When young Ashley Tate was hired right out of Eastern Washington University to teach earth science, physics, and to create a brand-new environmental science class at rural Idaho’s St. Maries High School, she knew exactly where to turn.
“I had discovered Project Learning Tree via a mentor professor,” she recalls. “I found out I would be student-teaching in a rural farming town without access to a lot of curriculum and resources. My mentor loaned me a ton of books off of his curriculum bookshelf. He loaded up my arms and said ‘Here you go, kid—the start of your library!’ Among the books was a Pre-K-through-8th guide, as well as those of Project WET and Project WILD.
PLT, WILD & WET materials are provided to teachers through professional development workshops. Ashley recently attended the PLT ForesTree & STEM class in Coeur d’Alene. The resources she has received from PLT have proven to be very valuable. “The activities are great,” she exclaims, “and the books also encourage ideas if you are stuck and need inspiration. I treasure them dearly, and they are my go-to books for sure!”
Ashley recommends the WET and WILD books, and additional curriculum from PLT, to any teacher who is looking for good ideas and plans for teaching scientific concepts. “These resources helped me immensely as a first-year teacher, because they explain nature and science very simply for kids who may be struggling. The lessons are easy to adapt and change, and often several activities link together. The curriculum aligns to educational standards, too, which makes it easy for teachers who value their time!”
“Sometimes I use the entire activity as-is, and sometimes I’ll collect ideas based on the activity and write my own lesson. I used PLT’s ‘400-Acre Wood’ activity in both my environmental science class and with my freshman earth science classes on Arbor Day. We also went out and planted seedlings around our school as part of our Arbor Day celebration.”
“The 400-Acre Wood activity is an all time favorite of mine because it brings together math, forestry and problem solving as well as planning and being a good steward of the land,” Ashley continues. “The kids really enjoy it because it makes them think. Our little town of St. Maries is a logging town and most of the kids grew up and/or work in the woods with their families or dads. They are already so knowledgeable about forestry and the PLT activities are really something they enjoy.”
“For next year, I finally have brand new environmental science books!” Ashley says. “I want to try some of PLT’s biodiversity activities with them like ‘Rain Reasons’ and some of the more ecosystem/biology related activities like ‘Air Plants.’ I feel that PLT activities target all areas of environmental science and they are some of my greatest assets when it comes to developing curriculum for my classes.”
Ashley is excited to start her second year of teaching. “I want to hit on all aspects of earth and the environment,” she says. “The Project Learning Tree activities will really help me achieve this.”