SFI Is Supporting Forest Field Days to Bridge the Gap Between the Classroom and the World Outside

A Walk in the Forest
Why this project matters
The United States is in the middle of one of the most profound and rapid societal shifts in history. Today’s generation of children is the first to spend so much time growing up indoors. Children’s plugged‑in lives are often devoid of chances to explore the natural world. Additionally, if children are detached from nature, how will they learn about, understand, and value nature? How will the next generation care about the land and be stewards of its resources?
The Walk in the Forest Program, from South Dakota Project Learning Tree, uses community forests, local volunteers and resource professionals to provide a forest field day at or near local schools. The field day features active learning experiences allowing students, grades 3 to 12, to explore their local forest, get some exercise, and learn about forestry and other natural resource professions. Environmental education, like the Walk in the Forest Program, provides important opportunities for students to become engaged in real-world issues that transcend classroom walls. They can see the relevance of their classroom studies to the complex environmental issues confronting our planet. They can also acquire the skills they’ll need to be creative problem solvers and powerful advocates for sustainability.
The Walk in the Forest Program is also focused on raising an environmentally conscious generation of problem solvers who will help ensure that tomorrow’s decision-makers are prepared for the challenges and opportunities facing future forests. Studies have shown that environmental education engages students in learning, raises test scores, and encourages youth to pursue careers in environmental and natural resources.
Why is SFI involved?
SFI values this project because it will help youth to better understand responsible resource management and potentially encourage them to pursue a career in sustainable management of our forests. Additionally, the project’s goal to provide an environmental education learning experience for kids from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation dovetails with SFI’s work to engage Indigenous communities.
One of SFI’s priorities is to connect youth to forests through education. We look for ways to instill a lifelong appreciation for the value forests represent for biodiversity, the broader environment, sustainable communities, responsibly sourced forest products and for our shared quality of life. The educational focus of this project also supports SFI’s focus on encouraging the next generation of future forest leaders.
Our work with Boy Scouts of America, Girl Guides of Canada, Scouts Canada, and other youth organizations and school programs like Project Learning Tree and Earth Rangers, helps build healthy kids. It also engages youth in conservation activities and outdoor education.
Our kids’ contact with nature keeps shrinking. Today’s emphasis on screen time and indoor play is also linked to psychological and physical effects like obesity, loneliness, depression and attention problems. Getting kids into forests and helping them learn about sustainability is good for forests and good for kids.
How the project builds SFI community engagement
The Walk in the Forest Program provides the opportunity, materials and tools to teach our youth about the importance of managing our resources sustainably, so forests and other natural resources will continue to provide the services and products we all need. This helps drive home the message that foresters maintain the integrity of the forest while providing benefits for society. The SFI community benefits when positive messages like these are part of the conversation around forest management.
The Walk in the Forest Program also features cooperation with the Dakota Society of American Foresters, the American Tree Farm System and the Black Hills Forest Resource Association, which includes SFI Program Participant Neiman Enterprises. These organizations’ participation in the Walk in the Forest Program is an opportunity to extend the reach of the SFI community and build on positive messages about SFI and responsible forest management.
This partnership includes representatives from the educational and not-for-profit sectors, forest products companies and professional foresters.
  • Project lead: South Dakota Project Learning Tree
  • Sustainable Forestry Initiative
  • Dakota Society of American Foresters
  • Black Hills Forest Resource Association (includes SFI Program Participant Neiman Enterprises)
Related information
About South Dakota Project Learning Tree
Project Learning Tree® (PLT) is an award winning non-profit 501(c)(3), multi-disciplinary environmental education program for educators and students in PreK-grade 12. As a program of the American Forest Foundation, PLT is one of the most widely used environmental education programs in the United States and abroad, and continues to set the standard for environmental education excellence.
South Dakota PLT, the state program for Project Learning Tree, has been a successful program for many years, promoting balanced natural resource education in all areas of the state.