If you’re wondering what’s changed or might change since the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Inc. (SFI) became the new home of Project Learning Tree (PLT) last summer, the answer is that PLT is continuing to delivering quality programs to Maine’s schools, just as it has since 1977. PLT had previously been housed at the American Forest Foundation.
“When the transfer from AFF to SFI took place this summer,” said Patricia Maloney, coordinator of Maine PLT. “SFI committed to welcoming PLT into its Washington D.C. offices – first major change! The PLT staff is now fully settled and all seem very happy with the level of professionalism and support that is shared by the SFI staff. Kathy Abusow, SFI president and CEO, wrote that SFI plans to keep everything intact for a couple of years while reviewing the PLT program and evaluating our outreach and network. Once the merger has settled and everyone has some time to reflect, we may see some changes but for now, everyone is getting to know one another, learning how best to work as a team and then moving forward with stronger programs for all.”
PLT is an award-winning environmental education program, which uses trees and forests to increase youth understanding of the environment and conservation. Maine’s PLT is under the auspices of the Maine TREE Foundation.
Abusow sees PLT’s integration into SFI, which has enthusiastically supported PLT for years, as an opportunity for the program to expand its reach and impact. At the same time, SFI’s role as a sustainability leader will be bolstered by PLT’s expertise in education, an increasing focus in SFI’s community engagement work.
“We have big plans for the future and are committed to continuing PLT’s work as a high-quality education program.,” Abusow said. “Ultimately, we would like to be able to say that every teacher across North America and beyond recognizes Project Learning Tree as an invaluable resource for professional development, environmental education curriculum, and taking children outdoors to learn.”
PLT has consistently received prestigious awards and recognition from leading educational and community organizations. PLT state coordinators, workshop facilitators, and educators have won the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. More than one quarter of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools are PLT GreenSchools.
PLT’s instructional materials are aligned with state and national academic standards and meet or exceed the North American Association for Environmental Education’s Guidelines for Excellence. PLT’s Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood curriculum won a Learning Magazine Teachers’ Choice Award and PLT has also received straight A’s in environmental education from the California Department of Education. More than 20,000 educators attend PLT workshops every year and this partnership between PLT and SFI will help the program grow and reach new audiences across the globe in diverse ways.
At the state level, Maloney said, she and Pat Sirois, SFI coordinator, have begun this transition by talking with one another. She plans to attend the ME SFI/SIC meetings and Sirois already has attended a ME PLT Steering Committee meeting.
“He worked with us during our 40th anniversary celebration at Hidden Valley Nature Center,” Maloney said, “and is planning to join our MEPLT network 2/2/18 Transition/Immersion overnight at Camp Kieve. The goals of this overnight are 1) to acquaint our program with SFI – both nationally and in Maine, 2) to learn about a number of curriculum changes from PLT that are new to our professional development delivery and 3) review and assess delivery of PLT workshops.”
“For now, we all understand that this is a transitional period and it appears that both SFI and PLT are approaching changes with a great deal of communication and understanding of the change process,” Maloney said. “No doubt, our international PLT Coordinator’s conference to be held in June will include information about the present and the future hopes, goals and expectations for this partnership.”