Jane Thornes teaches fourth grade at Heyburn Elementary School in St. Maries, Idaho. She and her forester husband, Jim, own, manage, and live on Pettis Peak Tree Farm, south of St. Maries. Jane makes full use of this 270-acre working forest as an outdoor classroom. She uses PLT and other environmental education activities to give all her visitors—her own students, other youth, and adults—a better understanding of a well-managed forest.
Jane regularly takes her own class on other field trips, for example, to a local stream to study water quality. She has received grants for water testing equipment and recruits professionals from the U.S. Forest Service and Idaho Department of Lands to help students conduct science experiments. Jane uses PLT’s Awareness, Knowledge, Challenge, Action (AKCA) learning process to teach real-life lessons. After noticing dead and dying subalpine fir trees along a highway, Jane worked with the U.S. Forest Service to identify the balsam wooly adelgid as the likely cause and set up a research project for her students. Through indoor and outdoor research, Jane’s students learned that this tiny aphid-like insect is spreading to grand fir trees, a valuable timber species in the area. Jane inspired her students to collect scientific data from study plots and send the information to the U.S. Forest Service to help it address the problem.
Jane was one of three educators in Idaho selected to correlate all K-12 activities from PLT, Project WILD, and Project WET to Idaho Achievement Standards that are now available in a searchable online database hosted by the Idaho Department of Education. Jane has been a PLT facilitator since 1999. She has lead nearly 20 workshops instructing forestland owners, teachers from Idaho, and Girl Scout leaders from across the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom how to use PLT to explore the environment with youth. Jane encourages other tree farmers to conduct tours on their properties and use PLT to teach the importance of environmental stewardship.
Jane was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2006.