Project Learning Tree (PLT)

Graphic of Minnesota PLT logo

"This workshop was among the best I have attended. The curriculum guide is user friendly and the activities are meaningful." - Grade 5 teacher

"I will use the PLT book a lot. It is filled with varied and relevant lessons that I can start using today!" - Grade 5 teacher

"I was most excited for this workshop to help the rest of our staff at our school. I go out and use our forest a lot. PLT will give me new activities, but better yet, it has inspired our staff." - Grade 5 teacher at a School Forest

"These workshops provide a fabulous return of many ready-to-use activities for a teacher's investment of time and money."- High school teacher

"I thought this was strictly a science-oriented workshop and was pleasantly surprised. It was relevant to all levels and subject areas."- Math/reading teacher

"Wow! Where do I start? I am so eager to get back to school and jump in! This was a wonderful workshop. I will be much more hands-on." - Grade 3–5 teacher

"Ever since I was a grade school student myself, I have always been a bit afraid of science. This workshop really helped me get over that fear. It made me feel very empowered and even confident (!) that I can lead my students on scientific adventures."- Grade 3 teacher

"This workshop was very good. I enjoyed not only the material from the DNR, but the information and ideas I got from other teachers at the workshop." - Grade 7 teacher

"I like the fact that many of the activities have cross-curricular components."

"These guides are excellent tools that I can definitely use in my classroom. I have already spent more time looking at these and coming up with how they will work for me than I have looking at any of my other supplemental resources. Thank you DNR for these guides!"

Environmental Education Helps My “Problem Students” Shine!

Environmental education has become an integral part of my classroom and this year it took a little different twist. I have a student that I noticed whenever we were outside investigating nature he was VERY articulate, excited, and engaged. He was also a leader and the kids listen to what he had to say. He often knew more about the animal or thing in nature than the adult "experts." In contrast, in the classroom he was very immature in his behavior, uninterested in anything that involved paper and pencil work, and appeared to lack motivation. It honestly appeared that there was a split personality in this child.

I teach first grade, a very important year for literacy learning. Many kids arrive in first grade not yet reading, but most leave as readers. By mid-January my little guy was not looking like he would become a first grade reader any time this year and was even still struggling with letter names and sounds. In conversations with his parents and our reading support staff we noticed that he was a child that had appeared to have a high IQ but was not living up to his potential. I have to thank the time spent in Environmental education with helping me help this child. He was referred for an assessment. It confirmed that he does have a high IQ but a low ability because of a learning disability and he is now receiving interventions needed to help him be successful and he will be a reader. If we hadn't been outside in a place he could shine he may eventually have become a labeled behavior problem and fallen through the cracks. Now he is learning to read and will soon even know more about animals and nature and everything he loves to read and learn about. – Teacher, Five Hawks Elementary School, Prior Lake–Savage

PLT Is a Vital Part of My Environmental Science Course

I teach biology and environmental science and have used many of the lessons from the PLT curriculum. After attending a PLT workshop and receiving the curriculum guide, I planned my forestry unit for my environmental science course. During this unit, students studied the anatomy of trees, learned about dendrochronology, and learned how to make many tree measurements. After learning the basics about forestry, we spent several class periods outdoors measuring height and diameter of trees. We were also lucky enough to get our local forester stop by and take us out into our school's wooded area and show us how to core trees to determine their age. The students thought this was pretty cool! In this unit we also study forest fires and forest succession. We use a forest fire simulation provided by PLT, and this year I hope to get my students over to a new refuge nature center to watch a prescribed burn. Another topic we study in this unit is exotic species. I've used the gypsy moth as an example of exotic species in Minnesota and the PLT materials on gypsy moths has been a big help. After learning about exotics, my students spend time outdoors helping to remove buckthorn trees from our school's forest. Overall, the materials I received from PLT really made my forestry unit interesting and hands-on for my students! - Teacher, Jordan High School

I Used PLT to Create Service Learning and Ethics Course

I feel that our students should have some knowledge on how to make ethical decisions. I also feel like we can do a better job with service learning and I know our kids can give something back to the community. I feel that we have programs to give back to the community at Shakopee, but we could do more. I know we have a course called River and Stars that focuses on ecology, but the course that we are proposing will be much different in that we will focus on service learning projects and ethics. I just got back from a conference where I made connections with the DNR, a service curriculum director from MinnAqua (they specialize in projects with Minnesota's watersheds), Project WET, Project Wild, Project Learning Tree, and teachers from other schools who were participating in service learning education classes. I was blown away by the amount of resources and the need for students to get involved in the environment. The need is large from pulling buckthorn (an incredibly invasive species), to scheduled plantings and cleanings, educating the community, younger students, and adopting rivers, forests, and watersheds.

Along with doing service the opportunity to learn about the environment, zoning laws, and history of the area will present itself. Perhaps a bit idealistic but I see this class as offering more then just standards, although I realize there is a point to them I feel it is a shame that we are bound by standards. This course will meet the state standards of having our students develop an understanding of the environment and its consecutiveness and but I feel that our course will provide students a chance to a) meet actual community needs, b) develop partnerships with community organizations, c) provide students a chance to use newly acquired skills in real-life situations, d) provide students structured reflection time to have students think, write, and talk about what they felt during a service learning project, and e) lastly maybe most importantly help foster the development of a sense of caring for others and our environment.

This class clearly is in alignment with our mission statement (Shakopee Schools, in partnership with our community, promises to develop and educate self-confident, lifelong learners in the knowledge, skills, and ethical values necessary to thrive in an ever-changing, diverse world). The key statements that stick out to me are partnership with our community, lifelong learners, and ethical values. The course also aligns with our district goals of providing more opportunities for different classes for students to take.
I feel there is a push to increase service learning in education, and we don't have any classes at the high school that offer this type of opportunity to give back to the community. Ed and I have rounded up an impressive list of contacts to help us with our class and we are excited to get going on it. I know that we can make it work. I feel very strongly about it and I would like the opportunity to teach this meaningful course matter. - Billy Koening, Shakopee High School, Shakopee

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