The Leopold Education Project
The Leopold Education Project (LEP) is an innovative, interdisciplinary conservation and environmental education curriculum based on the essays in A Sand County Almanac. Originally created by a Wisconsin high school science teacher, LEP uses Leopold's writings as a springboard for engaging students in natural science curriculum. The nonprofit conservation group Pheasants Forever adopted the curriculum in the early '90s, and LEP became the environmental education arm of the organization. Using their ties with chapter groups across the country, Pheasants Forever organized a robust network of state coordinators and facilitators that could bring the curriculum to teachers nationwide. Over the last twenty years, more than 15,000 educators have attended a LEP workshop! More recently, the original curriculum was expanded to include new activities, incorporate new technologies such as GPS, and facilitate teaching in non-formal educational settings, like nature centers and zoos. Beginning in 2013, LEP has found a new home with the Aldo Leopold Foundation. We are thrilled to welcome the more than twenty state coordinators and countless LEP educators into our fold and look forward to this program’s continued growth! You can purchase some of the Leopold Education Project materials in our bookstore.
Find LEP Educator Workshops and Facilitator workshops in our Calendar of Events!
The Leopold Education Project has an assortment of resources for teachers and non-formal educators to help bring Leopold into their lessons and activities. These resources are available in our bookstore or by taking an LEP Educator Workshop. Look in our Calendar of Events for workshops near you. If you don't see one listed, contact the State Coordinator in your state to make arrangements for one.
Habitat Discovery Series (2015)
The LEP Habitat Discovery Series is designed for use by non-formal educators who want to introduce their students to various habitats, using Aldo Leopold’s inquiry-based method of teaching and learning. The five booklets in this series address desert, forest, wetland, urban, and prairie ecosystems. Each laminated booklet consists of an ecosystem overview, two lesson plans that address habitat, and two lesson plans that address wildlife. Each lesson includes audience, time needed, learning objectives, background information, material lists, procedures, and additional extensions. Booklets can be ordered individually, or as a set. Order in our bookstore.
Leopold Education Project Exploration Cards (2013)
An updated version of the previous LEP Task Cards! A set of 28 cards for educators to use as prompts in helping people of all ages explore the outdoors. Each card features a different activity based on essays from A Sand County Almanac. Order in our bookstore.
Exploring the Outdoors with Aldo Leopold (2009)
Exploring the Outdoors with Aldo Leopold was created as part of the Leopold Education Project to get youth and their families outdoors learning about nature. The hands-on activities are designed to teach observation skills, plant and animal identification, natural history, land stewardship, and outdoors skills. Each one is based on an essay from Aldo Leopold’s classic book, A Sand County Almanac. The 16 activities are organized by themes and include background information, a list of supplies, procedure cards, and handouts. The CD also includes a slide presentation to teach digital photography. This activity guide can be used by interpreters, naturalists, park rangers, zoo educators, teachers, youth group leaders, and others who want to offer a unique learning experience in an outdoor setting.Order in our bookstore.
Lessons in a Land Ethic (1994)
This Leopold Education Project curriculum guide consists of 21 lesson plans designed to align with the essays found in Aldo Leopold’s conservation classic, A Sand County Almanac. Each lesson includes learning objectives, vocabulary, material lists, procedures, additional extensions and student worksheets that have both indoor and outdoor activity options. Order in our bookstore.
Lessons in GPS Technology (2009)
Get your students studying nature using modern technology! The 11 lessons in this new 32-page curriculum will help you teach your students to use GPS receivers and put those skills to use to navigate, track, follow an animal’s path, learn about wildlife, explore an area and construct a map and evaluate different ecological communities. Each lesson includes a quote from A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold, learning outcomes, background information, packing list and a detailed explanation of how to use the lesson to engage, explore, explain and evaluate. Have fun exploring and learning outdoors! Order in our bookstore.
Educating for Environmental Values
The LEP was developed mainly for use by teachers, although other educational groups and private citizens can benefit from the materials. One major premise of the LEP is that Leopold’s writings are both sound science and excellent literature, and that they can be used as a springboard for meaningful environmental education. Whenever possible, students should experience the essays as part of each lesson, either before, during, or after the main activities. Although the over-riding purpose of the lessons is to promote responsible decision making regarding our impact on ecosystems, the developers do not advocate particular positions on value-sensitive issues such as hunting, using wetlands, applying pesticides and herbicides, or any others. The LEP’s underlying theory about these controversial topics is that given a supportive classroom climate to study a variety of positions and viewpoints, students will develop responsible environmental values on their own. Responsible values include the sustaining of natural cycles, the preserving of plant and animal species, and the exercising of caution before changing ecosystems in major ways without careful study of future consequences.
Appreciating & Understanding the Land
Leopold believed that people should learn how to discover beauty in commonplace events and places. He saw aesthetics as a measure of how we view the rightness or wrongness of our actions and believed that people were motivated to act by both beauty and duty in natural communities. When we view the components of land: soil, water, plants, and animals (including humans) as members of the same community, we are more likely to make decisions that allow natural cycles to continue to renew themselves.
Leopold advocated a harmonious relationship between humans and the components of the earth as a way to achieve land health. When we extend moral considerations beyond humans to include soil, water, plants, and non-human animals, we develop a personal environmental ethic. With this type of ethic, we are more likely to choose a lifestyle that continually re-examines our relationship to the land, and by placing rational restraints upon ourselves, the critical earth cycles are more likely to be preserved. Through reading about Leopold’s recorded discoveries and participating in meaningful activities, students will expand their awareness and appreciation of nature and their ecological understandings.
Providing Direct Experiences – Teaching outdoors
Another major premise underlying the LEP is that educators should provide students direct experiences with the natural and cultural worlds outside the school. One way to accomplish this is to make greater use of the outdoors as a learning laboratory. Whenever possible, the developers recommend first-hand contact with human and non-human nature. Modern learning theory supports an experimental approach that allows students to construct meanings from their activities and to develop concepts and skills based on their past knowledge.
In order to promote critical thinking, teachers should provide students with opportunities to explore the world directly. Even in heavily populated suburban and urban areas, a wide array of useful resources can be found outside. Leopold believed that “…the weeds in a city lot convey the same lesson as the redwoods.” The LEP encourages teachers to adapt lessons to suit not only particular students and settings, but also various teaching and learning philosophies. In order to be effective, the LEP lessons must be viewed as flexible guides to important knowledge about how the world works and how we function on the planet. We encourage creativity and experimentation in using these lessons in a variety of subject matter areas.
Written by Clifford E. Knapp, Retired Northern Illinois University.