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Teacher Represents Tennessee Educators at International Conference

Thursday, July 03, 2014 | 07:32am

NASHVILLE – Marsha Parsons, 5th grade teacher at Whiteville Elementary, was one of two Tennesseans who joined 120 environmental educators from 46 states, Japan, Mexico and Puerto Rico at Project Learning Tree’s International Conference in Traverse City, Mich. in May. Parsons was selected based on her work using the environment and hands-on teaching techniques to instruct students in math, language arts and science in a fun way. 

Project Learning Tree (PLT) is an award-winning environmental education program designed for teachers, parents, and community leaders working with youth from preschool through grade 12. PLT is coordinated and managed by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry and the Tennessee Forestry Association in association with Tennessee Department of Education’s and Environment and Conservation’s CENTS program.

“At Whiteville, I take my students outdoors, where there is a grape vine hanging off a tree near a creek,” Parsons said. “My students use the scientific method in observations, asking questions, creating hypothesis, and drawing conclusions about the grapevine. Each time we go outside, the students monitor the grapevine progress and the production of grapes. We also use this time to describe the demographics of our neighborhood and community, along with finding small trees and completing a circumference of the tree. It’s an amazing process for me, as well as for them.”

She attended her first PLT workshop in the fall 2011 and then attended the Tennessee Teacher Conservation Workshop in the summer 2012 at Pickwick, Tenn. where she learned more about conservation education. In March 2013 Marsha attended a PLT facilitator’s workshop where she was trained to instruct educators to use the PLT activities and assessments. Since that training, she has helped conduct several other PLT sessions.

“I knew I wanted to become more engaged in the world around me, nature, the outdoors, gardening, and organics,” Parsons said. “PLT has helped me accomplish all of this and my students have thanked me many times for taking them outdoors!”

During the conference, Parsons participated in professional development for state and international PLT leaders, and shared new ideas, tools, and models of success. This year discussions focused on updating professional educator development models and curriculum materials. Three general sessions, twelve concurrent, twelve interactive sessions, and regional meetings provided important professional development for PLT state coordinators and other participants.

One of conference high points was being able to engage local elementary school students.

“With all this information, I am able to return with so much information to complete hands on activities with my students including recycling and other ‘green’ school projects.”

For more information about Project Learning Tree, contact state PLT coordinator Dave Walters at Also visit For more information about other programs and services of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture visit

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