Project Learning Tree: Still Essential After 45 Years!

Linda Carnell, Assistant State Forester, Communication & Education

Linda Carnell teaching a PLT Class

Project Learning Tree (PLT) is one of West Virginia’s premier environmental education sources. Since 1979, when PLT was first introduced to the state’s educators through the WV Forestry Association there have been thousands of educators trained. PLT uses the theme “Using the forest as a window to the world.” Project Learning Tree is an initiative of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).

West Virginia PLT utilizes facilitators from various educational fields, both formal and informally trained, that represent a well rounded resource for the citizens of the state. Formal educators are teachers that have a formal teaching degree and background and are usually in the school systems, colleges, and universities. Informal educators are those that have education or formal degrees in natural or environmental resources and work within the natural world (e.g., foresters, wildlife biologists, hydrologists, nature center personnel, parks and recreation, etc.).

It is a great partnership to bring education and the natural world together.

Since the 1970’s, many educational requirements have continued to change. Project Learning Tree has kept up with those changes by keeping activities current through professional review and acceptance of current national educational standards. Also, during the COVID pandemic PLT reviewed new ways to reach educators when a hands-on workshop could not happen and turned many activities into virtual learning…Something that educators flocked to.

Besides the “Explore Your Environment” K–8 guide, many thematic modules have been released. In this age of helping produce an environmentally literate population, PLT brought the Green Jobs module to light to help young people learn about “green jobs” which include natural resources careers. All new modules are bringing in forest facts and career exploration to help educators understand the different facets of careers in the natural world. Even the newly revised early childhood module has brought careers and forestry facts for our early learners. If children have experiences in the outdoors early it helps them appreciate the forest around them.

In the past year, West Virginia trained over 350 educators in Project Learning Tree. WVPLT worked closely with some of our other state partners such as WVDNR and WVDEP to do thematic wetland workshops and programs around the state. If you are interested in sponsoring a Project Learning Tree workshop within your community or local school please let me know. Again, West Virginia Forestry Association is a co-sponsor of PLT along with the West Virginia Division of Forestry. It is partnerships like these that help WVFA get education programs out to the public. For more information on Project Learning Tree go to and explore your environment through PLT.

Cohort of Teachers at PLT Training