What is PLT

What is Project Learning Tree

Project Learning Tree® (PLT) is the American Forest Foundation's environmental education program that produces high quality curriculum materials for students in grades PreK-12. PLT provides training and professional development opportunities for teachers, non-formal educators, and pre-service teachers (teachers in training.)

PLT teaches students how to think, not what to think about the environment.

Since the program began in the early 1970s, over 500,000 educators have used PLT to teach about both the natural and built environment—forests, wildlife, water, air, energy, waste, climate change, invasive species, community planning, and culture, to name a few. PLT activities guide students through a process that begins with awareness, moves to knowledge, challenges preconceived ideas, and seeks constructive avenues for environmental action. PLT provides educators the tools they need to bring the environment into their classrooms—and their students outside into the environment.

History of Project Learning Tree

From our start in 1976, PLT has been on the leading edge of educational reform, while building on tried-and-true principles of learning and teaching.

Here are some milestones along the way –

The 1970s

PLT began in 1976 when natural resource managers and educators from the American Forest Institute (now the American Forest Foundation) and Western Regional Environmental Education Council (now the Council of Environmental Education) formed a partnership to develop an unbiased, educationally sound program for elementary and secondary students and their teachers.

The partners designed PLT to be shared through trained facilitators (educators, resource managers, or other interested people) who, in turn, train others in how to most effectively and efficiently use the curriculum and materials. The first workshops were held in 13 states that made up the Western Regional Environmental Education Council.

The 1980s

PLT went international in the 1980s. Canada was the second country to join the PLT community. Now, educators in Canada, the U.S. Territories, Japan, Mexico, Sweden, Slovakia, China, Finland, Brazil, Jordan, and the Philippines use PLT. Materials have been translated and adapted for use in these countries.
The PLT network got stronger in 1987, when the first International PLT Coordinator's Conference was held.
By the end of the 1980s, PLT had reached 49 states.

The 1990s

In 1990, PLT launched a major, multi-year revision of the curriculum. More than 300 people participated in regional writing workshops and revision sessions to revamp the elementary and secondary curriculum. Another 300 educators participated in the pilot test, field test and formal evaluation of the materials.

In 1993, the new PreK-8 curriculum was released. Every year the guide is reprinted to meet demand and to provide opportunities for updates and revisions. The guide was then in its 11th edition.

In 1993,GreenWorks!was launched. This service-learning and community action program assists educators and students with developing action plans to improve their neighborhood environment through partnerships and grants.

By 1994, PLT had grown to all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

To better address teachers and students at the secondary level, PLT created stand alone modules on such topics as forest ecology, solid waste, and risk. The first module appeared in 1995.

PLT in the City began in 1995 as a targeted way to involve urban educators and students in environmental education. PLT is used in many cities across the country with special PLT in the City initiatives in New Orleans, Houston, Richmond, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C.

The 2000s – PLT continues to grow

In 2002, we published the PreK-8 Energy & Society kit. This curriculum uses hands-on activities, music, and dance to teach this critical topic. PLT's Pre K-8 Environmental Education Activity Guide underwent its most major revision in late 2005 to address education reform and today's most pressing environmental issues. In 2006, we premiered our latest secondary module Places We Live. Secondary materials currently in development include biodiversity and forests of the world.

As we celebrate our 30th anniversary in 2006, we continuously evaluate and update our curriculum to ensure that it meets educator and student needs. Now we have a grassroots network of 3,000 active volunteers and state coordinators who have trained more than 500,000 educators. New workshops take place almost every week providing educators with the tools, training, and resources they need to bring the environment into their classrooms and their students into the environment.

Benefits of Project Learning Tree

For Children:

  • Develop skills in creative problem solving, critical thinking, evaluation, research, and decision making.
  • Begin to make wise personal decisions about everyday matters that affect the environment.
  • Learn how to think, not what to think, about our complex environment.

For Teachers and Other Leaders:

  • Participate in creative, hands-on workshops that help improve their teaching skills.
  • Receive a ready-to-use PLT guide which actively involves students in the learning process.
  • Find that PLT activities work with a variety of teaching and learning styles.
  • Receive a complimentary subscription to PLT's national newsletter, the BRANCH, and Tennessee's PLT newsletter, filled with additional teaching ideas, activities and information.