Majestic Mondays with PLT | Teacher Feature: Nancy Blake

Finding New Ways to Use PLT

Nancy Blake, Physical Education Teacher in Wasilla, Alaska

When you think about Mondays, what usually comes to mind? Is it all the work you have to do? Is it the countdown until the weekend? Or is it the amazing potential of the week ahead?

For one teacher and her students, Mondays happen to be majestic.

Nancy Blake is a physical education (PE) teacher in Wasilla, Alaska, where she works with students in grades K-2 at Goose Bay Elementary School. Nancy has been teaching physical education and adapted physical education for 32 years, and her love of teaching PE runs deep.

“EVERY single student can find joy, connection, success, and motivation in physical education. It is a subject designed to build upon success in a wide variety of interests, activities, skills, and knowledge. Students can personalize their learning around their OWN interests, their OWN strengths, and their OWN bodies. What is magical about teaching young students is that they have not yet developed any sense of what they “can’t” or “won’t” do. They are wide-open in terms of trying new things, and the goofier it is presented, the more excited they are to try!” 

Wow. That is such an important truth—young children don’t have the same doubts and fears that older children and us adults have. Little learners are willing to try and have fun while not being worried about failing. When you look at teaching from that perspective, it opens a whole new world!

Being Open to New Ways of Teaching

Nancy (in the orange jacket) and another educator enjoying the beauty of Denali National Park at the “Project Learning Tree and The Global Climate” workshop led by Molly Gillespie

While not all of us have such picturesque “backyards,” Nancy is fortunate and uses it to her advantage.

“In this world of ever-increasing screens, it has been important to me to get my students outdoors as much as possible. I realized that while we were often outdoors for PE, my emphasis had been focused on the activity, and I pretty much ignored the natural setting in which we were DOING the activity. Over the years, students occasionally asked me about trees, plants, wildlife, etc. Sometimes I could answer, and other times I couldn’t with certainty.”

When the opportunity to take a PLT professional development class in Denali National Park presented itself, Nancy immediately said yes. “I thought it could be helpful for me to learn more so I could integrate some environmental science into my lessons.” Nancy and the other participants discovered they could easily use PLT activities in various settings, regardless of what subject or grade they taught.

“Our PLT coordinator, Molly Gillespie, was great at finding teachable moments and demonstrating how to turn these moments into opportunities for learning with simple activities. We, as students, were encouraged to share ideas from our particular classroom situations, and each participant was generous with suggestions and experiences. It was such a positive environment for connection, expansion, and new ideas!” 

Making Mondays Majestic

Nancy and her students enjoying a beautiful Majestic Monday

After completing the PLT workshop, Nancy returned to her students excited to implement what she had learned. She began by incorporating outdoor education one day a week with her students while continuing to lead a standards-based PE curriculum the rest of the week. That’s where the concept of “Majestic Mondays” was born.

“The predictability of knowing we would be outdoors every Monday helped students be prepared for going outside, especially in the cold, dark days of the Alaskan winter. The kids really got excited about being in the wooded areas of our property—we had hiked on the trail over the years, but this was the first time I encouraged them to go OFF TRAIL and look for signs of decomposition on fallen logs. It was pretty fun to hear excited kids hollering: “Ms. Blake!! Come here!! I found bugs in the log!!!” and “Ms. Blake! There’s a pile of moose poop over here!” 

Nancy’s creativity and passion for teaching and connecting students to the environment paid off. At the end of the school year, she received incredible feedback from her second-grade students. “I had received emails, photos, & text messages from parents, letting me know that they had visited our nature trail over the weekend or that their child took them to visit a tree that their class “adopted.” I had a student new to our school whose parent wanted to exempt him from PE on Mondays because he disliked “going out into the woods” on cold, drizzly mornings. By the end of the year, he told me how much he loved nature because of our Mondays.

Nancy’s Advice for Other Educators

One of the many positive things Nancy’s students had to say about Majestic Mondays and PLT

“Just DO it. Don’t think too hard about it. Don’t worry about planning big, complex lessons. Just get outside and listen to your students’ questions, pay attention to their observations, and feel free to point out those magical qualities of nature that YOU appreciate. You will gain confidence, and the PLT activities will help you to chart a course for a lesson, a unit, or a year of Majestic Mondays.” 

Incorporating nature into your classroom is easier than you think. We understand that not everyone can get outside, which is why PLT lessons are developed to use indoors or outdoors. Whether you bring elements of nature inside or conduct activities under a big oak tree, just introducing children to the environment can spark a lifelong love of learning.

To learn how to incorporate PLT into your classroom or program, check out professional development opportunities near you.


Megan Annis

Megan Annis

Megan is Project Learning Tree (PLT) and PLT Canada's Director of Sales and Marketing. She believes working with youth is the key to building a sustainable future and is passionate about helping bring environmental education, forest literacy, and career pathways products to market.