Written by Chelsea York | Education Conservation Coordinator

Back-to-school time is well underway, and though the traditional school bus and in-class learning model has changed, the season still signifies a focus on education. Both formal and non-formal educators – including parents – are facing the challenge of effectively teaching in unusual circumstances.

Whether it’s in a virtual class or at a kitchen table, now more than ever, it is important that we educate the future generation of decision-makers and others about the importance of our natural resources. At the Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC), our mission is to provide leadership, service, and education to protect and conserve Georgia’s forest resources. Did you know that we have a wealth of information and educational resources that can assist you in integrating forestry and natural resources into your lessons? No matter what grade level or audience you’re working with, we have resources for you.

Free downloadable lesson plans and a wealth of resources are available. Worksheets for younger (K-5) students can help them discover more about the forest and other related topics. These can be integrated into corresponding lesson plans or used as stand-alone activities. Download the video “A Tree’s Dream” and the accompanying lesson plans for grades 3 – 8 to address ways to conserve the earth’s natural resources and protect the environment. Lesson plans follow the 5E Model of Instruction, an approach to designing learning sequences and opportunities that allow students to engage, explore, explain, elaborate, and evaluate content presented. The lessons also correlate to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which are K-12 science content standards that outline what students should know and be able to do, given the grade level. NGSS has been adopted by several states, and though Georgia is not one of them, these standards connections can be cross-walked with the Georgia Standards of Excellence (GSE).

Career planning tools are available also. “Green careers” can be integrated into lessons with the interactive booklet, “People of Forestry: Discover Careers in the Forest.” This fun publication is designed for grades 3 – 5 and is aligned to essential knowledge and skills in science and mathematics. Middle and high school students will enjoy Georgia Public Broadcasting’s “Make That Paper!” and Project Learning Tree’s “Green Jobs: Exploring Forest Careers.” To take those concepts a step further, GFC foresters and rangers are available to speak to your students and share first-hand knowledge and experiences about their careers in forestry.

If you’re seeking a deeper dive, we’ve got tools for that, too. The GFC is a proud sponsor and administrator of Project Learning Tree (PLT) in Georgia. PLT is an award-winning environmental education program designed for teachers and other educators, parents, and community leaders working with youth from preschool through grade 12. PLT’s materials revolve around hands-on activities that connect children to nature and actively engage them in learning and investigating. PLT offers professional development opportunities and free resources for educators! PLT’s newest guide, “Explore Your Environment K-8,” contains 50 activities that are correlated to state standards and can easily be integrated into established curriculums.

Smokey Bear continues to make a big impression on students of all ages. As one of the most recognizable characters in the world, Smokey Bear is available to make personal visits for wildfire prevention education. Smokey also has his own website that provides resources for elementary and middle school educators and a kid’s corner where they can design a coloring book and more.

These are just a few of the resources you have access to with just a few clicks, but what we offer doesn’t stop there. When available, we can also come to your school or organization to speak with students about forestry and natural resources. Check out our YouTube Channel, GeorgiaTrees, for supplemental video resources, from career-focused videos to educational videos on different forestry and environmental topics. No matter where you are in the state, we have an office near you! Visit the “Learn & Explore” portion of our website at gatrees.org/learn-explore for more information on programs, resources, Project Learning Tree, and more.