PLT Wins Teachers’ Choice Award for Energy in Ecosystems

September 11, 2018


Project Learning Tree’s Energy in Ecosystems curriculum for grades 3-5 has been selected a Learning ® Magazine 2019 Teachers’ ChoiceSM Award for the Classroom winner! Project Learning Tree is an initiative of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

For 25 years, the Learning® magazine Teachers’ Choice Awards have heralded the very best in classroom-tested, teacher-recommended products. Each year a nationwide panel of teacher-judges names the standouts in books, classroom supplies, educational games, software, websites, and supplemental materials that teachers need for their classroom. For the 2019 awards for the Classroom, 27 winners (including products from Scholastic and National Geographic, for example) were chosen based on their scores from the evaluations done by a panel of teachers across the country.


Teachers’ Evaluation Comments

Teachers who evaluated Energy in Ecosystems praised the unit.

“The Energy in Ecosystems by Project Learning Tree is a fantastic online resource for students in grades 3-5. There are many things I love about it, but I would rank the following as my favorite parts: it’s all online, it is super engaging, targets the NGSS standards which are how my school’s science standards are aligned, and it also integrates the Common Core standards for English and Math.”

Another reviewer said, “The information is extensive and is laid out so concisely and has so many activities to choose from. My students were totally engaged each time I used an activity from the unit. The book lists were great for integrating the activities into our literacy units and everything was adaptable!”

Another teacher who tested the unit with students said, “The students’ interests were really kept alive with this program, probably because it was mostly online! I also loved that there were hands-on activities as well, as I feel that science should always be hands-on!”

When asked how the product could be improved to better support their curriculum, the comments from the teacher-judges were unanimous. “I cannot think of a way to improve this product. I loved it as-is,” said one teacher.

After receiving top marks, PLT’s Energy in Ecosystems e-unit was awarded a 2019 Teachers’ Choice Award for the Classroom, earning the seal of approval for outstanding educational value.


Cover_PLT_eUnit_Energy_EcosystemsAbout Energy in Ecosystems for Grades 3-5

PLT’s Energy in Ecosystems e-unit investigates the ways in which organisms depend on each other to survive and thrive. Students focus on forests—one of the largest and most complex types of ecosystems—and come to understand some of the interactions present in all ecosystems. In doing so, they learn to appreciate the natural systems on which we depend and begin to widen their circle of compassion to include all of nature. Learn more.


About the Teachers’ Choice Awards

Here’s more information about the Teachers’ Choice awards from Learning magazine.

What is the history of the Teachers’ Choice Awards?

In 1994, Learning® magazine introduced the first Teachers’ Choice Awards program. Over the years, the program has grown to become one of the most recognized and prestigious awards in the educational market. For 25 years, the Learning® magazine Teachers’ ChoiceSM Award has spotlighted the very best in classroom-tested, teacher-recommended products.

How are the products evaluated?

A team of teachers evaluates each product in the classroom. The products are evaluated on quality, instructional value, ease of use, and innovation.

How are the winners selected?

Each product is evaluated on its own merit. Only those products that meet Learning Magazine’s teachers’ stringent standards are chosen to receive a Teachers’ Choice Award. 


This is the second time PLT has won a Teachers’ Choice Award. In 2010, PLT’s Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood guide and CD was awarded a 2011 Teachers’ ChoiceSM Award for the Classroom.

PLT is thrilled we made the grade as thousands of teachers trust the TCA seal of approval. CONGRATULATIONS to all!


Credit: Project Learning Tree

Stacey Burroughs – 2018 NHPLT Outstanding Educator

Stacey Burroughs, Grade 6 Science Teacher, Newport Middle-High School, Newport NH

Stacey has been teaching for 20 years, with the past 14 years in Newport. She teaches 6th grade science and serves on an several advisory boards including Engineering and Horticulture. She is one of the teacher/facilitator for Newport’s Envirothon team, and began working with NH Project Learning Tree four years ago as part of the NHEET Building Vertical Science Literacy program. 

Stacey credits the NHEET program with helping her learn how to teach science well. She is not afraid to try new things and to engage her students in ways they can truly learn. She takes kids outside to do field investigations. “Getting into the field and having experiences has been wonderful. I would spend most of my time outside doing these kinds of investigations if I could”. As she puts it, there is great value in doing inquiry and fieldwork with her students.

“The kids love it. The connections that they can bring into the classroom after time outside, it’s amazing. When you ask them to reflect on what they’ve learned, they almost all say hands-on outdoor activities. That is the stuff that sticks with them and they carry it forward.”

Stacey is an inspiration to other people and is willing to help them however she can to get them outside doing field investigations. She is promoting this work publicly in her community and showing them how important science is and how students can be engaged in meaningful learning.

Ellen O’Donnell – 2017 Outstanding Educator of the Year

Ellen O’Donnell from Deerfield Community School as the 2017 Outstanding Educator of the Year. Ellen, an 8thgrade science teacher, received her award in a special ceremony at her school on June 7.

Ellen has been engaged with Project Learning Tree for several years, coordinating trainings for the staff at her K-8 school and engaging in a long-term Math Science Partnership effort. “Ellen is a shining star for Project Learning Tree educators”, says Judy Silverberg, Coordinator of NH Project Learning Tree. “Through her work teaching in the classroom, coordinating the K-8 science curriculum, or instructing a Science Methods course at UNH-Durham, Ellen truly weaves Project Learning Tree into her students experiences, creating long-lasting meaningful learning.”

Project Learning Tree And Sustainable Forestry Initiative Join Forces To Expand Youth Environmental Education Programs

WASHINGTON, DC – The Sustainable Forestry Initiative Inc. (SFI) and the American Forest Foundation (AFF) announced today that SFI has become the new home of Project Learning Tree (PLT). PLT is an award-winning environmental education program that uses trees and forests as windows on the world to increase youth understanding of the environment and actions they can take to conserve it. PLT’s integration into SFI provides an opportunity for the program to expand its reach and impact. And SFI’s role as a sustainability leader will be bolstered by PLT’s expertise in education, an increasing focus in SFI’s community engagement work. PLT was previously housed at the American Forest Foundation.
PLT has consistently received prestigious awards and recognition from leading educational and community organizations. PLT state coordinators, workshop facilitators, and educators have won the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. More than one quarter of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools are PLT GreenSchools. PLT’s instructional materials are aligned with state and national academic standards and meet or exceed the North American Association for Environmental Education’s Guidelines for Excellence. PLT’s Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood curriculum won a Learning Magazine Teachers’ Choice Award and PLT has also received straight A’s in environmental education from the California Department of Education. More than 20,000 educators attend PLT workshops every year and this partnership between PLT and SFI will help the program grow and reach new audiences across the globe in diverse ways.
“SFI has enthusiastically supported Project Learning Tree for years. Formally making PLT part of the SFI Program offers an exciting opportunity to strengthen SFI’s growing youth education efforts and to build on PLT’s enormous success. We begin this relationship from a position of strength given SFI’s role as a leading sustainability organization focused on responsible forestry, conservation and community engagement” said Kathy Abusow, President and CEO of SFI Inc. “We have big plans for the future and are committed to continuing PLT’s work as a high-quality education program. Ultimately, we would like to be able to say that every teacher across North America and beyond recognizes Project Learning Tree as an invaluable resource for professional development, environmental education curriculum, and taking children outdoors to learn.”
The benefits of educating youth about responsibly managed forests are not just environmental. Experiencing nature through forests and other means at an early age are important components of a healthy lifestyle. The majority of PLT lessons get teachers and their students outdoors and active. This helps to address common health issues in children today, such as obesity, attention deficit disorder, and depression.
“For more than four decades, Project Learning Tree has taught countless students how to think, without telling them what to think. It is the unbiased education that educators demand,” said Tom Martin, President and CEO of the American Forest Foundation. “The AFF Board approved the transfer of PLT as well as funding to help ensure the program is maintained for the next five years. We believe this will enable SFI to focus its energy on mechanisms to strengthen and expand the reach of PLT.”
“Given Project Learning Tree’s focus on environmental education and SFI’s mission to ensure the future of our forests, bringing the PLT program under SFI’s umbrella will further both SFI’s and PLT’s reach in ensuring today’s youth can be effective future leaders with a strong understanding of the value of well-managed forests,” said Laura Downey, PLT Education Operating Committee Co-Chair and Kansas PLT State Coordinator. “Over the years, we have worked directly with SFI to help youth make a commitment to sustainability, and to give them the skills to make responsible decisions about the environment.” Effective with SFI becoming the new home for PLT, Laura Downey joins the SFI Board of Directors in the social chamber.
PLT’s network includes state government agencies, forestry associations, non-profits, colleges and universities that deliver PLT programming across the U.S., British Columbia, Mexico, Japan, Brazil, and Uruguay. SFI’s youth network is made up of more than 20 organizations including Boy Scouts of America, Scouts Canada, Earth Rangers, Forest Ontario’s Forestry Connects Program, Envirothon, 4-H, the State University of New York’s Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, and other Indigenous youth programs. This considerable network will enhance PLT’s relevance as a critical element of youth education in support of future forests.
“SFI is a recognized leader in sustainability and will introduce PLT across Canada and beyond to reach even more educators and youth about the forests we share,” said Gail Wallin, Co-Chair of the Canadian Council on Invasive Species and SFI Board member in the environmental chamber. “I believe both organizations will benefit through this new relationship given the common interests, expertise, and passion for the environment and education.”
SFI’s community engagement work includes a long commitment to youth education including previous funding for PLT through SFI Community Partnerships Grants. SFI Implementation Committees also collaborate with PLT to teach kids about trees, forests, and the natural world through hands-on activities that are STEM-focused and inquiry-based.
“Given the history of SFI’s coordination with Project Learning Tree on a national scale and the shared commitment to educating youth, bringing PLT into the SFI program is a natural progression of the relationship because both organizations will be strengthened. As a member of the SFI Board of Directors, and a State Forester, I am excited about how this partnership will support educators and develop future conservation and forest leaders,” said Bettina Ring, State Forester with the Virginia Department of Forestry and an SFI Board member in the social chamber.

About the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Inc.
The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) is a sustainability leader that stands for future forests. SFI® is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting forest sustainability and supporting the links between sustainable forests and communities through grant programs, carefully targeted research, youth education, supply chain assurances, and partnerships that effectively contribute to multiple conservation objectives. SFI works collaboratively with conservation groups, local communities, youth, resource professionals, landowners and countless other organizations and individuals who share our passion for and commitment to healthy forests, responsible purchasing and sustainable communities. SFI Inc. is governed by an independent three-chamber board of directors representing environmental, social and economic sectors equally. Learn more at

About Project Learning Tree®
Project Learning Tree helps develop students’ awareness, knowledge, and appreciation of the environment, builds their skills and ability to make informed decisions, and encourages them to take personal responsibility for sustaining the environment and our quality of life that depends on it. Since 1976, Project Learning Tree has trained 700,000 educators to help students learn how to think, not what to think about complex environmental issues. Learn more at

About the American Forest Foundation
The American Forest Foundation (AFF), a forest conservation organization, works on the ground with families, partners 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 working to keep our forests healthy and producing the clean water, wildlife habitat and sustainable wood supplies that all Americans count on from forests.

Media Contact
Daniel Pellegrom
Senior Director, Communications
Sustainable Forestry Initiative
[email protected]

Deerfield Teacher named New Hampshire Project Learning Tree Outstanding Educator of the Year

Concord, NH – June 13, 2017 – New Hampshire Project Learning Tree has chosen Ellen O’Donnell from Deerfield Community School as the 2017 Outstanding Educator of the Year. Elle, an 8th grade science teacher, received her award in a special ceremony at her school on June 7.

Ellen has been engaged with Project Learning Tree for several years, coordinating trainings for the staff at her K-8 school and engaging in a long-term Math Science Partnership effort. “Ellen is a shining star for Project Learning Tree educators”, says Judy Silverberg, Coordinator of NH Project Learning Tree. “Through her work teaching in the classroom, coordinating the K-8 science curriculum, or instructing a Science Methods course at UNH-Durham, Ellen truly weaves Project Learning Tree into her students experiences, creating long-lasting meaningful learning.”

Since 1998, NH Project Learning Tree has formally recognized the efforts of outstanding educators for their commitment to environmental education, their exemplary use of PLT, and their exceptional teaching skills.

NH Partnership for Schoolyard Action Grants Announces the 2017 Grant Recipients


NH Partnership for Schoolyard Action Grants Announces the 2017 Grant Recipients

Concord, NH-The New Hampshire Partnership for Schoolyard Action Grants, a collaboration that supports schools wishing to link the school curriculum and their students with the local environment, is pleased to award over $6,000.00 in action grants to these schools.

  • Beech Hill School, Hopkinton, NH—Building Bowers, Buffers, and Biodiversity
  • Loudon Elementary, Loudon, NH—Pollinator Garden
  • Westmoreland High School, Westmoreland, NH—Nature Trail and Outdoor Classroom
  • Winchester High School, Winchester, NH—Nature Trail Project
  • Seacoast Charter School, Dover, NH—Schoolyard Mater Plan
  • Prospect Mountain High School, Alton, NH—Shade Tree Habitat
  • Jaffrey Grade School, Jaffrey, NH—Schoolyard Bird Watching
  • Namaste Montessori School, Goffstown, NH—Namaste Children’s Garden

These eight schools were selected from over twenty-six applicants and represent a diversity of projects from wetland buffers to trail development to pollinator gardens. Projects are underway and will be completed in 2017.

“We are excited and heartened by the dedication school staff and community members who help to make these projects happen.  These educators understand nature is a powerful teacher engaging students on a deeper level” said Judy Silverberg, a spokesperson for the partnership.  Students are involved in planning, creation, and maintenance of the projects.  In addition, the projects incorporate the disciplines of science, mathematics and language arts.

“By working together in the Partnership for Schoolyard Action Grants, NH Audubon, NH Fish and Game, NH Project Learning Tree and US Fish and Wildlife Service are able to offer more resources to schools taking on schoolyard action projects.” said, NH Audubon President Doug Bechtel.

For educators interested in planning a project to submit for a grant in 2018, workshops on schoolyard projects and planning will be held at the NH Science Teachers Association spring conference and in early fall. For more information contact:  Hilary Chapman, [email protected] or Judy Silverberg at [email protected] .

New Hampshire Project Learning Tree Announces Winners of Outdoor Classroom Grants

New Hampshire Project Learning Tree Announces Winners of Outdoor Classroom Grants

Concord, NH – May 19, 2016 – New Hampshire Project Learning Tree is pleased to announce the winners of the Outdoor Classroom Special Fund grants. Each winner will receive a $250 grant to develop or improve outdoor classrooms for their students. These recipients received their checks at the New Hampshire Project Learning Tree Annual Celebration on May 15, 2016.

  • Ledge Street School, Nashua, NH: adding benches to their outdoor classroom gazebo.
  • Hampshire Cooperative Nursery School, Hanover, NH: Restoration of Connecticutt River Valley Ecology
  • Deerfield Community School, Deerfield, NH: Wildlife Garden

New Hampshire Project Learning Tree supports students and educators in projects that make a difference in helping children connect with nature.  The Outdoor Classroom Special Fund was started to honor the leadership of Esther Cowles, Executive Director 1997-2011. NH Project Learning Tree measures success in many ways.  For Esther, one of the best measures was the amount of time kids spent outdoors investigating and improving their local environment. NH Project Learning Tree boosts teachers’ skills and knowledge, builds their confidence about incorporating the natural world into their lessons and motivates them to change the way they teach their students.

Projects must:

  • Have a direct benefit for student learning about the environment.
  • Involve students in planning, implementation and use.
  • Include a plan for long-term sustainability.

Past awardees include:

  • Ledge Street School, Nashua, NH
  • Gilmanton School, Gilmanton Iron Works, NH
  • D.J. Bakie School, Kingston, NH
  • East Andover Village PreSchool, East Andover, NH

Andy Fast – 2016 Outstanding Educator of the Year

As described by UNH Cooperative Extension, “Andy is being recognized particularly for his work leading the “Walk in the Forest” program at schools in his service area. A “Walk in the Forest” brings students to a nearby forest—often on school grounds—to learn about forest ecosystems. The field days most often consist of four stations where students learn about tree identification, forest measurements, wildlife, and forest soils. He enlists colleagues and volunteers to help lead the stations and provides Project Learning Tree activities as the basis. “A Walk in the Forest” is a partnership of NH Project Learning Tree, the Granite State Division of the Society of American Foresters, and the N.H. Tree Farm Program.

Although he uses a prescribed formula for each field day, Andy is thoughtful about the approach. He thinks about the ages of each class of students and what will be most appropriate for their developmental and learning stages.

Andy has quietly been offering the “Walk in the Forest” program to schools in his service area. He has helped organize and lead 15 programs at 10 schools since 2008. He has worked with more than 1,000 students and more than 100 adults through these programs.

Lisa Saunders – 2015 National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree

  • Lisa Saunders, Fifth Grade Teacher, Bicentennial Elementary School, Nashua, New Hampshire

    Lisa Saunders was part of New Hampshire PLT’s Connecting Schools to People and Places program, which began in 2007 and helped develop an outdoor classroom, among many other initiatives. She is known for her innovative and effective strategies to teach students about water systems. She has been a strong advocate for PLT through her role on a district team to align curriculum with state standards, and several PLT activities are now a part of the K-5 district science curriculum. Lisa has also been part of a Math Science Partnership cohort to bring PLT and other environmental education programs into the classroom.

    “Lisa’s approach to science and environmental education is empowering. The lessons in her classroom extend to the community as a whole, changing attitudes and lifelong behaviors.”

    – Kyle Langille, Principal, Bicentennial Elementary School, Nashua, New Hampshire

    Lisa was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2015.

Ruth Smith – 2015 Outstanding Educator of the Year

New Hampshire Project Learning Tree is pleased to announce that Ruth Smith has been honored as the New Hampshire Project Learning Tree Outstanding Educator of the Year!

“Never have I met an individual more dedicated to children and the environment.” begins the nomination from a NH teacher. “Ruth has touched the lives of thousands of NH children. She was able to combine wonder, natural history knowledge, sensory experiences, songs, expeditions, and community building activities. The children were so engaged!”

During her career, Ruth has served in many environmental education roles within New Hampshire. She is currently the Community Engagement Manager at NH Audubon, having previously worked for many years as Director of NH Audubon Nature Camps. In addition, Ruth has worked at Kearsarge Indian Museum, Shaker Village, and NH Envirothon, and NH Agriculture in the Classroom. She has been using Project Learning Tree activities, and serving as a NH Project Learning Tree facilitator, since the late 1980’s. “She is truly a masterful educator.”