Project Learning Tree (PLT) https://www.plt.org/ has been discussed in previous posts. There are a number of secondary modules (for grades 9-12) available to enhance and expand the PLT curricula. Modules include Biodiversity, Biotechnology, GreenSchools! Investigations, Focus on Forests, Forests of the World, Places We Live, Focus on Risk, Municipal Solid Waste, and Southeastern Forests and Climate Change.
Climate Change is a hot-button topic, and the module Southeastern Forests and Climate Change (SFCC) would be especially useful for educators in the Southeastern states. I had the opportunity to co-present an Educator Workshop with a fellow Certified Professional Environmental Educator http://keec.ky.gov/EECertification/Pages/default.aspx yesterday for a number of highly engaged and interested educators. SFCC is a self-contained module co-created by PINEMAP. The Pine Integrated Network: Education, Mitigation, and Adaptation project (PINEMAP) is a Coordinated Agricultural Project funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, http://www.pinemap.org/
This module is somewhat unique within the PLT framework, because the University of Florida has created a website which includes not only the entire downloadable module, but downloadable teaching resources, student pages, videos, and more. While it is still highly recommended that one is trained in PLT before use of the module, this is an excellent resource for individual activity ideas. To obtain the books for the secondary modules, one normally needs to attend an educator workshop. PLT is now piloting online training, which can be accessed here: https://www.ezlcms.com/v5/login/1525/PLT_National.aspx An educator is now able to train online for the use of PLT basic materials even if face-to-face workshops are unavailable.
The resources included in the SFCC module would be useful for approaching the subject of climate change, even if one were not planning to present an SFCC workshop. Included on the website are teacher quizzes, designed for an educator to test his or her own knowledge of the topics covered. There is an excellent PowerPoint presentation covering the basics of climate change science, including common mistakes and misconceptions. Several videos about climate change topics are included.
The activities in the Focus on Forests module coordinate with and enhance the SFCC module well. While the SFCC module is specifically involved with the southeastern forests, Focus on Forests covers basics for all of North America’s forested lands. Included are topics covering diversity in forest lands, forest use issues, and ecosystem health, among others. Both modules are designed to help students to think critically about the issues, and to learn to come to their own conclusions when presented with scientific evidences.
The SFCC module, like the other PLT materials, is multi-disciplinary, hands-on, and involves both indoor and outdoor activities. In the workshop yesterday, for example, we took a literal walk through the climate change science and policy timeline, and learned to use clinometers in estimating the amount of carbon a specific tree is able to sequester and store. Workshop attendees did pencil-and-paper graphing, studied trends in the data, physically measured trees and distances, and more. They also played a game with giant dice illustrating the carbon cycle! And like the other PLT modules, SFCC has been aligned to curriculum standards.
As stated on the SFCC website, the goals of the module are to: Understand how climate change could impact forests in the southeastern U.S.; Understand how forests can be managed to address changing climate conditions and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; Enhance decision-making skills to make informed choices as consumers to mitigate climate change; Develop systems thinking skills to see connections between climate change, forests, and people; Recognize that individual and community actions can help mitigate and adapt to climate change; and Become part of future community conversations about climate change and potential solutions.
And it’s fun in the process!