Project Learning Tree Goes to the Amazon and Back!


Are you familiar with one of the BEST environmental education programs in the US? If not, then you need to get to know PROJECT LEARNING TREE (aka PLT)!  This award-winning environmental education program is designed for teachers and other educators, parents, and community leaders working with youth from preschool through grade 12. As the Education Director for Amazon Rainforest Workshops, I’ve had the great pleasure of including PLT as part of our annual Educator Academy in the Amazon! For the last two years we’ve introduced Academy participants to PLT materials and have even used Spanish language versions of PLT activities with Peruvian students at remote Amazon schools. 

But rather than me telling you about PLT in the Amazon, you can hear it directly from Jennifer Richardson, a PLT educator and recent winner of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education:

Bringing a Global Perspective to the Classroom

By Jennifer Richardson  
(reblogged from


Jennifer Richardson

Last summer I traveled to Peru to participate in an Educator Academy in the Amazon Rainforest. The Academy is sponsored by Amazon Rainforest Workshops and is hosted by Ecoteach. It was a life-changing adventure that provided me and Jolene Weldon, a fellow teacher at Wooster Elementary in Greenbrier, Arkansas, and 28 other educators, with some unique professional development. We visited several communities and schools in the Amazon, and interacted with local students and teachers.

As part of the Academy, we practiced activities from Project Learning Tree, GLOBE,  and Project Noah that we now use with our 4th and 5th grade students in Arkansas to help cover the topics of ecosystems, symbiotic relationships, biodiversity, and human impacts on the environment.


The Academy gave me a global perspective and has really enhanced my teaching back in the classroom. It’s helped me create awareness amongst my students about the connections between our local environment and the rainforest, and the effects of deforestation in the Amazon both locally and globally.

PLT in the Amazon

Here are some examples of how I am using activities from PLT’s PreK-8 Environmental Education Activity Guide and incorporating my personal experiences from the Amazon:

•    Activity 21, Adopt a Tree – Students have adopted a tree on our nature trail which they will compare to trees in the Amazon.
•    Activity 10, Charting Diversity – Students compare Arkansas’ native plants and animals to those found in the rainforest.
•    Activity 15, A Few of My Favorite Things – Students investigate what things they use every day that come from the rainforest.
•    Activity 17, People of the Forest – Students learn how forests provide local people with their basic needs, and they also learn about the Yagua tribe we visited with in the Amazon.
•    Activity 22, Trees as Habitats – Students learn how plants and animals depend on trees, and I share my pictures from the Amazon to illustrate examples of how trees provide homes for the animals in the rainforest.
•    Activity 28, Air Plants – Students connect the importance of the trees of the rainforest to oxygen production for the whole world.
•    Activity 29, Rain Reasons – Students explore how plants are adapted to the local environment, and we discuss drip tips, the long stems of lily pads, and other features of the flooded forests of the rainforest.
•    Activity 64, Looking at Leaves – Students look at the characteristics of leaves in Arkansas and compare sizes, shapes, and other differences with leaves from the Amazon.


Jolene has also used some STEM-based investigations and experiments we learned in the Amazon with a High School Environmental Science Club in Greenbrier, Arkansas, as well as hosting discussions about medicinal plants and health care in the jungle.


As a result of our lessons and sharing our firsthand experiences, our students wanted to learn about actions they can take to help save the rainforest and ways to support the local people who depend on the rainforest for their livelihood. In September they participated in EcoFest, an annual community outreach event in Conway, Arkansas that educates people in our community about ways they can live a more sustainable life. Students in the 4th and 5th grade Environmental Science Club conducted research and prepared facts cards for a booth that showed the global effects of deforestation in the Amazon. They created pledge sheets and a collection jar to raise money to help support a local rainforest school, and in December they sold prints from our Amazon Adventure during our Christmas Open House.


I found the Educator Academy to be an outstanding teaching and learning experience!

Educator Academy in the Amazon


Are YOU ready for a life-changing adventure?  An experience that will feed your soul, expand your professional toolkit for inquiry-based science, anchor your global perspective, and change your definition of professional development?

Learn more about the Educator Academy in the Amazon Rainforest or contact Christa Dillabaugh at christa[at] or 1-800-431-2624.





Christa Dillabaugh is our Education and the Rainforest Editor. A former middle school and high school science educator, she coordinates experiential field programs for educators and students in the rainforests of Central and South America. She currently serves as education director for Amazon Rainforest Workshops and loves traipsing through rainforest mud in search of teachable moments! You can read her Amazon field notes at




All photos courtesy and copyright Amazon Rainforest Workshops