New Teaching Tool Focused on Forests

 New Curriculum Explores Profound Changes Facing America’s Forests Today

2011 International Year of Forests Provides Incentive for Teachers and Students to Investigate Environmental Issues Focusing on Forests

Washington, D.C. – When teachers head back to school, their students can learn first-hand about forests, thanks to a new teaching resource from Project Learning Tree®, the environmental education program of the American Forest Foundation.

“Do you know the water from your faucet might be naturally filtered by a forest instead of a water treatment plant? Do you know you can calculate the carbon sequestered by the trees in your own backyard? Do you know that one of the biggest threats to America’s forests is the transfer of family property between generations?” asks Tom Martin, President and CEO of the American Forest Foundation. “These are just a few examples of the types of thought-provoking questions that high school teachers can pose to students using a new Project Learning Tree curriculum guide that engages students in exploring forests in their own communities,” says Martin.

The United Nations General Assembly designated 2011 as International Year of Forests to promote broader understanding of the importance of forests, and to bolster global efforts to promote sustainable forest management and conservation. PLT’s new high school curriculum Exploring Environmental Issues: Focus on Forests teaches students about forest health, fresh water supply, climate change, who owns America’s forests, and more. Hands-on classroom lessons and field investigations help students develop an understanding and appreciation for stewardship and informed decision-making on issues that affect forests.

 For example, in the “Forest to Faucet” activity students evaluate the extent to which their own community’s water supply is affected by forests and forest management. In “Climate Change and Forests,” students use a carbon footprint calculator to analyze their personal effect on carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, calculate the amount of carbon stored in a single tree, and explore how carbon sequestration can affect carbon dioxide levels. Another activity “Who Owns America’s Forests?” examines the critical issue of changing forestland use and ownership. Through local interviews, students capture relevant data for their region, and offer possible solutions to help conserve forestland in their community.

High school educators and junior college professors can obtain a copy of Exploring Environmental Issues: Focus on Forests by attending a PLT professional development workshop in their area. AFF’s 50-state PLT network trains more than 30,000 PreK-12 educators every year through 1,500 workshops held across the country. State PLT programs also help nurture relationships between classroom teachers and local foresters, woodland owners, and other natural resource professionals.

“These relationships make valuable on-the-ground connections for students and their teachers, and can help grow the next generation of conservation leaders,” said Martin.

“This curriculum allows students to participate in activities that teach them the job skills of foresters and other natural resource professionals,” said Kathey Roberts, 10-12th Grade Environmental Science Teacher at Lakeside High School in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and one of 38 teachers who field-tested the activities with students. “I like to provide my students with career information that covers the entire spectrum, and they loved the hands-on outdoor learning!”

Since 1976, PLT has provided environmental education training and academic curricula for teachers and other educators working with youth from preschool through grade 12, and college students. To ensure that PLT meets the needs of educators, hundreds of professional educators and technical experts help develop, review, field test, and independently evaluate all of PLT’s curriculum materials. The process includes research, surveys, writing workshops, and reviews with educators and resource professionals; revisions based on pilot testing and field testing; and formal assessment of impact on student learning by independent evaluators.

“PLT helps teachers incorporate a hands-on approach to learning core subject matter and basic skills by exploring complex environmental issues,” said Kathy McGlauflin, Senior Vice President of Education at the American Forest Foundation. “Focus on Forests integrates teaching about forests into a multitude of subject areas and develops students’ critical-thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making skills. It uses the outdoors for learning and connects classroom studies to the real world to make the learning relevant and fun for students.”

“These [Focus on Forests] activities make students aware that trees have a value that isn’t simply based on their market price as timber or other forest products,” said Michael Dalton, 9-12th Grade Science Teacher at Berkshire School in Sheffield, Massachusetts. “With the help of this guide, my students developed a forest management plan for our school, using a variety of tools to consider the complete value of trees, not just for our local environment, but more globally as well.”

Support for the development of Exploring Environmental Issues: Focus on Forests was provided by the USDA Forest Service and Idaho Forest Products Group.

The American Forest Foundation (AFF) works on-the-ground with families, teachers, and elected officials to promote stewardship and protect our nation’s forest heritage. A commitment to the next generation unites our nationwide network of forest owners and teachers working to keep our forests healthy and our children well-prepared for the future they will inherit.

To grow the next generation of leaders ready to inherit America’s natural legacy, AFF works with tens of thousands of teachers each year through its Project Learning Tree® program, giving them peer-reviewed, award-winning environmental education curricula. In an era where more and more children are disconnected from nature, over 500,000 teachers nationwide have been trained in this curricula, reaching 75 million students.

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