According to a May 2018 article in The Washington Post, the average American child spends five to eight hours a day in front of a digital screen, often at the expense of unstructured play outdoors in nature.
In their book Natural Learning: The Life of an Environmental Schoolyard. Creating Environments for Rediscovering Nature’s Way of Teaching Robin C. Moore and Herb H. Wong write, “Without continuous hands-on experience, it is impossible for children to acquire a deep intuitive understanding of the natural world that is the foundation of sustainable development. A critical aspect of the present-day crisis in education is that children are becoming separated from daily experience of the natural world, especially in larger cities.”
Rudy Schafer, a journalist, teacher and southern California native, believed it was his continual duty to teach young people “how to think, not what to think” about issues plaguing our environment.
So, back in the early 1970s, he brought together a group of educators, conservationists, arborists and agencies responsible for natural resources (from 13 states) to be a part of the Western Regional Environmental Education Council.
From their humble beginnings, Project Learning Tree (PLT) was born in 1976.
PLTs mission “advances environmental literacy and promotes stewardship through excellence in environmental education, professional development, and curriculum resources that use trees and forests as windows on the world.”
When time in front of a digital screen outweighs the time spent outside playing in the dirt, planting flowers, climbing trees and marveling at nature’s splendor, it’s no surprise the younger generation has little to no interest in the issues plaguing our environment.
The Project Learning Tree program is designed to help counteract that reality. Goals include:
- Making students aware of the issues while providing them the skills to address them positively
- Enabling scientific processes to become a part of their rationale for solutions
- Encouraging tolerance for diverse viewpoints on environmental issues
- Inspiring and empowering students to be responsible and to get involved.
Novelist, poet and environmental activist Wendell Berry says, “Our children no longer learn how to read the great Book of Nature from their own direct experience or how to interact creatively with the seasonal transformations of the planet. They seldom learn where their water comes from or where it goes.”
Project Learning Tree is looking to change all that by taking children out of the classroom and into nature. They’re steering them away from the digital devices that consume their lives and encouraging them to understand the planet they live in and how they can help to preserve the environment we all call home.
Project Learning Tree programs are available in all 50 states and abroad. For more information on this widely used PreK-12 environmental educational program, click here.