Maine Project Learning Tree coordinator Lena Ives (left) presents Anita Smith (right) the inaugural Anita Smith Stewardship Award

With a small gathering of colleagues and friends, Anita Smith, retiring Project Learning Tree Steering Committee Chair, received the newly renamed Anita Smith Stewardship Award from Maine Project Learning Tree (PLT). The award was renamed to honor Anita’s decades of dedication to outdoor, forest-based, and PLT education across the state of Maine. The award will be presented annually to those who have contributed significantly to the mission of Maine PLT and its goals of increased awareness of the forest, its dynamic ecological systems, and the human dimensions of forest resource management.

Over the course of her career, Anita has worked extensively with other educators and classrooms throughout the state of Maine to share techniques, resources, and curricula to make outdoor, forest-based education more accessible. Anita also received the National PLT Outstanding Educator Award at the National conference in 2003 and has continued to exemplify all the award represents. We in Maine are proud to have Anita’s name on the list of national teacher exemplars.

Students enjoying the China School Forest

Barry Burgason, a previous Maine PLT Steering Committee Chair and long-time PLT facilitator shared, “during my almost four decades with Maine PLT, Anita Smith has been one of the most dedicated disciples and administrators of the program. Teacher Anita used PLT lessons and the forest on an almost daily basis, and she spread the gospel to her fellow teachers and administrators. During her long tenure as a member of the PLT steering committee, including many years as chair, she has put more volunteer time and effort into running and maintaining the quality of Maine PLT than anyone I know.”

Anita’s efforts in establishing, managing, and growing the China School Forest allowed the 50-acre forest with 20 different outdoor classrooms to become integral in incorporating outdoor and place-based environmental learning in the China School System and with the local community. 

Elaine Philbrook, a China Schools educator who collaborated with Anita to create the China Schools Forest, remarked that Anita has an “abundance of knowledge and an unmatchable passion for nature which she has shared with enthusiasm and endless hours with children and adults throughout the state of Maine and beyond. She may be moving away, but she will always be with us, young and older, for instilling that ‘sense of wonder’ in us for the natural world.”

Maine PLT and the environmental education community are sending Anita endless gratitude for all her creativity and dedication over the years and wish her the best in her relocation to the forests of Tennessee. 

Christine Anderson-Moorhouse, a former Maine PLT Coordinator, concluded, “The true sign of [Anita’s] enduring success, it seems to me, is the way that her legacy will continue on in these programs despite her own “moving on.” Anita has always taken the time to collaborate broadly and to share her work with others such that the programs can remain strong and continue long into the future.”

Anita Smith presenting PLT activities during a PLT For Tree Farmers event in January 2020

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