Ah, Cherry Blossom season. Nothing signifies the arrival of spring in the nation’s capital quite like the blooming of the cherry blossom trees and the three-week-long National Cherry Blossom Festival which runs from the first day of spring on March 20 – April 14. As the clouds of pink cotton candy swirl among the trees in Washington, D.C., I’m reminded of the Robin Williams quote, “Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s Party!’”

In my new role as Chief Education Officer at Sustainable Forestry Initiative, I’m particularly excited about the first day of spring this year. In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly declared March 21 as International Day of Forests. Each year, various events celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests, including trees in cities (our urban forests), for the benefit of current and future generations.

SFI’s education efforts, led by our Project Learning Tree® (PLT) environmental education initiative, educates teachers and youth about forests and the environment. Using forests as a lens, we grow understanding of our environment and what it needs to remain healthy and sustainable. We inspire youth to take action for sustainable forests and a sustainable planet, and we introduce young people to green jobs and careers in forestry and natural resources management. We do this by empowering educators to take students outdoors to learn and connecting youth to nature in urban, suburban, and rural settings. Often teachers and students report back that it’s the highlight of their day.

PLT has a rich history going back more than 40 years of providing educators with high-quality professional development, hands-on activities, and multi-disciplinary supplemental curriculum that can be easily integrated into lesson plans for all grades and subject areas to help teach youth about trees, forests, and the environment. Our vast, diverse network of passionate professionals know the value of PLT for inspiring youth to learn to love forests and they have helped bring PLT to more than 750,000 educators and 135 million youth. And, we’ve been recognized with prestigious awards including our Energy in Ecosystems curriculum being selected a Learning® Magazine 2019 Teachers’ ChoiceSM Award for the Classroom winner.

PLT joined SFI in 2017, and since then we have been laying the groundwork to have even more impact. We have an exciting trail to blaze as we chart our path forward to grow our reach.  Our plans include creating the next iteration of PLT curriculum, developing the PLT network’s capacity to implement best practices in professional development, and developing new business scenarios and delivery models.

After 17 years running National Geographic’s children’s businesses, I’m excited to take what I’ve learned and lead this effort to bring PLT to even more teachers, nonformal educators, preservice students, parents, and community leaders.

See PLT’s Three Cheers for Trees for some activity ideas for all ages. Or simply go outside and marvel at the blossoms bursting overhead. Mother Nature is inviting us to party.


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