Celebrating Project Learning Tree: History from Georgia

Edited by Greg Pilchak

Information provided by Carla L. Rapp, Project Learning Tree Co-coordinator, Georgia Forestry Association

Forty years ago, Project Learning Tree® was founded to help the next generation value the natural world, and acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to make informed decisions and take responsible actions to sustain forests and the broader environment.

Project Learning Tree is one of the most widely used environmental education programs in the U.S. that advances environmental literacy and promotes stewardship through teacher professional development, curriculum resources, and service-learning programs that use trees and forests as windows on the world.

The Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC) was introduced to PLT in 1986. The hands-on and interdisciplinary nature of the program aligned well with the Commission’s goals to deliver forestry education to greater numbers of teachers and students.

Within the first year of the state program, some 500 educators and facilitators were PLT-trained in Georgia. Throughout PLT’s 30 years of work in Georgia, GFC has provided a strong support base of facilitators and promoters to help bring PLT to over 22,000 educators and resource professionals.

Georgia PLT helped commemorate the 1992 spring opening of the National Grove of State Trees in Washington, D.C. by partnering with the American Forest Council and Georgia Urban Forest Council to sponsor an essay contest for seventh graders. The contest was open to all state and NASF provided a grant for awards.

GFC’s Urban and Community Forestry Program supported the PLT in the City initiative to expand forestry education opportunities for inner city students through grants. It also provided a grant to support a combined effort for PLT and the Georgia Forests Forever project in an Urban Initiative Program. PLT-trained educators led activities with an urban emphasis and coordinated activities with the Mobile Classroom and reached close to 65,000 students from 1999-2006.

GFC also supported the Pre-service Program – a successful effort to target education students at colleges and universities.  GFC’s transportation network has saved PLT thousands of dollars in shipping costs by delivering books to regional offices for facilitators.

In addition to providing a state co-coordinator to organize and implement the program, the Commission contributes foresters and rangers with strong communication skills to be trained and serve as facilitators. Georgia State Forester Robert Farris is a member of Project Learning Tree’s Education Operating Committee.

Project Learning Tree is a strong and essential program today to conserve, protect and enhance our state’s forests and their benefits, especially in the face of growing pressures such as wildfires, insects and diseases, and development pressures.

Learn more about Project Learning Tree in Georgia on the new PLT website at www.plt.org/georgia.

Learn about the forests of Georgia in the state Forest Action Plan at www.stateforesters.org/forest-action-plans/georgia.