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PLT Activities for Families
Walking in the Forest

Play detective on your next walk in the woods and discover how plants grow, age, decay, and more.  Here is a set of activities you can do in the forest.

Exploring a Local Park

Get in touch with trees in your local park and use these activities to take a closer look. 

In Your Own Backyard

Look, listen, and meet your natural neighbors.

When All Else Fails, Inside

These activities are great for a rainy day or when you just can’t get outside.

Around Your Home

Discover ways to green your home – and save money – with these questions and tips.

Selected PLT Activities in the PreK – 8

Note: The items below are select material from the PLT PreK-8 Guide. The full activity list can be found on the guide’s website.

THEME:  DIVERSITY
Activity 1 – The Shape of Things

As humans we depend on all of our senses: touching, tasting, hearing, smelling, and seeing, to gather impressions of our environment. Our brains sort out the diversity of sizes, colors, and shapes that we see. In this activity, students will focus on the many shapes that are found in both natural and built environments. Download the entire activity from the book or download the one-page Family Activity version.

Join Maine PLT facilitator, Joanne Alex, by video in the University of Maine Forest where she reads aloud a story about shapes in the human world, then uses a simple, paper “shape necklace” to hunt for shapes in nature. She demonstrates how to create different shapes out of twigs and then she leaves us with a challenge.

Activity 13 – We All Need Trees

Students are often surprised to learn how many different products we get from trees. Use this Activity to help your students learn just how much we depend on trees in our daily lives.

Free Book Download: Why Would Anyone Cut a Tree Down?

Activity 16 – Pass the Plants, Please

Spaghetti. Fried rice. Tortillas. Vegetable soup. Thanks to plants, these and many other favorite foods are ours to enjoy. This Activity will get your students thinking about just how big a part plants play in our daily diets.

Click here for a Family Activity for Pass the Plants, Please.

THEME:  INTER-RELATIONSHIPS
Activity 21 – Adopt A Tree

Students adopt a tree, deepening their awareness of individual trees over time, and encouraging a greater understanding and appreciation of their local environment.  Click here to download handouts and resources.  Visit this Minnesota PLT web page to download a 20+ page Adopt-a-Tree Journal.

Activity 23 – The Fallen Log

It’s amazing how many things live in and on rotting logs. In this activity, your students will become familiar with some of those organisms by observing fallen logs. They’ll gain an understanding of how decomposition takes place and a better appreciation for microhabitats and communities.  Visit Maine PLT facilitator Laurie Haines’s blog with a Maine made “Nature at Home!” video of this activity in action plus links to two datasheets, one each for older and one for younger students.  Get the one-page Family Activity and other resources on the national PLT website.

THEME:  SYSTEMS
Activity 45 – Web of Life

By conducting research and simulating a food web, students will take a close look at a forest ecosystem and discover ways that plants and animals are connected to each other. While this Activity focuses on forests, you can also use it to study other ecosystems, such as oceans, deserts, marshes, or prairies by substituting the appropriate information.

Find a Family Activity and other resources on the National PLT website.

Visit this page for a 2-page handout that students could use to make a food web at home.

Activity 46 – Schoolyard Safari

Every organism requires a place to live that satisfies its basic needs for food, water, shelter, and space. Such a place is called a habitat. In this activity, students will go on a safari to explore a nearby habitat – the schoolyard – while looking for signs of animals living there. Join Maine PLT Facilitator, Anita Smith, for a schoolyard safari demo at the China School Forest

Activity 51 – Make Your Own Paper

Students investigate the papermaking process by trying it themselves. Students are thrilled to find that they can make paper and that their product is practical, as well as beautiful. See the PLT website, www.plt.org, to watch a video of the paper-making process used in this Activity.  Click here for a sample lesson plan and other resources for this activity.

THEME:  STRUCTURE & SCALE
Activity 62 – To Be A Tree

By making a tree costume using a paper bag and art supplies, your students will gain an awareness of a tree’s structure and functions.  Visit the National PLT website for a Family Activity page and other resources.

THEME:  PATTERNS OF CHANGE
Activity 76 – Tree Cookies

One way to learn about tree growth is to look at annual rings. Tree rings show patterns of change in the tree’s life as well as changes in the area where it grows. In this Activity, students will trace environmental and historical changes using a cross section of a tree, or “tree cookie.”

Visit the National PLT website for many resources including activity handouts and links.

Watch Maine PLT facilitator Anita Smith in the China Schools Forest  explaining how to be a Tree Detective, using what we learn from her about the rings and markings on stumps and logs to figure out what the lives of trees might have been like.

Here’s an explanation of how tree rings are formed and how they are studied (“Dendrochronology”).

This simulation game lets you build “Tree Cookies” by adding yearly rings under wet or dry conditions, asking you to match the patterns on a tree cookie in the picture.

PLT Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood
Exploring Nature with Five Senses
Activity 1 – The Shape of Things

In these experiences, children will search for the shapes and colors that define both our natural and built environments.  Download the entire activity or a one-page “Family Activity” version of this activity.

Join Maine PLT facilitator, Joanne Alex, by video out in the U. Maine Forest where she reads aloud a story about shapes in the human world, then uses a simple, paper “shape necklace” to hunt for shapes in nature. She demonstrates how to create different shapes out of twigs and then she leaves us with a challenge.

PLT High School Guide: Monitoring Forest Health

Conduct a forest health check-up of a local forest area by examining vital signs indicators, then evaluate the ecological services provided by trees and forests.

Download a free copy of the full activity