Project Learning Tree “Teaching students how to think, not what to think.”
The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) is one of the sponsors of Virginia Project Learning Tree, an award-winning environmental education program designed for teachers and other educators, parents, and community leaders working with youth from preschool through grade 12.
VDOF employs the Virginia state coordinator of the program.
The Virginia PLT website contains valuable information about upcoming professional development, additional resources, SOL correlations to activities, and much more.
The following are descriptions of the various curricula offered by PLT to support all educators. If you are interested in receiving training for any of these please contact the state coordinator. Those who complete the training at a professional development event, whether in person or virtually, will receive a copy of the associated guide and a certificate of completion.
Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood
The experiences in PLT’s Early Childhood guide encourage children to use their senses to explore, discover, and communicate in expressive ways. They emphasize outdoor adventure, support children having fun while learning, and use each child’s imagination and creativity to provide opportunities for learning in groups or as individuals. The activities include opportunities to incorporate music and movement using the CD to encourage children to sing and dance. Workshops are 4 hours long.
GreenSchools for Early Childhood
This program specifically meets the needs of early childhood educators and younger learners. It is designed to teach young children about their environment and how they can make a difference, while developing their skills in language, mathematics, science, and more. PLT’s GreenSchools for Early Childhood includes an Educator Guide and five Investigations. To receive the materials, register to get access to each investigation and the educator guide online. VA PLT offers training for schools to understand the GreenSchools process and how to do the investigations.
Pre-K- 8 Environmental Education Activity Guide
This guide contains 96 interdisciplinary, hands-on activities that bring the environment into the classroom, and students into the environment. These fun activities have an emphasis on science, reading, writing, mathematics, and social studies to engage students in learning – both outside and indoors. Topics include trees and forests, wildlife, water, air, energy, waste, climate change, invasive species, community planning, and more. Each activity is tailored to specific grade levels and learning objectives and filled with opportunities to build critical thinking skills and differentiated instruction techniques. Pre-K-8 workshops are six hours long.
PLT’s Secondary Modules for Middle and High School
The following secondary modules require a minimum of a two-hour workshop for each module. They each contain 8-11 activities, some of which could be considered a full unit of instruction. Two modules can be combined for a half day professional development workshop event.
This module’s activities provide an opportunity for hands-on study of forest resources through investigations, addressing concepts in biology, civics, ecology, economics, forest management, and other subject areas. Students examine ecological systems of a forest; analyze interdependencies within a forest ecosystem; and explore factors, such as fire, that shape the development of forests.
Global Connections: Forests of the World
Students learn how connected they are to forest ecosystems around the world as they conduct research and apply critical thinking skills to consider the social, economic, and environmental implications that underlie decisions about forest management. This secondary module includes a poster-size map of the world’s forests and a set of students’ maps.
Southeastern Forests and Climate Change
This module will help educators teach about climate change impacts on forest ecosystems, the role of forests in sequestering carbon, and strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to changing climatic conditions. Professional development is available for this module, but it can also be downloaded for free from the national PLT website.
Exploring Environmental Issues: Places We Live
All communities – urban, suburban, small town, rural – are experiencing growth and change. Students discover their own backyards and work as community members to protect the environmental, social, and economic integrity of the places we live. Activities explore sense of place, community character, changes in land use over time, ecological footprints, and more.
Exploring Environmental Issues: Focus on Municipal Solid Waste
Students explore the roots and solutions of this universal environmental issue. Activities address the waste stream, source reduction, recycling and economics, composting, waste-to-energy facilities, landfills, local waste management, and possibilities for improvement of local waste management.
Exploring Environmental Issues: Focus on Risk
Students learn how to assess environment and health issues, and about the tools they can use to make good decisions. The activities investigate the definition of risk, probability, risk assessment tools, risk communication, and risk management through real-world examples such as endangered species, natural hazards, toxicity testing, electromagnetic fields, chlorine, and plastics.
Teaching with i-Tree Unit
This unit is designed for use with middle and high school students. It includes three hands-on activities that engage students in discovering and analyzing the many ecosystem services that trees provide. Students use the free, online i-Tree Design software – developed by the U.S. Forest Service – to calculate the dollar value of the benefits provided by a tree or a set of trees. This unit is available for free download.
Five hands-on, student-driven investigations are at the heart of the PLT GreenSchools program. Using critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, students will analyze their school’s energy, water, school site, waste and recycling, and environmental quality. The results of the PLT GreenSchools Investigations will help students identify areas where improvements can be made to make their school greener and healthier, and in many cases save money. Register or log in to access each investigation individually, or purchase a print copy of the complete set.
PLT Online E-Units
These units may be purchased or obtained by taking the corresponding online course through www.plt.org. Virginia PLT is also offering these E-Units as blended virtual professional development events to include an initial video conferencing call, independent work to complete the online course, and then a final virtual conferencing call to reflect and debrief, discuss ways of adapting to meet a variety of educational needs and situations, and to provide many additional resources and SOL correlations.
Designed to help K-2 students explore and collect tree data to develop understandings about how trees grow, the roles trees play in ecosystems, and the ways in which trees and humans interact. A unique feature of Treemendous Science! is that it is organized around three levels, which approximately correspond to kindergarten (Level A), first grade (Level B), and second grade (Level C). You have the option of presenting one level in its entirety or picking and choosing from the different levels, depending on the needs and competencies of your student population.
Energy in Ecosystems
Designed for students in grades 3-5, Energy in Ecosystems investigates the ways in which organisms depend on each other to survive and thrive. Students focus on forests—one of the largest and most complex types of ecosystems—and come to understand some of the interactions present in all ecosystems. In doing so, they learn to appreciate the natural systems on which we depend and begin to widen their circle of compassion to include all of nature.
Carbon and Climate
Perhaps more than any other environmental issue, the topic of climate change challenges science teachers to accurately convey data, reveal assumptions, and engage critical-thinking skills. Designed for students in grades 6-8, Carbon and Climate provides activities and resources to help educators meet these challenges, introducing students to some of the complex issues involved in climate change.
Discover Your Urban Forest
Discover Your Urban Forest is a downloadable resource for educators of students in grades 6-8 that invites learners to explore their urban environment and investigate environmental issues that affect their urban community. Three hands-on activities, with an emphasis on science and social studies, engage students in learning about the place they live and how we depend on natural systems to sustain us. Students learn to value diverse perspectives about different landscapes whether it is a city sidewalk, an urban forest, or a community park. The activities can be used as individual, stand-alone lessons, or all together as a cohesive unit of instruction using a storyline technique. Purchase this activity collection from Shop.PLT.org.
Sensational Trees is a downloadable resource for educators of students grades K-2 that invites young learners to investigate trees using their senses. Designed to be flexible, the activities can be used as individual, stand-alone lessons, or all together as a cohesive unit of instruction using a storyline technique.
Purchase this activity collection from Shop.PLT.org.
Biodiversity Blitz Trees
Biodiversity Blitz Trees is a downloadable, password-protected PDF for educators of students in grades 6-8 that invites young learners to investigate the variety of species in an ecosystem, and how this variety – or biodiversity – helps sustain life on Earth. Three hands-on activities, with an emphasis on science, English language arts, math and social studies, engage students in learning about why biodiversity is one of the most important indicators of an ecosystem’s health, and how greater biodiversity means a greater ability to cope with change. Designed to be flexible, the activities can be used as individual, stand-alone lessons, or all together as a cohesive unit of instruction using a storyline technique.
Green Jobs: Exploring Forest Careers
Help youth discover careers in sustainable forestry and conservation. Green Jobs: Exploring Forest Careers includes four hands-on instructional activities to help youth research forestry jobs, and practice managing and monitoring forest resources. It is designed for educators, career and guidance counselors, Scouts, 4-H, and FFA leaders, foresters, and job training advisors to use with learners aged 12–25. Purchase this activity collection from Shop.PLT.org.
Find Your Green Job
Today’s youth are seeking rewarding careers that help us move towards more sustainable lifestyles and greener economies. This interactive online quiz helps youth match their personality with an array of green job opportunities. Take advantage of a one-time free trial and review the quiz at www.plt.org/greenjobsquiz.
If you’d like to administer this quiz to your students, you can get 30 student quiz access codes for just $2.99. You’ll assign each student a unique code and direct them to a different portal www.plt.org/mygreenjob. Once completed, the students’ quiz results are displayed to them instantly online, along with Career Facts and interactive features to learn more about skills they’ll need for specific jobs. You’ll also get access to a dashboard to see each student’s results to help them explore a rewarding career path that fits their passions and personality.
Nature Activities for Families
Encouraging children to spend time outside in nature can improve their creativity and imagination, classroom performance and academic achievement, as well as their overall health and fitness. These fun and easy-to-do activities are perfect for parents – and grandparents – to help introduce children to nature in their own yards and local parks.