Tuesday, April 19, 2016

GreenSchools for Early Childhood

Project Learning Tree’s GreenSchools for Early Childhood program specifically is designed to teach young children about their environment and how they can make a difference, while developing their skills in language, mathematics, and science.

To access the materials, visit https://www.plt.org/green-schools-early-childhood and login or create an account (it’s free).

The Educator Guide offers ideas and activities for early childhood educators to green their centers while facilitating environmental experiences with their students through art, movement, sensory exploration, and time outdoors – all of which are inherently appealing to young children. You’ll learn about the benefits of becoming a PLT GreenSchool, how to engage parents at your center, ways to assess your students’ learning and how to celebrate your success. 

Five Investigations will involve your students in helping to green your center while developing their skills in language, mathematics, science, and more. Explore what individual and collective actions you and your students can take to improve the health, safety, and environmental quality of your school or early childhood center. You'll discover how reducing your school's environmental footprint is not only good for your health, your children’s health, and the health of the environment, but also can save your school money. 
  • Energy: Investigate how much energy your center uses, the main sources of that energy and ways to implement energy-saving strategies.
  • Environmental Quality: Investigate areas where improvements can be made in indoor and outdoor air quality, in your centers carbon dioxide and temperature levels, how cleaning products can impact your air quality and what practices need to be followed regarding the use of hazardous materials.
  • School Site: Investigate natural habitats, wildlife, trees, grounds maintenance practices and ways to make improvements to your center’s site.
  • Waste and Recycling: Investigate how much waste your center generates and where it goes, as well as recycling and composting efforts.
  • Water: Investigate the source, cost, and quality of your school's water supply and ways to enhance current water conservation practices.
Each GreenSchools for Early Childhood investigation includes:
  • Background information for educators and a checklist of supplies needed
  • Early Childhood Engagement activities to involve your learners in the investigation
  • Early Learner Worksheets
  • Action project ideas, including a My Action Plan worksheet for children ages 4 to 8
  • A Green Your Home handout to extend the learning and help families learn how they can improve their home environment.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

PLT Seeks K-2 Teachers to Review New Science Unit

Project Learning Tree is seeking Kindergarten, Grade 1, and Grade 2 classroom teachers to review a new, online instructional unit for students at these grade levels. The K-2 unit, called Treemendous Science!, will invite students (and their teachers) to explore, experience, observe, and collect tree data to develop understandings about how trees grow, roles they play in ecological systems, and the ways in which trees and humans interact.

K-2 classroom teachers interested in reviewing PLT’s new Treemendous Science! unit this summer are invited to complete a brief application at http://pltpilot.org by May 31, 2016.
Accepted K-2 practitioners will be asked to review the draft Treemendous Science! unit for their specific grade level (Kindergarten, Grade 1, or Grade 2). You will be asked about certain common unit components (such as unit introduction, teacher background, learning centers, and green schools connections), as well as the customized age-level specific instructional content.

Selected practitioners will not be asked to field test any of the content, rather they will be asked to read, review, and respond to detailed questionnaires. Stipends are available for all accepted selected K-2 participants, based upon the successful completion of all project components. 

National PLT will confirm teacher participants in June, and the review period will last approximately 6-8 weeks immediately following (approximately July – August). Classroom teachers of Grades K-2 will be given priority.

Treemendous Science! is truly novel in its approach, as it was constructed around—rather than correlated to—targeted Performance Expectations within the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

NGSS Performance Expectations
Created for kindergarten to second grade classrooms, Treemendous Science! is built around the following NGSS Performance Expectations:


Monday, March 28, 2016

PLT Early Childhood Online Training

Project Learning Tree's (PLT) award-winning early childhood materials help you foster young children’s wonder and curiosity about the natural world as you safely take your young learners outdoors and bring nature into the classroom. 

PLT’s new online workshop consists of 5 self-paced online coursels (each a 20–30-minute learning experience) with simulations and videos that model PLT’s early childhood activities, along with accompanying planning worksheets that provide guidance and support for you to try out PLT activities with children in your context.

What’s Included
This professional development experience will teach you how to use PLT’s materials effectively in your own educational setting and how to access many additional resources.

The course includes:

The Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood e-guide contains over 130 experiences that engage children ages 3 to 6 in outdoor exploration and play, and downloadable music files that encourage children to sing, dance, and move. A print version of the guide and music CD are available for an additional fee. Topics include exploring nature with five senses, meeting neighborhood trees, and experiencing trees through the seasons. 

The workshop can be completed during your own time, wherever you are, as long as you have internet access. It provides useful links to online resources, state-specific resources, and 5 coursels which are 20–30-minute self-paced learning experiences that make up the larger course. Exercises and worksheets will help you plan and facilitate group experiences with early learners, and design environmental experiences that maximize their use of 6 types of Learning Centers found in your Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood activity guide. 

Cost $30.00

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Free Seedlings for Iowa Schools from Trees For Kids

To celebrate Earth Week next month, the Trees for Kids program is offering free seedlings to schools and communities across Iowa.

Each school building and community may order one free custom packet consisting of 200 bare-root seedlings, 50 each of four selected species. Recipients are not required to plant their trees during Earth Week (April 17-23, 2016), but must have them planted before May 31, 2016.

To take part in this offer, schools and communities need to complete a simple application form and return it to the Trees for Kids program via email or postal mail by April 1, 2016. The application form can be found at www.iowadnr.gov/urbanforestry by clicking on “Trees for Kids Earth Month Celebration.”

Schools and communities receiving packets will be asked to email at least one photo of the trees being planted and a short paragraph indicating where and why they were planted.  No other requirements are necessary to receive the free trees.

The Iowa-grown, native trees and shrubs provided by the State Forest Nursery are naturally adapted to Iowa’s weather and soil extremes. Trees provide many benefits including wildlife habitat, environmental protection in the form of improved energy efficiency and water quality. They are vital hosts to pollinators and provide seasonal beauty to our landscape. Planting trees has been a traditional way to celebrate Earth Day since its beginning in the 1970s.

Schools and communities can create their own custom packets or select from a variety of recommended specialty packets, such as:

  • Fall Color –Trees and shrubs with vibrant fall color
  • Fastest Forest – Great along streams and wet areas, these grow at least 3 feet per year
  • Pollinator Packet – Provides vital host species for butterflies and other pollinators
  • Privacy Packet – Great to use as a visual barrier or along a fence line
  • Spring Flowers – Create spring color with these flowering shrubs and small trees
  • Storm Resistant Packet – These trees resist breakage from wind and ice storms
  • Wild Edible Packet – Enjoy an edible landscape

Photos and information about various packet species can be found at www.iowadnr.gov/ seedlingcatalog. The seedlings are between 8 and 24 inches, depending on the tree or shrub species. Size requests do not apply to this program. Order early for best species selection.

The Trees for Kids and Trees for Teens grant programs are funded by Iowa Department of Natural Resources Forestry Bureau, MidAmerican Energy, Black Hills Energy, Alliant Energy, Iowa Bankers Association, Trees Forever, Iowa Tree Farm Committee and the Iowa Woodland Owners Association.

For more information about ordering no-cost Trees for Kids seedlings, contact Laura Wagner, DNR Trees for Kids Coordinator, 515-725-8456 or laura.wagner@dnr.iowa.gov

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Reconnecting Children with Nature: Growing Up WILD Early Childhood Training

This workshop leads you out the door and provides hands on activities and resource materials to help you lead your own nature explorations. Growing Up WILD activities use age appropriate practices and concepts to build on children’s sense of wonder and invites them to explore nature and the world around them. Specially written for children 3-7, activities include sections to address many learning areas: math, science, language, literacy, health living, play, and creativity.
Growing Up WILD received the 2009 Family Choice Award and the 2011 Renewable Natural Resource Foundation Excellence in Journalism Award.

April 23, 2016
8:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Story County Conservation Center (56461 180th St, Ames)
Iowa Child Care Providers Training Registry— Click on Search Trainings, then search Reconnecting in the Title.
Registration Deadline: April 15, 2016
Cost: $35

For more information, contact Malisa Rader at 515-708-0822 or mrader@iastate.edu

Drawing on Nature

A sense of wonder is sparked when art and nature meet. Nature provides the stage and art provides the script to help you awaken a love of learning in your students complimented by a lifelong bond with their natural world.

·         Spend a class just drawing patterns in nature.
·         Students can spend a class drawing lines they see tree branches making.
·         Students can create texture rubbings of various textures they find in nature.
·         Students can spend a day just drawing leaves on various plants.

Reading Connections
Martin, L. C., and D. Cain. 2003. Nature's Art Box. Storey Books.
Ryall, J. 2012. Nature Art. Rosen Publishing Group, Inc.
Thomas, P., and C. Orback. 2007. Nature's Paintbox: A Seasonal Gallery of Art and Verse. Lerner Publishing Group.