Forest Literacy Framework

“It is critically important that we teach students how to be contributing citizens and conscientious stewards of our forestlands.”

Four photos of children and adults learning in nature

A Guide to Teaching and Learning About Forests

PLT Canada’s Forest Literacy Framework translates the complex language of forests, trees, forest practices, and sustainable forest management into concepts that everyone should know by the time they graduate from high school. The framework offers 100 forest concepts for Grades K-12, organized into four themes: What is a forest?, Why do forests matter?, How do we sustain our forests?, and What is our responsibility to forests?

Forest Literacy Framework cover page



Develop Forest-Related Programming for Teachers, Forest Professionals, Landowners, Public Agencies, and Nonprofit Partners

The Forest Literacy Framework is designed to increase people’s understanding of forests and empower them to take actions that benefit forests and people. The framework translates the complex language of forests, trees, forest practices, and sustainable forest management into concepts that everyone should know by the time they graduate from high school.

Forest Literacy Framework - photo 2Forests and our shared future

Now more than ever, people are waking up to the fact that sustainably managed forests offer solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges. Forests mitigate climate change by capturing carbon from the atmosphere and wood products from forests store carbon. Forests help conserve species at risk by providing habitat. Forests also purify air and water and reduce the threat of droughts and floods.

Forests are renewable. They are reliable, regenerative, and restorative. Forests sustain communities and economies by supporting diverse career opportunities and driving economic activity. Providing recreational spaces and sustaining traditional resource uses and places for spiritual renewal are yet other areas where forests play an outsized role.

A framework that uses education to build support for forests

The Forest Literacy Framework represents a vision of forest literacy that was developed by educators, forest sector professionals, conservationists, and academics in the United States and Canada. It embodies a shared aspiration for what everyone should know about our forests.

The Forest Literacy Framework offers 100 forest concepts for Grades K-12 and young professionals, organized into four themes:

  1. What is a forest?
  2. Why do forests matter?
  3. How do we sustain our forests?
  4. What is our responsibility to forests?

Each theme includes topics and concepts that address its central question. The themes and concepts build on each other, enabling individuals to progress from a basic awareness to a deeper understanding of forests.

The Forest Literacy Framework also offers suggestions to explore the following “Hot Topics,” which all relate to current events reliant on environmental concepts, all organized by grade level:

  • Public health
  • Climate change
  • Urban forests
  • Green jobs
  • Wildfire
  • Indigenous connection to land (available in September 2021)

An interdisciplinary approach focused on results

The Forest Literacy Framework provides a conceptual outline for those who educate young people in formal or nonformal settings, create education policy or curricula, or advocate for forests.

  • For classroom teachers, the Forest Literacy Framework offers forest connections to existing curriculum, no matter the subject area, including a strong connection to science. There is also a high level of opportunity for environmental studies, language arts, mathematics, social studies, technology, and more.
  • For forest landowners and managers, the Forest Literacy Framework provides a way support outreach in conservation education initiatives that they undertake, such as forest field days, hosting visitors to their land.
    For public agencies, the Forest Literacy Framework identifies the most important concepts that we want the public to understand about forests and their sustainable management.
  • For students, the Forest Literacy Framework brings relevance to their learning and multiple options for career pathways.

Critical thinking, complex systems, and cross-curricular connections are central to teaching and learning about forests and trees. Forest literacy is a truly interdisciplinary endeavor, with connections from social studies and mathematics to health and business, and many subjects in between.


“When walking through the forest, what do people see? Plants and animals, of course. But if we look deeper, we can spot ecological connections, traditional lands, people and industry, innovation, and solutions to global challenges, among many other things. Our forests are not only beautiful and home to a rich biodiversity, they also help form the structure of our communities, our economy and our cultural identity.  

It’s critical that we, as a society, learn to see and understand these values. Building this awareness requires a broad approach that includes youth, consumers, advocates, economists, scientists, teachers, and many others involved in the forest and conservation sector. Understanding our connection to trees needs to start at an early age and grow throughout our lives. 

As an outdoor educator who is passionate about the role of forests in Canada’s sustainable future, I am so excited about this complementary framework to the K-12 school curriculum. It is a fantastic resource that helps us impart to the next generation the tools and knowledge to really see, value and manage forests sustainably, for the long-term well-being of our country and our planet.”


Secondary School Teacher, Ottawa, Ontario

Project Learning Tree Canada (PLT Canada) believes in a society that values and benefits from sustainably managed forests and the great outdoors. We are committed to using trees and forests as windows on the world to inspire action and grow future forest and conservation leaders. Our environmental education and professional development services, which include high-value work experiences and an industry-leading mentorship program, support youth across Canada on their green career pathways, including those in rural, Indigenous and urban communities.



The panel represents a diverse mix of public and private interests, plus federal, state, and provincial, and we thank them for contributing their expertise. 

Ian Manson
Workforce Development Coordinator, Ontario Ministry of
Natural Resources and Forestry
Norie Dimeo-Ediger
Director of K-12 Education Oregon Forest Resource
Dominic St-Pierre
Director General
Natural Resources Canada
Heather Druffel
Outreach and Education Forester Hancock Natural
Resources Group
Adam Young
Youth Program Coordinator,
Sustainable Development Goals & STEM Scouts Canada
Sharon Jean-Philippe
Associate Professor of Urban Forestry University of
Jim Bowyer
Responsible Materials Program Director Dovetail
Partners, Inc.
Melisa Loewe
Education & Certification Specialist Society of American
Drew Burnett
Senior Advisor
North American Association for Environmental Education
Jonathan Lowery
Sustainability Manager Westervelt
Sam Cook
Executive Director of Forest Assets
NC State University, College of Natural Resources
Ashley Smith
Alabama PLT Coordinator and Alabama SIC Alabama
Forestry Association
Susan Cox
Conservation Education Coordinator, Eastern Region,
State and Private Forestry, USDA Forest Service
Jacey Tosh
Conservation Education Coordinator Texas A&M Forest
Tom Davidson
Creator of The Virtual Leadership System™ and The
Leadership Nature Podcast™