world.


  • BGA receives 48 percent of its energy from renewable sources. The school repaired and replaced 203 steam traps, yielding a 25 to 30 percent energy savings and all classrooms and offices have been equipped with occupancy sensors.
  • Students in the Career Technical Education (CTE) program are conducting a cost-benefit analysis to explore retrofitting current school lighting with LED bulbs and use thermal-imaging cameras to assess the building envelope and window efficiency.
  • Students in middle school use Kill A Watt meters to figure out which devices in BGA use the most electricity.
  • Ninth-grade students are working with the city on a solar feasibility study for a solar array on the building.


  • All bathroom sinks are equipped with faucet aerators that reduce the flow of water and self-closing metered faucets.
  • Students collect and reuse rainwater in the garden, and custodians do not irrigate lawns.

Waste & Recycling

  • All BGA students receive a free stainless-steel water bottle at the beginning of the school year and utilize 11 new water fountains and refillable bottle stations located throughout the building.
  • BGA maintains a single-stream recycling system.
  • Students started a composting initiative in the lunchroom and a share table in the cafeteria helps reduce untouched food waste.

Environmental Quality

  • BGA’s chemistry teacher is trained and supported to teach green chemistry by Beyond Benign.

School Site

  • The school’s entire south-facing lawn has been converted into an outdoor classroom and garden for students, which was designed, built, and is maintained by students. There are 11 4 x 8-foot raised beds for growing produce, eight outdoor tables for working and eating al fresco, and six work benches for planting, growing seedlings, and collecting the harvest.


BGA’s director of sustainability created Green Milestones, a continuum of green-focused academic and career opportunities. All juniors and seniors complete a four-hour job-shadowing experience in a sustainability field, and all seniors complete a six-week, 150-hour sustainability internship.

During an annual project week, students spend an entire week off campus with the greater Boston community and beyond. Each BGA middle school grade stays on Thompson Island for an immersive three-day outdoor environmental science learning adventure each fall and participates in a one-day teambuilding and leadership experience each spring. The entire eighth-grade class visits the White Mountains in New Hampshire every spring for a three-day, two-night outdoor leadership experience. All sixth graders visit Hale Reservation in Westwood, Massachusetts, for a day of outdoor teambuilding and leadership training.

Read more.


Dutch Fork Elementary School, South Carolina

Dutch Fork Elementary School–Academy of Environmental Sciences (DFES) is a whole-school environmental sciences‐themed magnet school located in the midlands of South Carolina. The total student enrollment is 531, with 48 percent of students identifying as African American. It is the first school in South Carolina to receive the national Green Ribbon award from the U.S. Department of Education. Here are some highlights:


  • In addition to its more conscious use of energy, changes to lighting components have led the school to reduce energy consumption by approximately 11 percent in the last two years.


  • The school uses rain barrels that collect water for the school’s gardens and students crafted rain chains (an alternative to traditional, closed-gutter downspouts) made from recycled materials.

Waste & Recycling

  • Students collect food scraps from the cafeteria, maintain worm bins, and add the compost to the garden. Data they collect shows approximately 5,000 pounds of food waste is diverted each month from landfills, saving approximately $1,700 in hauling fees per year.
  • Student recycling captains help run a schoolwide recycling program for paper products, plastic containers, and aluminum cans.

Environmental Quality

  • Students audit vehicles for the purpose of instituting anti-idling policies.
  • Dehumidifiers are used when moisture is high to prevent indoor mold.

School Site

  • An interpretive nature trail behind the school was completed in 2015.
  • Students cook fresh meals from garden produce they grow and have started a pollinator garden, monarch highway, and beehive.

Dutch Fork prides itself on being a comprehensive, inquiry‐based, hands‐on program focused on immersing children in discovery and exploration, collaborative study, scientific research, the use of scientific tools and technology, and a strong sense of community. The school uses the natural environment and nature-human interactions as the catalyst for student learning outcomes and critical thinking.

Amy Umberger, the school’s resident scientist, told WLTX-TV that she sees students subconsciously picking up litter on field trips and truly caring about the environment. “For them to start caring about where things go and for them fussing at their parents, that’s really making a difference,” she said.

Read more.


Learn more about PLT’s GreenSchools program and discover how PLT’s GreenSchools Investigations connect with ED-GRS’s three Pillars that the U.S. Department of Education uses to define a green school.

Highlights from PLT’s 2019 Conference

The 2019 Project Learning Tree International Coordinators’ Conference was held May 6-9 in Little Rock, Arkansas. Now in its 33rd year, our annual conference provides professional development, networking, and information about new initiatives to PLT’s Coordinators and partners who deliver high-quality environmental education programming to educators across the country and internationally, too. Over 100 participants from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Chile, and Japan attended.

PLT in a Changing World

The overall theme for the conference was PLT in a Changing World, with a strong focus on how to position PLT within the changing field of education. Over 40 individuals helped to lead a wide range of general, concurrent, and show-and-tell sessions. The Arkansas PLT program, led by the Arkansas Forestry Association, helped plan a variety of fun, off-site educational events and pre- and post-conference tours.

Melina Bellows, SFI/PLT Chief Education Officer (right) chats with Jacey Tosh from Texas, Nicole Filizetti from Wisconsin, and Emma Winterhalter from Mississippi

Melina Bellows, SFI’s new Chief Education Officer, helped kick off the conference by sharing her excitement in getting to know PLT’s impressive and dynamic network. She said, “one of my ‘top ten’s’ in learning about PLT is that the PD [professional development] provided by the PLT network is experiential and life changing.” She asked the audience, “How can we make PLT easy, accessible, and fun for formal and non-formal educators everywhere to use?”

Esther Cowles, Senior Director of Education Programs, went on to engage participants for their feedback on two ideas for building on PLT’s strong foundation to grow PLT’s reach and relevance:

  • Teacher Ambassadors to recruit and support a formal educator and school district strategy, and
  • additional Online Content and a Professional Learning Community to support active use of PLT.

“The PLT network is passionate about our work and it’s always good to connect with them and hear their guidance on how we can continue to make PLT even stronger,” said Kathy Abusow, President and CEO of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, who participated throughout the event. PLT is an initiative of SFI.

Kathy Abusow, SFI President and CEO, Rob Beadel, Arkansas PLT State Coordinator, and Esther Cowles, SFI/PLT Senior Director, Education Programs


More Highlights from the PLT Conference

Other speakers shared their organization’s work in a changing world. Tinelle Bustam, Acting Director for Conservation Education with the U.S. Forest Service said, “We have to be ready to change. Transitions provide opportunities to innovate and do new things. There is stronger public acceptance and support for environmental education around climate change than ever before.”

Judy Braus, Executive Director of the North American Association for Environmental Education, described NAAEE’s eeWORKS initiative to demonstrate the impact and value of environmental education from research. She said “We know what we are doing works and changes lives. Anecdotes are the passion and stories. We’re coupling those with the evidence to communicate, market and sell the positive outcomes.”

Michele Snyder, Arkansas Department of Education Public School Program Advisor, Laura Downey, Kansas PLT State Coordinator, Daniel Benavidez, Zuni New Mexico Public School District Superintendent, and Judy Braus, NAAEE Executive Director

We were also inspired by this panel of education leaders who gave their perspectives on the role of environmental education in the formal school setting and how best to position PLT to meet school needs.

Daniel Benavidez, Zuni New Mexico Public School District Superintendent, said “Outdoor education and project-based learning helps connect kids and families to their community, and this is such an important value in my school district.”

Laura Downey, Executive Director of Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education and Kansas PLT State Coordinator, recommended, “Get teachers together, host Green Gatherings, and give them a place to work together, to design together, and to inspire each other. Start with the teachers that are passionate. Help them find somebody that feels the same way that they do. Don’t come in with a plan of what you want. They know better than we do what is possible.”

Michele Snyder, Arkansas Department of Education Public School Program Advisor, noted, “PLT has the materials teachers are looking for to address the phenomena and cross-cutting concepts for three-dimensional teaching and learning.”


Keynote by Richard Louv

We welcomed Richard Louv, a journalist, author of nine books, and co-founder of the Children & Nature Network, as our keynote speaker. Louv is best known for “nature-deficit disorder,” a concept he first introduced in Last Child in the Woods. He spoke about the importance of teachers who take their students outside to learn and pediatricians who prescribe exposure to nature for health.

Richard Louv pictured with Melina Bellows, Hazel Scharosh from Wyoming, and Chanda Cooper from South Carolina

In describing his new book Our Wild Calling: How Connecting with Animals can Transform Our Lives – and Save Theirs to be released in November, Louv said, “I don’t think we will fully realize our responsibilities to nature unless we realize it’s a part of who we are. Once we think of it that way, nature will no longer be thought of as a ‘nice to have’. It’s not a ‘nice to have’, it’s fundamental to who we are.”


New PLT K-8 Activities

Jackie Stallard, Director of Curriculum and Partnerships, shared drafts of five new PLT K-8 activities that have been pilot tested this spring by nearly 50 teachers in 30 states.

Conference participants eagerly rotated to different stations to explore aspects of the new activities that focus on the following topics:

  • Outdoor Rx – Benefits of being outside
  • Livable Communities – Urban forestry
  • What’s in a Label? – Forest product certification
  • How Green Is Wood? – Lifecycle analysis of building materials
  • Environmental Justice for All – Community equity


Professional Development and Networking

Many other sessions and networking events provided opportunities for members of the PLT network to learn from each other to enhance their state programs.

Here are some more highlights:

  • A half-day pre-conference session focused on how to design inclusive professional development and in other sessions, participants learned authentically inclusive facilitation skills.
  • Opportunities for building relations with Indigenous communities were identified as well as approaches to meaningfully support Indigenous learners in their education and career journeys.
  • Strategies for preparing students for green careers included a new PLT curriculum unit Green Jobs in Green Spaces: Exploring Forest Careers that will be published later this year. Other sessions focused on discussions around engaging green building and sustainability professionals in conjunction with green schools.
  • Participants shared and brainstormed ways to recruit, train, and engage facilitators in their state to ensure facilitators have the tools, knowledge, resources, and commitment to lead high-quality in-person workshops.
  • Leaders from Boy Scouts of America and 4-H shared how new PLT correlations to scout merit badges and 4-H youth life skills can help PLT state programs partner with youth groups.
  • Several sessions also focused on effective communications to reach diverse audiences and participants worked together to create actionable marketing plans.


Off-Site Educational Events

Thanks to our Arkansas PLT hosts, we learned about natural flora and fauna from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission on a visit to the Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center. We invited the Arkansas Teacher of the Year, Stacey McAdoo, to join our fun Arkansas fish fry dinner, and some talented PLT Coordinators got creative decorating the table coverings!

Stacey McAdoo, Arkansas Teacher of the Year (left); Jacey Tosh with Texas A&M Forest Service (right)


The following day we enjoyed a guided tour of Green Bay Packaging Inc.’s sawmill and pulp and containerboard mill. We learned how sustainably managed forests support the production of dimensional pine lumber and Kraft paper.

“This was such a cool field trip! I loved learning how stuff gets made,” said Alex Porpora, Utah PLT State Coordinator.

Pictured bottom right are Denise Buck and Nicole George from Washington state


Awards and Recognition

Always a highlight at our conference, we were honored to recognize the following individuals and organizations this year. 

“Project Learning Tree has thrived for over 40 years because of the passion and commitment of the people who bring it to life every day in classrooms, nature centers, parks…pretty much anywhere children can be connected to nature,” said Esther Cowles. “We are indebted to them for using PLT to change the lives of children and adults alike, and welcome the chance to celebrate their great work.”

Leaders in Education

PLT’s Leadership in Education Award recognizes individuals and organizations who make significant contributions to advance PLT programs and initiatives at the state or regional level. The awards, which happened to coincide this year with Teacher Appreciation Week, May 6-10, were given to a classroom teacher and a natural resource professional who have taken very different paths to engage the next generation.

Award winners Kirsten Brazier from Florida and Ed Lewis from Alabama are pictured with SFI/PLT staff (left) Kathy Abusow based in Ottawa, Canada, and (right) Esther Cowles based in Washington, D.C.

  • Kirsten Brazier is a first-grade teacher at Crawfordville Elementary School in Florida, a Title 1 school where more than 40% of the students are economically disadvantaged. She serves as the school’s PLT coordinator and reaches across all grades with a variety of PLT activities.
  • Ed Lewis, a procurement forester for Westrock, one of the world’s largest paper and packaging companies, is based in Alabama and has used the PLT curriculum to teach others about sustainable forestry throughout his 40-year career. Read more.

Gold Stars

Since 1995, National PLT has presented Gold Stars to outstanding PLT Coordinators and other individuals for their years of exemplary service to PLT. We are an immeasurably better organization because of their extraordinary personal and professional qualities, commitment and dedication to PLT, energy and expertise.

Gold Star winners Drew Burnett from Washington, D.C., Laura Duffey from Minnesota, and Matt Schnabel from South Carolina

This year, Gold Stars were awarded to:

  • Drew Burnett, member of PLT’s Education Operating Committee. Drew retired recently from a long and distinguished career in public service working for the EPA, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He has also worked for the Peace Corps and World Bank. Since PLT’s earliest beginnings 43 years ago, Drew has worked to guide, advise, and promote our work. Wherever Drew has worked, he has made significant impact on the field of environmental education.
  • Laura Duffey, Education Specialist with the Division of Forestry at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Laura has served as the Minnesota PLT Coordinator since 2002. Over the years, she has been an innovator in delivering PLT to formal and non-formal educators and all types of youth group leaders. She partners actively with other organizations, attends to audience needs, and works closely with her facilitators. Under Laura’s leadership, Minnesota PLT consistently trains 500-1,000 educators each year.
  • Matt Schnabel, Environmental Education Coordinator with the South Carolina Forestry Commission. Matt is a highly motivated, enthusiastic, self-starting and responsive coordinator who has developed strong relationships with a diverse set of volunteers, professionals and leaders in education, forestry and environmental science.


Thank You to Our Sponsors

We gratefully recognize and thank our conference sponsors: NAAEE, ee360, the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, the U.S. Forest Service, Green Bay Packaging Inc., Hancock Timber Resource Group, The Center for Green Schools at USGBC, Albert I. Pierce Foundation, Potlatch Deltic, Arkansas Timber Producers Association, Arkansas Urban Forestry Council, Air Quality Egg, Ouachita Society of American Foresters, and many others.

The quality of PLT’s conference is enriched by their generous support.


Last But Not Least, ‘Thank You’ Arkansas PLT!

We also especially want to extend our gratitude to the Arkansas PLT team for their hard work, hospitality, and range of events that welcomed us all to “The Natural State.” Not only did they assist with all the logistics, but they added so many special touches that helped us connect with each other and with the local community. 

For example, thanks to 125 art class students from Greenbrier High School in Arkansas, everyone left the conference with their own unique hand-painted little rock as a wonderful memory of our time together in Little Rock! Thanks to the students who created these beautiful mementos for our PLT family!

For more photos, see our photo album on PLT’s Facebook page.

PLT’s Leadership in Education Award

Kathy Abusow, SFI President & CEO; Kirsten Brazier, 1st grade teacher, Crawfordville Elementary School; Ed Lewis, Procurement Forester, Westrock; Esther Cowles, PLT Senior Director of Education Programs

PLT’s Leadership in Education Award honors those who make significant contributions to advance PLT programs and initiatives at the state or regional level.

“PLT’s Leaders in Education share a deep commitment to PLT as they take different paths to engage the next generation in meaningful environmental education,” said Ana Leirner, PLT’s Manager of Professional Development and Instructional Design, in presenting the awards on May 6 during PLT’s 33rd International Coordinators’ Conference, in Little Rock, AR. 

Nominated by their PLT State Coordinator, recipients may be individuals or organizations who:

  • use PLT to teach students in formal or nonformal settings;
  • help educators learn about PLT and implement PLT in their classrooms;
  • have dedicated their time to shaping their state’s or region’s PLT program, or
  • have championed PLT programs and initiatives in their communities.

This year’s Leadership in Education recipients were nominated from adjoining states—Alabama and Florida. One recipient is a natural resource professional, the other is a classroom teacher. Please join us in congratulating our 2019 winners and nominees!

The 2019 Winners Are…

Westrock-procurement-forester-Ed-LewisALABAMA – Ed Lewis
Procurement Forester
Westrock, Cottondale, FL

Ed is a Procurement Forester for Westrock, one of the world’s largest paper and packaging companies. Ed sources wood from sustainably managed forests in southeast Alabama, Florida, and Georgia to supply Westrock facilities with the raw materials needed for producing paper, cardboard and other packaging.

Ed is passionate about sustainability and throughout his 40-year career in forestry he has used Project Learning Tree in a variety of settings to teach others about trees, forests, and green careers, for example, at teacher professional development workshops, events at elementary schools and museums, logger trainings, and gardening programs.


Every summer since 1986, Ed has helped lead Alabama’s Teachers Conservation Workshops. These in-depth, multi-day teachers’ tours of forests and wood product mills include training in PLT’s curriculum materials and time for lesson planning to help teachers incorporate teaching about trees, forests, conservation and sustainability into their classroom. He also shares information about careers and job opportunities in the forest industry.


1st-grade-teacher-Kirsten-BrazierFLORIDA – Kirsten Brazier
First Grade Teacher
Crawfordville Elementary School, Crawfordville, FL

Kirsten Brazier is a 1st grade teacher at a Title 1 school, Crawfordville Elementary School in Wakulla County, Florida. She is passionate about using the outdoors to engage students in learning.

As the PLT School Coordinator, Kirsten supports teachers in every grade in using Project Learning Tree lessons to connect children to nature. Kirsten encourages new faculty to attend PLT trainings. She also organizes an annual PLT Week in which each class participates in various activities to grow awareness of environmental issues in their area.

1st-grade-teacher-Kirsten-Brazier-teaching-indoors-outdoorsKirsten also plans and creates service-learning opportunities for students at her school and helps find funding. Students grow vegetables, herbs, and flowers in raised garden beds, they observe monarch caterpillars and butterflies attracted to their butterfly garden, and they set up a school-wide recycling program and participate in Recycle-Bowl, a yearly competition organized by Keep America Beautiful in which students track the amount of trash they recycle in a month.

Congratulations also to the 2019 Nominees…

Thank you to the PLT State Coordinators who nominated leaders in their state!

INDIANA – Brian Plankis, Ed. D
Environmental Education Consultant
Research Fellow, NewKnowledge, Indianapolis, IN

Brian works with under-served K-6 schools in Indianapolis to develop after-school science programs. He mentors teachers in using PLT activities to fit their specific situations and helps students green their schools and communities. For example, students have created zero waste school cafeterias, planted vegetable and pollinator gardens, removed invasive species, and planted trees.

OHIO – Linda Pettit
Environmental Education Specialist
Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District, Columbus, OH

Linda educates around 12,000 youth every year about natural resources through presentations to school classes, after-school, scout, and summer camp groups. She has been a PLT workshop facilitator since 1996, and for the past 20 years, she has served as regional director for the Environmental Education Council of Ohio. She also founded T.R.E.E. (Terrific Resources for Environmental Education.)

VERMONT – Kathleen Wanner
Executive Director
Vermont Woodlands Association, Rutland, VT

Kathleen believes strongly in PLT for educating the next generation of forest stewards and forest landowners. Since 2012, she has grown support for the program in Vermont and helped increase its capacity through new partnerships and fundraising. In addition to working with schools directly on service-learning projects, VT PLT is also reaching new audiences, for example through PLT workshops for tree farmers and private consulting foresters.

Meet Our Teachers

Since 1994, Project Learning Tree has recognized more than 300 outstanding educators from around the country. Most are certified PLT workshop facilitators who volunteer countless hours to lead workshops and teach others how to incorporate environmental education into their curriculum and other programming. Meet PLT’s outstanding educators in your state.