Teach the Earth > Service Learning > Example Service Learning Projects > Pre-service teachers using Project Learning Tree (PLT) in the K-6 classroom

Pre-service teachers using Project Learning Tree (PLT) in the K-6 classroom

Stephanie Maes
The College of Saint Rose
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This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process. This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: Mar 17, 2010


The activity utilizes the curriculum from Project Learning Tree® (PLT), an environmental education program developed by the American Forest Foundation. Pre-service elementary education students receive PLT training in the science classroom and in the field. The students modify and present activities in K-6 classrooms where the host teachers have also received PLT training.

Strengths of the activity:
  • Uses science as a basis for a teaching lesson – promotes science literacy at all levels of education
  • Connection to relevant issues in environmental/natural science
  • Promotes outdoor learning
  • PLT curriculum comes with a large number of resources – websites, alternate activities, reading connections

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The activity is for use in Fundamentals of Science, a two course series required for elementary education majors who are non-science concentrators. The level of the undergraduate students varies from 2nd semester freshman to seniors.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

  • Students must understand the science content behind the activity they will present
  • Students must be able to adapt a lesson to a particular grade-level

How the activity is situated in the course

The activity fulfills the service-learning requirement for the course. Although it is a stand-alone activity, it ties directly into course content related to fossil fuels, alternative energy, global climate change, and its environmental and societal effects.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

  • Contributes to environmental education and general science literacy
  • Students gain experience communicating scientific information
  • Teaching science content prepares students for subsequent science methods coursework
  • Students appreciate the level of interest and prior knowledge elementary students have with respect to science

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

  • Breakdown and modify content learned in class in order to present science lessons for children
  • Collaborate with classmates and the elementary school classroom teacher when preparing the lesson
  • Assess the activity for its connection to course content

Other skills goals for this activity

  • Understand basic concepts in physics, chemistry, earth science, and biology
  • Analyze problems using scientific processes
  • Investigate issues using critical thinking
  • Students understand the importance of the goal of science literacy for citizens and understand the role of the elementary teaching in achieving that goal

Description of the activity/assignment

The activity will utilize the curriculum from the Project Learning Tree® (PLT) program which is an environmental education program developed by the American Forest Service. The mission statement of the program is to:

"...use the forest as a "window on the world" 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."

All students must learn the philosophy and goals of PLT program and become familiar with the type of activities that the program promotes. Once the students become familiar with PLT, they must choose an activity from the resource book that addresses a topic that has been covered in class. They must discuss their choices with the classroom teacher and get his/her feedback about the activity they have suggested. After the classroom teacher and the student agree to a plan, the student must demonstrate mastery of the content and demonstrate the activity to their classmates. The student will then present this material to the elementary class. The student will be required to write a reflection that is guided by a rubric about the experience and about how it relates to the content that has been presented in class.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Formative Assessment:

Students are required to write a Project Description Form. This currently requires them to indicate the place where they have chosen to work, the name of their supervisor and a short description of the activity. This form must be signed by the supervisor or an email must be attached, indicating the supervisor's willingness to work with the student.

In addition to the project description form, the students must answer questions which require them to reflect on: the partner organization, how their project contributes to the goals of the partner organization, how the project relates to the science content of the course, and what they hope to gain by completing the activity.

Summative Assessment:

At the end of the activity, the students write a reflection. In their reflections, the students provide a description of their project plan (which may be a lesson plan) and indicate the connection it has with the content/skills learned in the classroom. The students also describe the impact the activity had on their own learning.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

Project Learning Tree® website Project Learning Tree

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