What did you want to be when you grew up?
When my kindergarten teacher had us create a “career collage”, she broke the news to me that she couldn’t find a picture of a frog catcher. So heartbroken, five-year-old me settled on becoming a doctor, and that trajectory lasted through my second year in college until I realized that it wasn’t the right path for me. But my love of nature and our planet remained steadfast – I was co-chair of the recycling committee in middle school, was president of our environmental club in high school (thanks to my biology teacher who inspired me to join), and now I organize clean-up events in my community.
Finally, at age 40, I am truly pursuing my passion for the environment with Project Learning Tree. I hope I made Mrs. Richards proud!
Why am I telling you all of this? Because, as educators, you have a tremendous influence on the learners in your life.
This month, as we celebrate Earth Day 2023 and the theme of investing in our planet, I encourage you to invest in the next generation of green leaders. When we expose youth to various career paths, their worlds expand. Many kids don’t realize that there are many rewarding, impactful jobs in nature. Whether they become an urban forester, sustainability manager, park ranger, wildlife biologist, or environmental educator, there is something for everyone.
Explore Green Career Paths
If you haven’t incorporated career discussions into your conversations with learners, now is the perfect time to start! Did you know that all PLT activities tie back to various green careers?
For the littlest learners ages 1-6
- PLT offers an “Explore Careers” section in each activity of Trees & Me: Activities for Exploring Nature with Young Children.
For learners in grades K-8
- And the Explore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide includes 50 hands-on, multidisciplinary activities with inspiration and information about green career paths suggested by the activities.
For educators to use with learners ages 12-25
- PLT’s Green Jobs: Exploring Forest Careers guide, includes four hands-on instructional activities that help young people research different forest sector careers. Watch this video to learn more about the 80-page resource, available as a printed guide or e-book.
I queried the PLT team to find out their favorite PLT activities and the careers featured in each activity.
- Media Coordinator, Community Planner, Forester, Environmental Lawyer – In the activity Decisions, Decisions from Explore Your Environment, students work together to compare options for using a piece of land. They explore consequences and learn how communities solve problems and make decisions. “I find it an empowering activity that lets students know they can have an impact on what happens in their community.” – Lydia
- Nature Artist – In the activity The Shape of Things from Trees & Me, children search for the shapes and colors that define our natural and built environments. It incorporates art, music, movement, outdoor exploration, food, and even math. “I really enjoyed the Dance with Leaves extension of this activity. It was really great.” – Danika
- Forester, Natural Resource Economist – In If You Were the Boss from Explore Your Environment and Green Jobs: Exploring Forest Careers, students generate a plan for managing a forested area and conduct a cost-benefit analysis on potential environmental, social, and economic effects of their plan. “It allows people to put themselves in different shoes and think about different perspectives. I did a version of it with a forestry camp and felt like it gave learners the best experience on decision-making and negotiation.” – Jess
- Arborist – In Every Tree for Itself from Explore Your Environment, students model how trees compete to meet their essential needs and learn how varying amounts of light, water, and nutrients impact tree growth. “It includes movement, it’s fun, and really helps learners understand why sometimes it’s advisable to cut down trees.” – Ana
- Forestry Technicians, Climate Scientists, Urban Foresters – In Tree Cookies from Explore Your Environment, students examine cross sections of trees and infer from a tree’s rings the environmental conditions it might have experienced. “I did a version of the activity with my son’s Kindergarten class and loved the enthusiasm and excitement the kids had as they worked together to make hypotheses about a tree’s life and the environment in which it lived. They were all so interested in learning about how trees grow and thrive.” – Me (Megan Annis)
Whether you work with 5-year-olds or 15-year-olds, now is always the right time to encourage them to explore a green career path. When we invest in our students, we invest in our planet. The future is bright and green!
During April and May 2023*, get 20% off of the Green Jobs: Exploring Forest Careers printed or digital guide and the Find Your Green Job online quiz. Use promo code GREENJOBS at checkout and begin exploring the possibilities with the young people in your life.
The Green Jobs: Exploring Forest Careers guide provides educators with four engaging activities that help youth research different forest sector careers to learn what it takes to perform these jobs, and practice managing and monitoring forest resources. Have your students take the Find Your Green Job quiz that matches their personality with an array of green job opportunities.
To further inspire your students, share the stories of diverse professionals from our newest guide, Black Faces in Green Spaces: The Journeys of Black Professionals in Green Careers.
Learn more about the promotion and access a free PLT activity to encourage learners ages 12-25 to explore the various career opportunities in the forest sector this Earth Day!
*The Green Jobs Earth Month promotion is valid until 11:59 P.M. ET, May 31, 2023.