Three Cheers for Trees on International Day of Forests

#3cheers4trees-boys-magnifying-glass-treeTrees and forests provide many benefits to people and communities all over the world. Trees beautify our environment; provide homes and food for wildlife; capture air pollutants; store carbon; prevent soil erosion; reduce runoff; shade and cool streets and buildings; muffle traffic noise; and provide places for children to climb and play.

It’s also surprising to learn how many different products we get from trees. 

  • Wood products – lumber, baseball bats, toothpicks, wood blocks, wood furniture, etc.
  • Food products – apples, cinnamon, chocolate, maple syrup, oranges, walnuts, etc.
  • Paper products – books, newspaper, paper towels, toilet paper, etc.
  • Sap products – soap, rubber, crayons, adhesives, shoe polish, cosmetics, etc.
  • Other products – rayon, cork, medicines, etc.


Forests and Education

The theme for 2019 International Day of Forests on March 21 is Forests and Education—Learn to Love Forests!  To celebrate we’ve compiled 8 ideas for things to do with youth to explore and celebrate the gifts we receive from trees.

These ideas come from the classic Project Learning Tree activity Three Cheers for Trees. If you’d like to check out the full activity, age-specific versions can be found in PLT’s PreK-8 Environmental Education Activity Guide and PLT’s Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood guide.

8 Ideas from Three Cheers for Trees

Try one of these ideas to help children learn about forests and share your photos on social media.

  1. Discuss the products we get from trees. Show children a variety of objects we get from trees and ask them to name other services and products that trees provide.
  2. tree-holidaysLearn how the world and its many cultures and people celebrate trees and forests– and plan your own tree celebration. (see “Tree Holidays around the World”).
  3. Decorate a tree with small tree products (e.g., fruits, nuts, and pencils), drawings or photo cutouts of things we get from trees.
  4. Enjoy a snack from trees, using tree fruit dipped in a tree topping (such as almond butter, coconut, or a cocoa and powdered sugar mixture). Safety: Be aware of any food allergies, dietary needs, or choking hazards.
  5. Write a group book titled “Trees are Terrific.” Each author might contribute a story or drawing on a favorite tree product, or tree benefit, or that describes their feelings about trees.
  6. Adopt the street trees in your neighborhood. Street trees are part of the “urban forest.” During dry periods, you can help them by watering them thoroughly once a week.
  7. Plant a tree seed or seedling. Use PLT’s family activity What Tree Should I Plant? or check with a local forester or nursery for an appropriate tree species that is native to your area.
  8. Research forests around the world (such as the Redwood Forest in California, the Cloud Forest in Costa Rica, the Black Forest in Germany) and compare them to the forest in your area.

You can also download these ideas as a one-page PDF:


#3cheers4trees Contest

Share what your students / youth do to learn about forests:

  1. Conduct one or more activities from our list of suggestions above.
  2. Take a photo of your students working to complete the activity, or a photo of their results.
  3. Post it on social media with the hashtags #3cheers4trees and #IntlForestDay for the chance to win a prize!

Note: Please ensure all posts meet your school/district/organization’s privacy policy.

Entries will be accepted through March 31, 2019 on Facebook and Twitter.

A panel of judges will select 3 winners. Each winner can choose to receive either:

  • a free PLT curriculum of your choice from, or
  • a free item of clothing from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative / Project Learning Tree.

For more information, view the official PLT #3cheers4trees Contest Rules.

24 Environmental Service-Learning Projects Funded by PLT’s GreenWorks! Grants

PLT-GreenWorks-logoProject Learning Tree has awarded 24 GreenWorks! grants to schools and community organizations across the United States for environmental service-learning projects. Nearly 5,000 students in 20 states are working on a variety of projects that they help design and lead to improve the environment.

“These grants help students take action for sustainability in a changing world that’s being impacted by climate change,” said James McGirt, Manager of Service Learning and Community Engagement. “From kindergarten to high school, young people are learning they can make a difference as environmental stewards and leaders in their community.”

GreenWorks! projects encourage students to apply what they learn in the classroom to the real world. Students use their creativity and imagination and develop other 21st century skills such as collaboration, teamwork, and critical thinking to problem solve an environmental issue in their community. The projects provide students with opportunities to employ STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and introduce students to green jobs and careers in forestry and natural resources management.

This year, students from all grade levels are working to green their schools and improve forests, watersheds, and wildlife habitat. For example, with GreenWorks! support:

  • In Old Town, Maine, Cub Scouts and students in the YMCA afterschool program will work together to raise Atlantic salmon from eggs and then release the mature fish into the Penobscot River. Youth will learn about the life cycle of salmon and why the Atlantic salmon is endangered through presentations and a field trip to a local hatchery.

  • In Duluth, Minnesota, 5th and 6th grade students from North Shore Community School will assess the health of their 25-acre school forest and threats from invasive species. They will use non-chemical means to control invasive buckthorn, such as pulling small trees by hand and using weed wrenches for larger trees and “buckthorn baggies” to block light to prevent re-sprouting. In stands of balsam fir impacted by spruce budworm, students will work with the Department of Natural Resources to cut down and burn infected trees and replant trees to restore the area.

  • In Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a school-wide initiative at La Academia Partnership Charter School will involve all middle and high school students in making their school more green. Projects include constructing a butterfly / pollinator garden with native plant species; installation of rain barrels to collect water; an audit of the school’s light fixtures; and improvements to the school’s recycling program.

Learn about all 24 funded projects.

Since 1992, PLT has distributed more than $1 million to fund more than 1,200 PLT GreenWorks! projects in communities across the country. The USDA Forest Service helped provide funding for GreenWorks! grants this year.

Cómo vincular a los niños con la naturaleza: Actividades en español

Project Learning Tree (PLT) es un programa condecorado de educación ambiental que enseña a niños y adolescentes sobre los árboles, el bosque y el medio ambiente. Trabajamos con padres, grupos de jóvenes y educadores para llevar a los niños al aire libre de formas seguras, divertidas y llenas de aprendizaje. Nuestros programas ayudan a desarrollar el pensamiento crítico y creativo de los niños así como sus habilidades para resolver problemas, con el propósito de ayudarlos a tener éxito en la escuela y en la vida.

PLT tiene cientos de actividades prácticas que ayudan a los maestros y a los padres a vincular a los jóvenes con la naturaleza de maneras que sean significativas para ellos. Las actividades son divertidas y fáciles de hacer, tienen partes que pueden realizarse en interiores o al aire libre y ayudan a enseñar todo tipo de temas —desde lectura y escritura hasta ciencia y matemáticas, estudios sociales y arte. Hay actividades para todos los niveles y pueden adaptarse a todo tipo de ambiente: en áreas urbanas, suburbanas o rurales.

Gracias al U.S. Forest Service [Servicio Forestal de Estados Unidos], muchas actividades de PLT ahora están siendo traducidas al español, tanto para maestros como para padres.


Para padres


Si eres como muchos padres y guardianes de niños, es posible que no pienses en ti mismo como un maestro. ¡Pero haces una increíble diferencia en la educación de un niño! Y con PLT, no necesitas tener formación pedagógica para usar nuestros materiales.

Para empezar, echa un vistazo a este conjunto de actividades de la naturaleza para familias en español. 

  • Los árboles como hábitats: investiguen las plantas y animales que viven sobre, en y alrededor de los árboles y descubran cómo las plantas y los animales dependen de los árboles de muchas formas.
  • Aves y gusanos: descubran el valor del camuflaje y pretendan ser aves en busca de gusanos.
  • Brotes a punto de estallar: a principios de primavera, aparecen hojas pequeñas, verdes y relucientes. Averigua qué hay dentro de los retoños, de donde vienen las hojas, y cómo se forman.
  • Signos del otoño: Aprende por qué las hojas de los árboles de hojas caducas cambian de color en el otoño.


Visita el sitio de PLT para más actividades familiares en español. Hay alrededor de 40 actividades a escoger que puedes realizar fácilmente con tus niños en tu propio patio, o mientras exploras un parque cercano o das un paseo por las calles de tu ciudad, así como también algunas que puedes intentar mientras das un paseo por el bosque.


Para los maestros

Si eres profesor de secundaria o de nivel medio superior, revisa Enseñar con I-Tree. Esta unidad tiene tres actividades prácticas para alumnos más grandes con las que pueden analizar los muchos beneficios de los árboles.

Los alumnos escogen un árbol para estudiarlo y registran la información que recolectan en un formato gratuito en línea que calcula el valor monetario de ese árbol. Las medidas incluyen el valor del dióxido de carbono que el árbol contiene, la lluvia que intercepta para reducir las inundaciones, la contaminación del aire que absorbe y la energía que ahorra.

Los estudiantes también pueden usar herramientas gratuitas en línea para identificar las tres mejores especies de árbol para plantar en su escuela, casa o comunidad, y el mejor lugar para plantarlas, por ejemplo, para ahorrar energía y reducir los costos de aire acondicionado de los edificios.

Estas investigaciones abordan conceptos de biología, ecología, economía, lingüística y tecnología, además de ayudar a los alumnos a desarrollar habilidades de pensamiento crítico y a descubrir la importancia de la investigación científica.

Para acceder a Enseñar con i-Tree de manera gratuita:

1. Crea una cuenta, o Inicia sesión

2. Da click en “Choose Your Free Curriculum” [Elige tu currículum gratuito] desde la página principal de tu cuenta y Update [Actualiza] tu perfil

3. Selecciona Access Free PLT Curriculum [Acceder al currículum PLT gratuito]



PLT está deseoso de traducir más de estos materiales al español. Lo que vendrá a continuación son las investigaciones en las “escuelas verdes” de PLT (PLT Investigations on Greenschools) en español.

Para recibir notificación de las nuevas traducciones, por favor suscríbete al Newsletter [boletín informativo] de PLT, The Branch [La rama].


Nota del editor: artículo traducido al español por Beau Salgado

Superintendents Environmental Education Collaborative

2019-superintendents-conference-field-tripThe Superintendents Environmental Education Collaborative (SEEC) is a partnership between School Superintendents and environmental education partners—PLT, the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) and Upstream Alliance. Currently, about 20 Superintendents from 17 states are helping us educate school administrators across the United States on the benefits of environmental education to encourage more schools to integrate environmental education into the K-12 classroom.

Hundreds of public school superintendents met in Los Angeles, Feb. 14-16, for the 2019 National Conference on Education hosted by the School Superintendents Association (AASA).

As part of the conference,

  • SEEC organized a whale watching field trip for 47 superintendents and SEEC leaders. Read about the experiential field trip in this blog “New Learning on the High Seas” by Jeanne Collins, Superintendent for the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union in Vermont.
  • We also hosted a conference session to provide an overview of opportunities and resources for school district leaders interested in introducing or scaling environmental education to support student achievement.
Dr. Sean McPhetridge

In the session, six superintendents described their districts’ environmental education programs:

  • Dr. Sean McPhetridge, Superintendent for California’s Alameda Unified School District and Co-Chair of SEEC, talked about his district’s systemic environmental education program across the Bay Area.
  • Dr. Andrea Kane, Superintendent of Maryland’s Queen Anne’s County Public Schools and Co-Chair of SEEC, gave an overview of SEEC and Dr. Kevin Maxwell, former Co-Chair of SEEC and former Chief of Maryland’s Prince George’s County Public Schools, highlighted ways superintendents can become involved.
  • Dr. Aaron Spence, Superintendent of the Virginia Beach School District, described how his school district’s commitment to sustainability has led to construction of 10 LEED certified schools.
  • Brendan Menuey, Executive Principal of Virginia’s Fairfax County School District, stressed the value of an interdisciplinary approach to environmental education in his district. He says, “Pick one path and just do it.”
  • Dr. Dan Curry, Superintendent of Maryland’s Calvert County School District, shared how his district is using drones to map their area to help students learn more about their place in the world.
Superintendents look at star fish with smartphone microscope adapter


Kudos to Esther Cowles (PLT), Sarah Bodor (NAAEE), Don Baugh and Erica Baugh (Upstream Alliance) and consultant Kathy McGlauflin for organizing the field trip and the session. See our photo album on Facebook.

SEEC is spreading the word that Title IV of the Every Student Succeeds Act allows for federal funds to be used for environmental education programming. We are sharing information about state programs that can help train teachers, provide resources and support. And we are highlighting additional funding opportunities for school districts for environmental education, for example, from federal agencies for larger initiatives and from state agencies or local and regional private grantmakers.

For more information, visit the SEEC website.

Teaching with i-Tree Family Activities

Project Learning Tree has published four new activities in its “Connecting Kids to Nature” series. These easy-to-do family activities help connect children and teens to the outdoors and nature in ways that are both fun and educational.


Teaching with i-Tree Family Activities

tree circumference family activity

The four new activities are based on PLT’s latest curriculum, Teaching with i-Tree, and are specifically designed to help families and youth learn together about the many ecosystem services that trees provide. The activities can be done in your own backyard, while exploring a local park, or walking in a forest. They also all include an indoor component as they incorporate the use of i-Tree Design software, a free, state-of-the-art online tool developed by the U.S. Forest Service and its partners.

  1. In the activity Name that Tree, for example, you’ll first use your smart phone to snap a picture of a leaf. Then, using a free mobile app, you can identify the tree species and from there do some further research to learn some of the common uses, products and benefits we get from that tree species.

2. As part of the activity What’s the Value of that Tree?, you’ll use the free online tool i-Tree MyTree to calculate the dollar value of an individual tree, or a set of trees. Find out how much carbon dioxide that tree in your backyard, for example, sequesters and what that’s worth; how much rainfall that tree intercepts to reduce flood risks from stormwater runoff; how much air pollution it absorbs; or the energy savings it provides.

3. Planting trees around your home can improve how it looks, plus trees provide important environmental benefits. In the activity What Tree Should I Plant?, you’ll use another free online tool i-Tree Species to determine what tree species is best suited to your location, and what tree is the best one to plant based on the benefits it provides that are most important to you and your family.

4. Did you know you can reduce heating and cooling costs by strategically planting trees around your home? In the activity Reduce Your Utility Costs with i-Tree, create a quick sketch of the perimeter of your home or building where you live and mark a few spots where you could plant trees. Then upload your sketch to i-Tree Design to determine where is the best place to plant a tree around your home for maximum energy savings.


Download PLT’s Family Activities

Individual activities are posted online and can be downloaded for free. Some activities work better for younger children, others are more suited for older children. The way you present them will change depending on your child’s knowledge and ability.

Teachers’ Choice Award-Winning Curriculum on Special Offer

2019-Teachers-Choice-Award-Energy-in-EcosystemsProject Learning Tree’s (PLT) Energy in Ecosystems curriculum for grades 3-5 has been selected a Learning® Magazine 2019 Teachers’ ChoiceSM Award (TCA) for the Classroom winner. Winners, including products from Scholastic and National Geographic, were selected by a nationwide panel of teacher-judges who review books, classroom supplies, educational games, software, websites, and supplemental materials that teachers need for their classroom. PLT is an initiative of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

“The Energy in Ecosystems by Project Learning Tree is a fantastic online resource for students in grades 3-5,” said one teacher who evaluated the curriculum. “There are many things I love about it, but I would rank the following as my favorite parts: it’s all online, it is super engaging, targets the NGSS standards which are how my school’s science standards are aligned, and it also integrates the Common Core standards for English and Math.”

PLT’s Energy in Ecosystems e-unit consists of six activities for elementary students to investigate the ways in which organisms depend on each other to survive and thrive. Students focus on forests—one of the largest and most complex types of ecosystems—and come to understand ways that plants and animals are connected to each other.

For example, in Activity 1: The Forest of S.T. Shrew, students take a “shrew’s-eye-view” of life in the woods to gain an understanding of the variety of organisms that live in forests. In Activity 2: A Home for Many, students inventory the plants and animals that live in, on, and around trees and discover how trees meet their needs for survival. In Activity 3: Web of Life, students conduct research and simulate a food web. In Activity 6: Invasive Species, students learn about invasive species and what characteristics make them so challenging.

Teachers can purchase PLT’s Energy in Ecosystems e-unit and an accompanying online course for $40 from For a limited time, a special 25% discount is available over the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. Starting Friday, November 23 through Monday, November 26 (ending at 11:59pm ET), educators can use the code EUNIT2018 at checkout to receive $10 off any PLT e-unit.

Educators can also receive the e-unit by participating in an in-person professional development workshop in their state. Approximately 1,200 workshops are held around the country every year that provide in-depth, tailored training to approximately 20,000 educators on how best to incorporate environmental education into their curriculum in their own setting and how to take their students outside to learn.

“Project Learning Tree provides high-quality standards-based education materials and professional development for educators, and it’s a true pleasure to be recognized as a top curriculum in the classroom,” said Kathy Abusow, President and CEO of SFI. “We believe there is such richness and depth to learning when you use trees and forests as windows onto the world for teaching youth all kinds of subjects, from STEM to English language arts to social studies and much more.”

PLT’s hands-on and engaging activities help teach students how to think, not what to think about the environment and their place within it. The multi-disciplinary lessons are flexible, easy for teachers to incorporate into their existing curriculum and are designed to develop students’ critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making skills.

For 25 years, the Learning® magazine Teachers’ Choice Awards have heralded the very best in classroom-tested, teacher-recommended products. Each product is evaluated on its own merit and those that meet Learning Magazine’s teachers’ stringent standards are chosen to receive a Teachers’ Choice Award. For the 2019 TCA Classroom awards, 27 winners were chosen based on their scores from the evaluations done by a panel of teachers across the country.

This is the second time PLT has won a Teachers’ Choice Award. PLT’s Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood guide and CD was awarded a 2011 Teachers’ ChoiceSM Award for the Classroom.


About Project Learning Tree®
Project Learning Tree helps develop students’ awareness, knowledge, and appreciation of the environment, builds their skills and ability to make informed decisions, and encourages them to take personal responsibility for sustaining the environment and our quality of life that depends on it. Since 1976, Project Learning Tree has trained 750,000 educators to help students learn how to think, not what to think about complex environmental issues. PLT is an initiative of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. Learn more at

About the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Inc.
SFI® Inc. is a sustainability leader that stands for future forests. We are an independent, non-profit organization that provides supply chain assurances, delivers conservation leadership, and supports environmental education and community engagement. SFI works with the forest sector, brand owners, conservation groups, resource professionals, landowners, educators, local communities, Indigenous peoples, governments, and universities. SFI standards and on-product labels help consumers make responsible purchasing decisions. Additionally, we oversee the SFI Forest Partners® Program, which aims to increase supply of certified forest products, the SFI Conservation and Community Partnerships Grant Program, which funds research and community building, and Project Learning Tree®, which educates teachers and youth about forests and the environment. SFI Inc. is governed by an independent three-­chamber board of directors representing environmental, social, and economic sectors equally. SFI believes caring for forests improves everyone’s quality of life. Learn more at

Media Contact
Vanessa Bullwinkle
Director, Communications & Marketing
Project Learning Tree
Sustainable Forestry Initiative Inc.
[email protected]

Top Marks! PLT’s Energy in Ecosystems Wins Teachers’ Choice Award

Project Learning Tree’s Energy in Ecosystems curriculum for grades 3-5 has been selected a Learning ® Magazine 2019 Teachers’ ChoiceSM Award for the Classroom winner! Project Learning Tree is an initiative of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

For 25 years, the Learning® magazine Teachers’ Choice Awards have heralded the very best in classroom-tested, teacher-recommended products. Each year a nationwide panel of teacher-judges names the standouts in books, classroom supplies, educational games, software, websites, and supplemental materials that teachers need for their classroom. For the 2019 awards for the Classroom, 27 winners (including products from Scholastic and National Geographic, for example) were chosen based on their scores from the evaluations done by a panel of teachers across the country.


Teachers’ Evaluation Comments

Teachers who evaluated Energy in Ecosystems praised the unit.

“The Energy in Ecosystems by Project Learning Tree is a fantastic online resource for students in grades 3-5. There are many things I love about it, but I would rank the following as my favorite parts: it’s all online, it is super engaging, targets the NGSS standards which are how my school’s science standards are aligned, and it also integrates the Common Core standards for English and Math.”

Another reviewer said, “The information is extensive and is laid out so concisely and has so many activities to choose from. My students were totally engaged each time I used an activity from the unit. The book lists were great for integrating the activities into our literacy units and everything was adaptable!”

Another teacher who tested the unit with students said, “The students’ interests were really kept alive with this program, probably because it was mostly online! I also loved that there were hands-on activities as well, as I feel that science should always be hands-on!”

When asked how the product could be improved to better support their curriculum, the comments from the teacher-judges were unanimous. “I cannot think of a way to improve this product. I loved it as-is,” said one teacher.

After receiving top marks, PLT’s Energy in Ecosystems e-unit was awarded a 2019 Teachers’ Choice Award for the Classroom, earning the seal of approval for outstanding educational value.


Cover_PLT_eUnit_Energy_EcosystemsAbout Energy in Ecosystems for Grades 3-5

PLT’s Energy in Ecosystems e-unit investigates the ways in which organisms depend on each other to survive and thrive. Students focus on forests—one of the largest and most complex types of ecosystems—and come to understand some of the interactions present in all ecosystems. In doing so, they learn to appreciate the natural systems on which we depend and begin to widen their circle of compassion to include all of nature. Learn more.


About the Teachers’ Choice Awards

Here’s more information about the Teachers’ Choice awards from Learning magazine.

What is the history of the Teachers’ Choice Awards?

In 1994, Learning® magazine introduced the first Teachers’ Choice Awards program. Over the years, the program has grown to become one of the most recognized and prestigious awards in the educational market. For 25 years, the Learning® magazine Teachers’ ChoiceSM Award has spotlighted the very best in classroom-tested, teacher-recommended products.

How are the products evaluated?

A team of teachers evaluates each product in the classroom. The products are evaluated on quality, instructional value, ease of use, and innovation.

How are the winners selected?

Each product is evaluated on its own merit. Only those products that meet Learning Magazine’s teachers’ stringent standards are chosen to receive a Teachers’ Choice Award. 


This is the second time PLT has won a Teachers’ Choice Award. In 2010, PLT’s Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood guide and CD was awarded a 2011 Teachers’ ChoiceSM Award for the Classroom.

PLT is thrilled we made the grade as thousands of teachers trust the TCA seal of approval. CONGRATULATIONS to all!


Get PLT’s Energy in Ecosystems e-unit now!

Video: PLT Takes Teaching Outdoors

student-field-trip-tree-farmThanks to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, PLT has produced two new promotional videos to illustrate how PLT teaches youth about forests and the environment through hands-on, inter-disciplinary learning experiences that are correlated to classroom standards and get children outside.

Teachers, kindergartners and 5th graders share their experiences learning about trees and forestry using PLT activities like Every Tree for Itself, Tree Cookies, Renewable or Not, and Web of Life while on a field trip to Gully Branch tree farm in Georgia.

Watch these two videos:

Highlights from PLT’s 32nd International Coordinators’ Conference

The 2018 Project Learning Tree International Coordinators’ Conference was held June 4-7 in Cody, Wyoming. Now in its 32nd year, our annual conference provides professional development, networking, and information about new initiatives to PLT’s partners who deliver high quality environmental education programming to educators across the country and internationally, too.

A New Home with SFI Brings Opportunities for Growth

In July 2017, PLT joined forces with the Sustainable Forestry Initiative as its new home. This conference provided PLT Coordinators and leaders from across the United States, Japan, and Mexico with the chance to get to know the people and programs of SFI.

“PLT’s future is bright,” said Kathy Abusow, President and CEO of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, who participated throughout the event. “SFI is sincere in our efforts to help make PLT the best it can be. The PLT network is an impressive, diverse and dynamic group of individuals who do amazing work. Their passion for environmental education and inspiring the next generation is evident. It was thrilling to witness the great excitement we share for building on PLT’s strong foundation and exploring numerous opportunities for growth.”

Conference participants reflected on the many ways that PLT helps them to meet their personal, professional, and organizational goals. Ultimately, the network is committed to educating the next generation to be well-informed stewards for our forests and other natural resources.

Some of the opportunities identified for growing the reach of PLT were:

  • getting more kids outdoors
  • reaching more college students studying to become educators
  • creating more pathways to green jobs
  • ensuring our programs meet the needs of diverse audiences
  • enhancing society’s health and wellbeing through access to nature.


“This conference marked a significant milestone,” said Esther Cowles, Senior Director of Education Programs for PLT and SFI. “PLT’s new home with SFI is already opening a lot of doors and we are excited to see new state and national partnerships and sponsors. I think people across our network feel confident in our new beginning and see SFI as a land of opportunities for PLT”


“Thank You” to Our Conference Sponsors

The quality of PLT’s conference is enriched by the generous support of several sponsors.

The Arbor Day Foundation (ADF) is a new national PLT partner who sponsored our opening reception. ADF Program Director Michelle Scribner presented a session about ADF’s new recognition program for K-12 school students to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees.

Your True Nature (YTN) provided us all a Yellowstone Nature Journal and gift packet full of co-branded “Advice” products that are also widely available to all PLT educators with a 30% discount. Go to and enter the code EDUCATOR-PLTDIS. Thank you to founder Ilan Shamir and Melody Dawn for joining us at the conference.

Neiman Enterprises, a South Dakota/Wyoming integrated business and SFI Program Participant, provided the wood for PLT-engraved trivets and they sponsored carbon emission offsets through the Conservation Fund’s North Coast Forest Initiative.

Hancock Natural Resource Group, another SFI Program Participant, sponsored the session “Connecting with SFI’s Network” and we welcomed Heather Druffel, Hancock’s Education and Outreach Forester from Washington State.

ee360 is an ambitious five-year strategy to bring innovative leaders in the environmental education field together through leadership clinics, webinars, online modules, professional development workshops, and conferences like PLT’s. Funded by the US EPA and managed by our long-time friends at the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), we were pleased to have Operations and Program manager, Drew Price, representing NAAEE.

The Albert I. Pierce Foundation is also a long-time friend and supporter of PLT. Under the leadership of Deb Thrall, we are grateful for their years of support for this conference, and for funding an outdoor classroom this year at Sundance Elementary School in Wyoming. As part of this project, conference attendees were invited to create their own state’s “brand” that we burned onto an Aldo Leopold bench for the school’s outdoor classroom.


In addition to these sponsors, WY PLT received additional support for hosting the conference:

  • Laramie County Conservation District
  • Northern Rockies Tree School
  • Wyoming State Forestry Division
  • Wyoming/Colorado chapter of the Society of American Foresters


More Highlights from the PLT Conference

Seventeen Concurrent and ten Show and Tell sessions provided opportunities for members of the PLT network to learn from each other to enhance their state programs.

Here are just a few highlights:

  • Several states and Mexico shared how they have created supplemental guides to PLT activities that focus on their unique, local environment.
  • Texas PLT explained Phenomena Based Learning, a new science education method that has rich opportunities for teachers to incorporate inquiry and STEM into their lesson planning.
  • A session on state forest literacy plans provided ideas for incorporating teaching about forests into classroom programs.
  • Opportunities were identified for building connections among the PLT network, SFI Program Participants, and SFI Implementation Committees, including grants to support community partnerships and engagement.
  • A preconference session introduced the ADDIE instructional design model as an effective tool in planning and implementing professional development programs.


Getting to Know Wyoming

Our keynote speakers provided a warm Wyoming welcome. State Forester Bill Crapser and Kristie Salzmann, Shoshone National Forest Public Affairs Officer, shared the challenges and rewards of managing forest land for multiple uses.

Guest speaker Dan Thompson, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, shared some amazing slides and video that showed the expansion of grizzly bears and mountain lions in and around Yellowstone. He stressed the importance of public education to manage wildlife in harmony with human populations.

An amazing full-day visit into Yellowstone National Park included sightings of grizzly bears, bison, elk, and deer; time to witness Old Faithful, other geysers, and hot springs; and a chance to enjoy Yellowstone Lake that’s been shaped by lava flows within the caldera. A knowledgeable interpretative guide deepened our understanding of the natural history of this first national park.

Dinner and the Triple C Cowboys Band at the Cody Cattle Company—with a special PLT-only encore!


Awards and Recognition

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

Leaders in Education — PLT’s new Leadership in Education Award is designed to recognize individuals and partners who have made significant contributions to support PLT programs and initiatives at the state-level. This year’s winners are Robin Will (Supervisory Ranger, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, St. Marks, FL), Holly McKenzie (Consulting Forester, Montana Women in Timber, Columbia Falls, MT), Jason Vlcan (Visitor Information Specialist, National Historic Trails Interpretative Center, Casper, WY), Nancy Loewenstein (Extension Specialist, Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, Auburn, AL), and The Ross Foundation (Arkadelphia, AR). Read more.

Gold Stars — Since 1995, National PLT has presented Gold Stars to outstanding PLT Coordinators for their years of exemplary service. We are an immeasurably better organization because of their extraordinary personal and professional qualities, commitment and dedication to PLT, energy and expertise. This year, Gold Stars were awarded to (pictured from left to right) Betsy Ukeritis (Inter-Regional Environmental Educator with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation) and Misty Bowie (Environmental Education Director at the Texas Forestry Association).


Last But Not Least, A Big ‘Thank You!’ To Wyoming PLT

We especially want to extend our gratitude to the Wyoming PLT team for their wonderful job and hard work in helping to organize a truly outstanding PLT conference. From their warmth and hospitality, to pride in their state, to the beautiful table decorations, painted rocks, and fun outdoor activities at the Hospitality Suite, they sure did show us a great time!

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

PLT’s Leadership in Education Award

Three award winners standing with their certificate
Leadership in Education Awards recipients Holly McKenzie (Montana), Robin Will (Florida), Jason Vlcan (Wyoming) at the PLT 2018 Conference

We’ve recognized outstanding educators at PLT’s annual conference for more than 20 years. We are still doing that now, but with a twist.

We now call these awards “Leadership in Education,” a small but significant variation on the previous title of “outstanding educator.” The award criteria used to limit eligibility to formal and nonformal educators.

The broader focus recognizes all that goes into sustaining and growing the truly amazing PLT network.

PLT’s new Leadership in Education Award honors individuals and partners who have made significant contributions to support PLT programs and initiatives at the state-level.

Nominated by their PLT State Coordinator, recipients could be:

  • Formal or nonformal educators who use PLT to teach all kinds of subjects through environmental education and take students outdoors to learn
  • Workshop facilitators who help educators learn about PLT and deliver PLT’s professional development to diverse audiences
  • Steering committee members who have dedicated their time to shaping their state’s PLT program or raising funds
  • Community supporters who have championed PLT programs and initiatives

“A lot of committed people and organizations are involved in great PLT state programs, working as a team with a common purpose,” said Esther Cowles, Senior Director of Education Programs. “The Leadership in Education winners represent an amazing array of contributions to our vibrant PLT network.”

The awards were presented on June 5 during PLT’s 32nd International Coordinators’ Conference, in Cody, WY. Please join us in congratulating our 2018 winners!


NNancy-Loewensteinancy Loewenstein, Ph.D.
Extension Specialist
Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences
Auburn, Alabama

Nancy promotes environmental education as a teacher, facilitator, and leader through the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Alabama PLT Steering Committee, and Alabama Invasive Plant Council, among others. She plans and conducts PLT workshops for students, landowners, 4-H volunteers, and others throughout the state. By helping to host Alabama PLT’s summer teacher institute at Auburn, she raised the institute’s credibility and exposed K-12 teachers to new career options for their students.


The Ross Foundation LogoThe Ross Foundation
Arkadelphia, Arkansas

The Ross Foundation manages 60,000 acres of timberland in Arkansas. The Foundation supports forest conservation and environmental education and for the past 18 years, it has provided funding to the Arkansas Forestry Association Education Foundation. This has allowed Arkansas PLT to provide forestry and environmental education programs to 30,000 students, training in PLT’s curriculum to 14,000 educators, and information about sustainable forestry management practices to 12,000 forest landowners and managers.


Robin WillRobin Will
Supervisory Ranger
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
St. Marks, Florida

Robin has been a Florida PLT leader since 1989, helping form its initial steering committee and serving in many other roles since then. She coordinates the PLT Schools program in Wakulla County, in which all public preschools and elementary schools involve their students in hands-on environmental education. She has facilitated more than 130 workshops for educators, who then teach environmental education to students of all ages. She has also mentored countless facilitators who go on to conduct their own PLT workshops.


Holly McKenzieHolly McKenzie
Consulting Forester
Montana Women in Timber
Columbia Falls, Montana

As a consulting forester who usually works with landowners, Holly recognizes the importance of environmental education for people of all ages and backgrounds. She has spent more than a decade revitalizing and leading PLT in Montana and now chairs the Montana PLT Steering Committee. She conducts hands-on PLT workshops for educators, especially in the Flathead area, with a special talent in reaching out to participants and mentoring others to conduct workshops of their own.


Jason VlcanJason Vlcan
Visitor Information Specialist
National Historic Trails Interpretative Center Casper, Wyoming

Jason has a keen interest in natural history and helped create Exploring Wyoming’s Natural Environments, a state-specific supplemental guide to many of PLT’s hands-on activities. In his 13 years at the Trails Center, Jason has established connections with a wide range of individuals and organizations, especially educators throughout the state. Each year, more than 30,000 visitors learn about Native Americans’ rich heritage and the history of the pioneers in the West through his hands-on history and nature experiences. He is adept at introducing students to the outdoors, including an annual, overnight program with at-risk high school students.


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.