The world is reawakening from the COVID-19 quarantine and people are rediscovering the love of the outdoors. Educators are seeking ways to get students out of the classroom and thinking of different ways to use the outdoors. Enter Project Learning Tree!
Project Learning Tree (PLT) at www.plt.org is an award-winning environmental education program that is part of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) program. PLT strives to be relevant by always updating curriculum and addressing new topics with the most recent data available. COVID really brought the need for other types of educational formats to the forefront. Educators were looking for lessons that could be done online. National PLT responded with several thematic packages to support the request for resources. During COVID everything was online and it was hard to do a hands-on workshop with teachers about the environment. Once schools were back in session, the request for in-person trainings skyrocketed.
The WVPLT program is co-sponsored in West Virginia by the WV Division of Forestry and the WV Forestry Association. This partnership is essential to get the word about Forestry out to the public and help train the next generation of forest landowners. This year has been an outstanding experience and very busy year for WVPLT. Project Learning Tree has been very relevant, and a new generation is looking for outstanding environmental education programs. I want to thank you all for your support.
From last July to this July, WVPLT conducted 15 Classes/Workshops. We have trained 326 educators, both formal and informal, reaching over roughly 8,100 students in WV. This does not count how many people in the public are impacted, since several industries, WV Division of Forestry and USFS Foresters, Park Naturalists that work with landowners, and the public have attended classes this year.
It’s been a wild year for PLT alongside all of the other things happening during that time. The Capitol Christmas Tree is coming from the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia this year. WVPLT has been part of the education team and WVPLT received the copyright permission for the USFS and Capitol Christmas Tree to use PLT Activities in WV schools and at events promoting the Christmas Tree.
The National Scout Jamboree was back this summer. SFI/PLT and WVDOF helped with merit badges (Forestry and Sustainability) for over 2,000 scouts and used portions of the Green Jobs curriculum and the quiz to support those efforts. WVPLT has also worked with the National 4-H Forestry Invitational, Envirothon (conducted a thematic climate class to help educators work with students to understand the carbon in an ed setting), Water Festivals, several online collaborations with sister programs (Project WET and WILD). WVPLT was also introduced to the new Science Coordinator and worked with WV Dept of Education to align PLT Activities to WV Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
This year also saw many collaborations between WV Project WILD— who has a new Coordinator, Ashley Anderson (DNR)—and the Project WET Coordinator, Tomi Bergstrom (DEP), to offer workshops with all three curriculums at once. The National PLT (SFI) program has taken notice of what WV is doing and likes the collaboration. We have been asked to speak at several Coordinator events to discuss how it has been working out. We have also collaborated on Thematic workshops (Climate, Wetlands, etc) and have been asked to relate our experiences to our peers.
I hope the momentum continues and I am very grateful for the support of the WVFA members for the PLT program. I couldn’t do it without you!
WVDOF Assistant State Forester—Communications & Education
WV Project Learning Tree Coordinator