New Members Join PLT’s Governing Body

Project Learning Tree’s Education Operating Committee (EOC) is a group of professionals from education, business, and environmental fields that meets twice yearly to provide expertise, leadership, and strategy direction to the American forest Foundation (AFF) and its national environmental education program Project Learning Tree (PLT). Their goal is to help further the understanding of complex environmental issues and natural resource management among educators, youth, and their families.   

With the start of the year, we say goodbye to 3 members who have dedicated many years to helping PLT work towards its mission, and we welcome 5 new members!

Our heartfelt thanks to Frank Gallagher Ph.D., instructor with Rutgers University, Bora Simmons Ph.D., Director of the National Project for Excellence in Environmental Education at the University of Oregon, and Brenda Weiser Ed.D., Associate Professor, Science Education at the University of Houston – Clear Lake. Thank you for your outstanding support, hard work, and commitment to PLT over many years!

Laura Downey Ph.D., Executive Director of the Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education and current EOC member, has taken the reins from Frank Gallagher as a Co-Chair of the EOC and will also now serve on AFF’s Board of Trustees. Laura is a national leader in the field of environmental education and has a Ph.D. from Kansas State in Curriculum and Instruction for Math, Science, and Technology. Rafael Salgado, Executive Director of Cal-Wood Education Center in Colorado, also now serves as Co-Chair of the EOC.

In addition, we welcome 5 new members to the EOC. 

“As PLT celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, we are excited to have such a talented group of individuals join our Education Operating Committee,” said Kathy McGlauflin, Executive Director of Project Learning Tree and Senior Vice President, Education with the American Forest Foundation. “They will help PLT implement its new strategic plan designed to keep PLT at the forefront of environmental education.”

The new members are:

Nicole Ardoin, Ph.D.
Nicole is an assistant professor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education and the Woods Institute for the Environment. Her research includes informal and place-based education as tools to engage communities in the environment, and understanding the motivations for environmental behaviors, including local connections and nature-based tourism. 

Robert Raze, Ph.D.
Robert is a professor at St. Petersburg College, a member of Florida PLT’s State Steering Committee, and a National PLT Outstanding Educator. He works with education students and teachers to share the importance of environmental education, STEM, and new methods of learning. 

Rahul Singh
Rahul is the founder and CEO of Anant Corporation, a Washington D.C.-based digital consulting groups that connects its clients with the most advanced technology solutions. He brings an entrepreneurial spirit and technological know-how to the EOC.

National Association of State Foresters
The National Association of State Foresters has appointed two liaisons to the EOC to serve as their schedules permit. Robert Farris is the Director of the Georgia Forestry Commission and Peter Church is the Director of Forest Stewardship for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.

These members bring expertise in business, formal and informal education, and land management to the EOC, and will surely serve to help PLT work towards its mission. PLT has an exciting future ahead, and we look forward to working with this diverse group of new members as we grow!

Photo: Project Learning Tree’s Education Operating Committee members meet in Washington, D.C. in October 2015.

Project Learning Tree Turns 40!

40th anniversary This year, Project Learning Tree is celebrating its 40th anniversary! Back in 1976, the United States celebrated its Bicentennial and the first Earth Day had taken place a few years earlier. Many of the environmental laws and educational reforms now part of everyday life were new on the books or barely imagined. And who knew you would be reading this on a computer screen, let alone on a small handheld device?

Back in 1976, natural resource managers and educators from the then-American Forest Institute (now Foundation) and then-Western Regional Environmental Education Council (now Council for Environmental Education) developed and launched the first PLT workshops in ten states. Forty years later, educators in every U.S. state and many countries around the world are using PLT elementary and secondary materials with their students. Over 40 years, PLT has trained more than 675,000 educators through in-person workshops.

Environmental Literacy and Stewardship

Young teacher takes classroom outdoors

Environmental education is key to giving people the understanding and motivation needed to address many of our complex 21st century problems. Project Learning Tree teaches students how to think, not to what to think about complex environmental issues. But, just as the world has changed over the past four decades, so has PLT. We have built on our original vision of using the forest as a window to increase students’ understanding of their environment.

Our current PreK-8 guide, for example, helps educators meet many challenges, such as a strengthened emphasis on reading comprehension and differentiated instruction. Our Early Childhood guide gets children into the outdoors, experiencing nature at an early age. Our series of secondary modules introduce exciting, thought-provoking activities that encourage older students to explore the communities in which they live. 

Our service-learning programs, GreenSchools and GreenWorks!, inspire students to take personal responsibility for improving the environment at their school, at home, and in their communities. And, for educators at all grade levels and experience, we offer state-of-the-art professional development to make PLT materials rewarding and easy to use.

Education on Demand

Students plant a tree at their schoolOne of the biggest changes this century is the rise of technology. It has changed our lives forever, and our use of technology continues to grow at a galloping pace. Today, anyone with an internet connection can take classes online, and students and teachers have access to more educational content than ever before with online videos, lessons, apps, interactive live broadcasts, networking forums, and more, that can supplement their learning. The rise of social media has been particularly swift and widespread. 

PLT has embraced these tectonic shifts in technology to reach new people in virtual ways. We now offer online professional development courses for those who can’t make it to an in-person workshop. And exciting new online instructional materials for grades K-2, 3-5, and 6-8 will debut soon. Our goal with new online technologies, including networking on social media, remains the same. We want people to experience the “real” environment, and we provide the inspiration, help, and encouragement to do just that. 

While PLT strives to keep pace with change, our vision remains the same. We are committed to creating a future where the next generation values the natural world and has the knowledge and skills to sustain forests and the broader environment. During the coming year, join us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter, as we take a look back – and a look forward. We’ll share important milestones, along with stories about our passionate educators and students who are making a difference in their world. Whether you were teaching back in ’76 or weren’t even born yet, help us celebrate being 40 years young in 2016!

Photo 1: Students at Brinkley High School in Arkansas teach elementary students about trees and their environment.
Photo 2: Students at Wylie Intermediate School in Abilene, Texas improve their environment by planting a tree on their school grounds.

New Federal Education Law Supports Environmental Education

Teachers and staff advocate for Project Learning Tree and environmental education on Capitol Hill in Washington, DCAt the end of last year, Congress passed and President Obama signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The Act replaces the No Child Left Behind Act that has been in place since 2001. ESSA provides some $40 billion a year to support K-12 education in the United States and excitingly it includes new provisions that support students learning about the environment, conservation, and field studies. 

Highlights of the Act include:

  • The basic idea that environmental literacy and conservation education should be included as a part of a well-rounded education for any student.
  • The enrichment of after school programming with environmental and conservation education, and
  • More science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education highlighting the desirability of field study and service learning both of which are solid environmental and conservation education approaches.

A Collective Effort

This all came from a longstanding effort by the 2,000 member No Child Left Inside (NCLI) coalition, the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), the STEM Coalition, and others. Over many years, Project Learning Tree and our national network played an important role in this collective effort, including making visits to members of Congress, organizing teacher fly-ins, and arranging for members of Congress to visit schools and meet teachers in their home state. A big thank you to the many PLT State Coordinators, facilitators, and PLT teachers across the country who helped make these historic gains for environmental education!

Money for Environmental Education
This is the first time a federal education bill recognizes environmental literacy programs as part of a child’s well-rounded education. Moreover, the new law makes environmental education eligible to compete for billions of dollars in federal grants to states. 

“The Every Student Succeeds Act officially recognizes that environmental education is an expected component of a child’s education and that environmental education enhances learning in science, technology, engineering, and math,” said Kathy McGlauflin, Executive Director of Project Learning Tree and Senior Vice President of the American Forest Foundation. “Because the funding is there, we are very excited and optimistic that school districts will now be able to incorporate environmental education in classrooms across the nation.”

Stay tuned! We’ll be working with NAAEE to keep you in the know about funding opportunities for PLT in your state as details become available. Sign up for our free e-newsletter.

Photo: “Signing” PLT, teachers Shannon Lewis from South Carolina (second from left) and Margot Dickey from Virginia (right) join with PLT staff, Kathy McGlauflin (second from right) and James McGirt when visiting Members of Congress on Capitol Hill in July 2011. 

PLT Awards 24 GreenWorks! Grants for Service-Learning Projects

greenworks-logoProject Learning Tree is excited to announce that we have awarded 24 GreenWorks! grants to schools and organizations across the country to involve students in community-based environmental projects. Nearly 4,000 students in 18 states will participate in the different projects.

GreenWorks! is the service-learning component of Project Learning Tree that engages educators, students, and their communities in “learning-by-doing” local environmental stewardship projects. Since 1992, PLT has distributed more than $1 million to fund more than 1,000 PLT GreenWorks! action projects in communities across the country. This year, GreenWorks! grants were funded up to $1,000 each.

Our GreenWorks! program not only provides leadership opportunities for students to become responsible environmental stewards but it also exposes them to STEM skills that prepares them to be globally competitive in the 21st Century workplace.

The GreenWorks! grants announced this week will fund elementary through high school students as they design native plant gardens, create aquaponics gardens, and educate others about environmental issues, among other projects.

For example, with GreenWorks! support:

  • In Troy, Virginia, special needs students at the Lafayette School and Treatment Center will have the opportunity to establish and maintain a Therapeutic Garden as a means to provide therapy and relaxation for all students while also providing them with healthy snack alternatives.
  • In Oregon City, OR, 7th-8th grade students will restore 1-acre of unused land into native white oaks savanna. Students will research native plants and produce thorough mapping of the area, measuring water saturation and soil conditions. The 7th-8th grade students will then teach Kindergarten and 1st grade students lessons of their studies and work together to plant and grow an oaks savanna.
  • In Liberty, Kentucky, students will construct cold frames and raised beds for a vegetable garden on the schools campus that will be used in the school’s backpack program which provides students and families in need with backpacks full of food every Friday to help them through the weekend. 

Proposals for the next round of grants will be due September 30, 2016. Application forms will be made available in the spring from

GreenSchools Online Course

Project Learning Tree continues to develop new online professional development opportunities for educators that are carefully designed to create effective learning experiences.

online pd

This past summer, we launched an online workshop for the PreK-8 Environmental Education Activity Guide. To date, 13 states are now offering their own version of this online course, supplemented with state-specific information and resources and, in some cases, continuing education credits. Now, thanks to support and funding from the U.S. Forest Service, the national PLT office has just completed an online training course for teachers and school staff interested in starting a GreenSchools program at their school.  

online gs pdOnline Professional Development for PLT GreenSchools

As part of the GreenSchools online course, you will: 

  • Get an introduction to PLT’s GreenSchools program
  • Learn how to effectively engage your students in conducting each of the five investigations (Energy, School Site, Waste and Recycling, Water, and Environmental Quality) in your own educational setting
  • Find out how to obtain equipment and collect data
  • Participate in interactive learning experiences that will enable you to facilitate a green schools program at your school and get the support of school administrators, staff, parents, and community members
  • Engage in planning exercises to help you be successful in implementing the program
  • Discover ways to empower your students to design and lead an action project
  • See video demonstrations of GreenSchools students and educators in action
  • Understand the benefits of PLT GreenSchools – for students and your school
  • Get tips on how to measure your students’ impact and celebrate successes

The Particulars

All of PLT’s online workshops are comprised of several coursels. A coursel is a 20-30 minute self-paced learning experience that makes up the larger course. In other words, a coursel is a morsel of a course. 

PLT’s GreenSchools online course costs $25 and takes approximately 6 hours to complete.  Once enrolled, you will have 180 days to complete the course.

You can view and download each of the PLT GreenSchools Investigations by registering for free, or purchase a print copy of the set for $29.95.  


PLT Professional Development Workshops Now Online!

Do you want a refresher course, or know someone who wants training in environmental education but can’t make it to an in-person workshop? Help us spread the word about PLT’s new online professional development courses!
training and curriculum materials

For 40 years, Project Learning Tree has provided teachers and other educators with high-quality professional development in environmental education and fun activities that meet current education standards for PreK-12 students. The core of our professional development program has been, and continues to be, in-person workshops.  About 20,000 educators participate in approximately 1,200 workshops offered across the country by PLT state programs every year. 

student tree cookie

The times are changing though—for educators, for school districts, and for society—and we have embarked on an exciting process to complement our in-person professional development workshops.

We are pleased to announce that PLT now also offers educators online professional development opportunities that reflect current research and model best practices. Our first online workshop is for PreK-8 educators, and more are in development. Online training to support PLT’s GreenSchools! program, and online professional development specifically for early childhood educators, will debut this Fall.

The Underlying Premise

PLT workshops are designed to help educators engage students in learning about the environment—both outside and in the classroom. Our hands-on activities make teaching and learning fun, and can be easily incorporated into existing curriculum or nonformal education programs. The activities are multi-disciplinary, teach core subjects (especially STEM, reading, writing, and social studies), and are correlated to state and national academic standards, including Common Core and the Next Generation Science Standards’ three-dimensional approach.

Our online workshops are comprised of several coursels. A coursel is a 20-30 minute self-paced learning experience that makes up the larger course. In other words, a coursel is a morsel of a course!

PLT encourages educators to use the outdoors for learning, and while our new training opportunity is online, our course is designed to help—and show—educators how to take their students outside using PLT activities.

What’s Included

activity 27PLT’s PreK-8 online workshop costs $40 and takes approximately 4 hours to complete.  It includes:

  • seven self-paced coursels
  • an e-published version of PLT’s popular PreK-8 Environmental Education Activity Guide, containing 96 activities (print version available for an additional fee)
  • video demonstrations for four PLT activities
  • interactive learning experiences to help educators plan how best to facilitate activities with their students
  • lesson planning activities and real world examples
  • simulations to demonstrate activities from a student’s perspective
  • links to online and state-specific resources 
  • certificate of completion and course evaluation

Some states (currently Colorado, Kentucky, Michigan, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and Wyoming) have supplemented the basic online course developed by National PLT with state-specific supplemental materials – and they can also arrange continuing education credits for educators in their state who complete their state’s online course along with any other requirements specific to receiving credit. More states are expected to follow suit in the coming months.

activity 27, lesson planning


Here are some comments we’ve received from the first individuals to complete PLT’s PreK-8 online workshop.

  • “Good online PD. Easy to use and navigate.”  — Zach C. (Colorado)
  • “I enjoyed the how to videos, and also the worksheets that let me brainstorm for implementing with my students”  — Seth M. (Michigan)
  • “I am very excited to start using this program in my classroom!”  — Sally G. (Texas)

GreenWorks! Grants

Finally, a note about PLT’s GreenWorks! grants.  Anyone who has attended a PLT workshop – either in-person or online – is eligible to apply for a PLT GreenWorks! grant to fund an environmental service-learning project for their students.  The deadline to apply is September 30th, so if you haven’t yet been trained in PLT, consider signing up for an online course!

Tree Story: The Game that Plants Real Trees

virtual trees into real treesDo you remember Tamagotchi? Well, the interactive virtual pet just got a major upgrade – with real-world benefits!

Raise virtual trees in the new Tree Story game, and Project Learning Tree, the US Forest Service, and several other Tree Story partners will plant real trees in forests and urban areas all across the country.  Every tree that you raise in the game will support real reforestation efforts, providing new or restored habitat for wildlife, clean air for everyone to breathe, and other important ecological services.

The creators of Tree Story, Zig Zag Zoom (ZZZ), develop mobile games that entertain, connect, and empower people to make a real difference in the world. Together with ZZZ, PLT and other partners have made it our collective goal to plant 1 million trees. We just need your help to get started!

How Tree Story Works

In the Tree Story game, you choose a tree and a location for it to grow.  Feed and water your tree in the app and play interactive, forest-themed mini-games to keep it healthy and happy. Once you have nurtured your trees from seedlings to full-grown trees, you can send them to a grove to be planted in the real world. 

Game Features:

  • Care for and protect your virtual tree – Feed, water, and prune your trees to keep them healthy and looking great. Give them plenty of sunshine and be sure to fend off harmful pests!
  • Play games and other activities – Play a variety of forest-themed action and puzzle mini-games to keep you and your tree entertained.
  • Dress and customize your trees – Have you ever wondered what a tree would look like in a costume? Choose fun and stylish outfits and accessories for your trees to wear.
  • Learn as you play – Discover new tree facts embedded in the game.
  • Experiment with potions – Grow even more trees by using potions that speed the growth of your virtual trees.
  • Support real reforestation efforts – Nurture your virtual seedlings until they become full-grown trees. Every tree you nurture will help us reach our goal to plant 1 million trees and build and reforest natural habitat.

Planting Real Trees

tree planting at yu yingTo celebrate the official launch of the new Tree Story game, PLT participated in the first tree planting at Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School, a PLT GreenSchool! in Washington, DC. The inagual planting on Earth Day, April 22, 2015, was organized in part by PLT and the Anacostia Watershed Society. As you can probably imagine, students were thrilled to be able to play a mobile game during an assembly, before heading outside to get their hands dirty alongside Woodsy Owl, PLT, and the U.S. Forest Service!

PLT’s next opportunities to help turn virtual trees into real trees will take place over the next few weeks in Colorado. The first CO tree planting will take place at the School in the Woods in Colorado Springs, an area that was heavily impacted by the Black Forest Fire in June 2013, one of the state’s most damaging wildfires. Other plantings are planned for Guadalupe Elementary School in the South Conejos School District and at Big Thompson Elementary School in Loveland, a site devastated by floods in September 2013.

Select which tree planting you want to support when you start playing the game!

Download Tree Story

app icon

 Tree Story Partners

GreenSchools Poster to Inspire Your Class

GreenSchools PosterPLT has created a new GreenSchools poster to inspire students to take an active role in greening their school.  

Available online and in print, this poster illustrates the many elements of a PLT GreenSchool in action and how you and your students can lead the way to make these elements a reality in your school. This poster provides ideas to help reduce your school’s environmental footprint based on the five areas covered by the PLT GreenSchools Investigations.

Whether your school is a large, modern facility with many green features already in place, or an older school that is only able to take small steps to start, PLT’s GreenSchools program has the flexibility teachers need.

If you’re wondering how greening your school can benefit your students, your school, and your community, consider these facts:

  • Implementing energy-saving practices can help schools reduce their operational costs. (A typical PLT GreenSchool uses 30-50% less energy than other schools; Wyandotte High School  in Kansas saved $100,000 for a “Save a Teacher” campaign!)
  • Challenging students to apply STEM to make a difference in their world creates awareness of green job opportunities and develops 21st century career-readiness skills. (7 of the 10 projected fastest-growing occupations over the next 10 years are all in STEM fields.)
  • PLT GreenSchools! gives youth a voice and grows students’ leadership skills by inspiring and empowering them to become responsible environmental stewards.
  • In a recent independent study, educators agreed that PLT GreenSchools! Investigations and action projects develop students’ academic and life skills.

Not yet registered in PLT’s GreenSchools! program? Sign up today to access free materials and resources to help get you started on a pathway to a greener, healthier school!

PLT Awards 63 GreenWorks! Grants for Service-Learning Projects

Project Learning Tree has awarded 63 GreenWorks! grants to schools and organizations across the country to involve students in community-based environmental projects. Nearly 14,000 students in 33 states and the District of Columbia will participate in the different projects.

GreenWorks! is the service-learning component of Project Learning Tree that engages educators, students, and their communities in “learning-by-doing” local environmental stewardship projects. Since 1992, AFF has distributed more than $1 million to fund more than 1,000 PLT GreenWorks! action projects in communities across the country. The USDA Forest Service funded all GreenWorks! grants this year, up to $2,000 each.

“These grants help students take what they learn in the classroom and apply it to the real world,” said James McGirt, PLT manager of education programs. “Youth engage with the local community, and develop their critical thinking and leadership skills as they work to improve the environment.”

The GreenWorks! grants announced this week will fund elementary through high school students as they design native plant gardens, restore streams and riparian habitat, and educate others about environmental issues, among other projects.

For example, with GreenWorks! support:
  • In Baltimore, Maryland, the Parks & People Foundation will work with elementary students at Windsor Hills Elementary Middle School and Southwest Baltimore Charter School to turn their school grounds into gardens; 
  • In Brunswick, Maine, students at Brunswick Junior High will make a house more energy-efficient and collect data on the impact of their efforts;
  • In Indianapolis, Indiana, students in grades 2 through 6 will develop an outdoor learning laboratory on school grounds, including an area for weather instruments, a rain garden, and new trails;
  • In Kansas City, Missouri, teens involved with Green Works of Kansas City will develop creative ways to encourage community members and businesses to reduce the amount of single-use food packaging used in stores and carry-outs. 
  • In Nashville, Tennessee, Lipscomb Academy Elementary students will restore a stream in the Brown’s Creek watershed.

Proposals for the next round of grants will be due September 30, 2015. Application forms will be made available in the spring from