Washington, D.C. and Ottawa, ON—Project Learning Tree® (PLT), an initiative of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI), has released a new resource for families and teachers to connect young children ages 1–6 to nature, with a focus on trees.
Trees & Me: Activities for Exploring Nature with Young Children offers hundreds of ideas for fun, indoor and outdoor, learning experiences for toddlers and preschoolers to explore nature through their senses, experience trees throughout the seasons, and connect with their community.
The Guide was recently named a 2022 Academics’ Choice Smart Book Award winner “in recognition of Mind-Building Excellence” and for the flexibility of the hands-on activities designed for use in a range of settings, including at home, nature centers, parks, community forests, and preschools.
Trees & Me can be purchased directly from PLT’s Shop, from Amazon and other places where books are sold, or by attending a local PLT workshop conducted by PLT’s 50-state network of more than 75 coordinators and 1,000 facilitators across the country.
“Trees & Me combines the fascination that young children have for trees with research-based findings about the lifelong benefits of early exposure to nature,” says Jessica Kaknevicius, Vice President of Education for SFI. “The activities improve children’s emotional and physical well-being, enhance literacy, math, and critical thinking skills, promote positive social behavior, and make them more likely to care about their environment throughout their lives.”
Caregivers can easily adapt the 12 hands-on activities to meet each child’s unique needs, the different environments where they live, and the materials available.
“I love seeing so many options in the PLT Trees & Me guide that make it really easy to use, like the QR codes that grant access to songs for the Music and Movement activities,” said Tia R. Prostko, Early Childhood Well-Being Coach at South Carolina Program for Infant/Toddler Care in Easley, South Carolina, one of many educators and childcare providers who field-tested the activities with children. “The guide is a wonderful resource to help educators become more comfortable teaching outdoors and using nature for learning, with specific activity suggestions in the Take It Outside! and Background for Adults sections.”
“Including the career connections of relevant community helpers, such as farmers, park rangers, foresters, and scientists, is an easy foray into the ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ conversation,” said Jessica Kratz, Coordinator at Greenbelt Nature Center in Staten Island, New York.
Trees & Me activities connect with early learning standards in science, English language arts, math, and social studies, as well as programs like the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), Head Start, and established Nature-Based Preschool Practices.
Early outdoor learning can positively impact young children’s physical, social, and interpersonal development, and lead to better health outcomes. Trees & Me includes many supporting resources to facilitate this connection, such as tested techniques for engaging early learners, tips for outdoor learning and bringing nature inside, as well as ways to connect parents as partners in their child’s education.
Trees & Me was created with support from International Paper, in part for use by their employees to encourage sustainable forestry education at home.