Faculty in education departments at colleges and universities can easily and effectively include environmental education in their teaching through Project Learning Tree.
In fact, education professors across the country who develop and teach graduate and undergraduate courses are using PLT to help prepare new teachers for the classroom. Not only are PLT’s materials a way to introduce environmental education into their lesson plans, but pre-service students also get to try out PLT’s teaching methods to experience how to engage students through hands-on learning.
One instructor notes, “It benefits college students in seeing how well students respond through interaction and meaningful learning.” A college student commented, “I learned more than just content from this experience. I learned how to modify, accommodate, teach under pressure, and get a science lesson to students in less than 30 minutes.”
PLT is incorporated into one aspect or another of teacher education programs at some 360 universities—from science education to early childhood to methods classes.
Professors typically incorporate PLT into their methods courses throughout a year, or during the course of a semester. In some cases, actual teaching practice using PLT forms an extensive component of a class assignment or coursework.
For example, Alan Sowards, Ed.D., professor of elementary education at Stephen F. Austin State University (SFASU) in Nacogdoches, Texas developed a program called Bugs, Bees, Butterflies and Blossoms to give SFASU pre-service students practice teaching science in a hands-on, inquiry-based manner in an outdoor setting using PLT’s hands-on activities. About 3,500 students from local schools – ranging from kindergarten through grade 3 – attend each year.
In evaluating the class, one student wrote, “Now I have experienced how engaged and excited students get when I use the hands-on activities, science and the environment will be what I use to get my students excited about learning.” Another said, “As I prepared my lesson in the way the PLT handbook outlined, I had several Aha moments of my own where I would say to myself, ‘Oh, I get it!’ I learned that not only am I capable of teaching science, I am capable of learning science as well. I just needed to be taught in the right way. This is a phenomenal revelation that I can’t wait to see in my own students.”
About 30% of Pre-K through 8th grade educators who use PLT in their teaching careers are introduced to PLT during their pre-service coursework.
PLT Equips Pre-Service Teachers With Environmental Literacy
Many pre-service teachers acknowledge the importance of environmental education but are concerned that they lack the necessary skills and knowledge to implement a successful lesson. PLT materials and workshops help pre-service teachers develop a solid understanding of the environment as a teaching subject. Training in PLT helps these future teachers become more confident to teach effectively in both classrooms and outdoor settings.
PLT is Easily Adaptable and Effective
PLT’s flexible lessons are easy to adapt to any existing curriculum, grade level and subject area. The activities can be integrated across different curriculum areas such as Math, Science, Social Studies, and Language Arts to supplement lesson plans. Additionally, PLT meets local, state, and national academic standards. Both as teaching methods for pre-service teachers and graduate-level classes for in-service teachers, PLT is a great resource for new and experienced teachers.
PLT is Engaging for Both University Faculty and Students
PLT’s hands-on, activity-based curriculum promotes critical and innovative thinking, knowledge gains and community involvement. In the PreK-8 Environmental Education Activity Guide, for example, 96 activities are well-organized and easy to use for university students who are interested in teaching environmental education in a formal or non-formal setting.
PLT has Values for Natural Resources and Recreation Professionals
Students pursuing a professional career in natural resources and recreation can benefit from PLT as well. PLT serves as a good educational resource for informal educators who don’t necessarily have an education degree or teaching experience. It is also useful as an applied approach to teaching STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) content in outdoor/informal settings.
Watch this YouTube video produced by Ohio PLT.