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Maine Project Learning Tree
Grade level: K-12
Guided Discussions of Issues and Current Events
Maine Project Learning Tree (PLT) trains teachers, natural resource specialists, foresters and community leaders to use the nationally acclaimed preK-12 curriculum through workshops designed to meet the needs of a school, community or special area. Workshop agendas include extensive information about the importance of addressing local and state issues with students and we provide programs that get students actively involved with their natural surroundings. Teachers are often reluctant to approach “controversial” subjects with students so our workshops include information to remove barriers instead of ignoring controversy. Maine PLT practices the national mission to “increase students’ understanding of our complex environment; to stimulate critical and creative thinking; to develop the ability to make informed decisions on environmental issues; and to instill the confidence and commitment to take responsible action on behalf of the environment.”
Our Maine PLT workshops are designed to meet two important program goals:
1 Help students acquire an appreciation and tolerance of diverse viewpoints on environmental issues, and develop attitudes and actions based on analysis and evaluation of the available information.
2 Inspire and empower students to become responsible, productive, and participatory members of society.
Our curriculum features hands-on, outdoor activities and address a variety of environmental topics from energy to forestry. Most of these topics involve controversial issues from renewable and nonrenewable energy to clear cutting and water pollution. We encourage debate and discussion during workshops that help to break down barriers and demonstrate that if adults are passionate about issues, what do our students feel about them?
Three trained facilitators design and deliver workshops. We encourage workshop participants to attend our semiannual statewide weekend long Annual Conference and Facilitator Training. Once again, experienced Maine PLT facilitators prepare and deliver the training. Facilitators are practicing teachers (formal and non-formal), foresters, natural resource specialists and community leaders. Workshop agendas are designed to meet the needs of the community.
Workshops are held at the university level to train pre-service teachers; at a school of forestry to prepare foresters for classroom and community presentations using PLT activities and materials; for Boy Scout and Girl Scout groups; for Envirothon coaches; at schools working with local agencies; and for summer camp counselors. Each group has a slightly unique approach to educating youth about the environment and all are encouraged to teach children “how to think, not what to think” through understanding all points of view, and looking at many sides of an issue.
Our network of over 1400 Maine educators receives the biannual Maine PLT newsletter highlighting success stories that are written by teachers, students, foresters or program directors.
Social and political networks for making change, such as voluntary associations or local organizing
Critical thinking, active listening, analyzing public policies, problems and assets, and understanding multiple perspectives
Communicating one’s position through writing or speaking
Developing a belief in one’s ability to make a difference
Developing attentiveness to civic matters and a desire to become involved in the civic life of the community
Trained PLT high school teachers understand that many of their upper level students are voters and have used the high school curriculum to prepare students for the voting booth by inviting speakers to address all sides of an issue, and providing propaganda lessons related to news media. Another trained PLT educator has designed a debate around forestry practices with students playing a variety of roles representative of all parties to current issues. Students in both cases had to address wider audiences with their findings.
A PLT trained forester and teacher designed and built a new learning trail for a family farm that has an Outdoor Classroom. Students had studied water quality, forest habitats, and sustainability. The family opens their 100 plus acre forest to area schools and community groups and when there was a death in the family, the students took charge of building a trail in memory of the deceased. The PLT curriculum and philosophy has been the primary thrust in the continuing work at the Outdoor Classroom and has been used to attract supportive community groups both to work with students and to build learning stations and a local curriculum.
In 2001, Maine PLT conducted a statewide program evaluation designed by Dr. Lou Iozzi of Rutgers University. Results of this evaluation can be found on the National PLT website along with other research studies that have been conducted nationally: www.plt.org
The Maine PLT Executive Committee, through a strategic planning process, oversees program implementation and provides checks and balances so that we adhere to findings from the Iozzi study.
The number one requirement that PLT asks from the network of facilitators, Executive Committee members, and teachers is a commitment to outdoor education with connections to community resources. All workshops are delivered at a cost of $15/person unless an advanced workshop is requested for which a higher fee may be added.
We require that all PLT facilitators who deliver workshops be trained at our state conference and that all workshop evaluations be sent to the state coordinator. The PLT curriculum guides or high school modules are distributed at workshops.
Maine Project Learning Tree is sponsored by the Maine Tree Foundation (www.mainetreefoundation.org) and in part with funds from the Maine Forest Service.
Following a workshop the following resources are available to participants:
1 receipt of our biannual statewide newsletter and training announcements as they occur
2 use of our tree trunks – a large wooden box which contains tools, books, and supplies that supplement the curriculum
3 may apply for GreenWorks grants – grants awarded to teachers and communities for up to $1,000 from National PLT
4) contacts with a wide range of resource professionals available to schools throughout the state
Every year Maine Project Learning Tree holds an Annual Conference with facilitator training offered every other year. Conferences include guest speakers, highlights on current education practices, networking, information on literature, technology and statewide/national environmental education initiatives. The PLT Executive Committee chooses a Maine PLT Steward of the Year who is recognized at our conference.
National PLT recognizes outstanding educators each year. Three Maine educators have been recognized in the last ten years at National PLT conferences.
The Forest Inventory Growth (FIG) plot program offers a highly rated professional development opportunity for Maine middle and high school teachers. This program uses practical hands on scientific process skills for students to collect forestry data at their school or in their community with a forester partner. A website was developed by the Maine Forest Service for students to enter their findings and compare them with other Maine students.
The Maine Tours. Since 1998 over 400 Maine teachers have attended these highly rated professional development opportunities. Each tour begins with a PLT workshop. Speakers representing the forest industry, The Nature Conservancy, Parks & Lands, and The Appalachian Mtn Club have led tours through the working forests.
See our on line newsletter – www.mainetreefoundation.org Click on PLT page and then newsletter. Past copies of newsletters are available upon request.
Maine Project Learning Tree
P. O. Box 344
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