School Site Investigation

School Site Investigation

School Site Investigation (Activities)   Free Add to cart

The grounds that surround a school building can have an important impact on student health and learning. Outdoor areas can be utilized as outdoor classrooms, or to plant a garden, conduct experiments, or as places to read, relax, play sports, and connect with nature. Outdoor areas also provide many environmental benefits and ecosystem services. For example, having trees around a school can improve the quality of the air that students breathe.

Project Learning Tree’s School Site Investigation is one of five hands on, student-driven investigations at the heart of PLT's GreenSchools program where students investigate natural habitats, wildlife, trees, grounds maintenance practices, and ways to make improvements to their school site.

PLT's GreenSchools program inspires students to improve the environment at their school, at home, and in their community. Student-led Green Teams apply STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) to create greener and healthier schools—and save schools money!

In the School Site Investigation, students assess their school grounds on the basis of various criteria. Using the data collected from the Investigation, students can develop action projects to improve the school site to make it a more sustainable, healthier, and safer environment.

Examples of Students’ Action Plans: Students convert paved areas to green spaces; build outdoor classrooms; improve wildlife habitat; plant pollinator gardens; establish vegetable gardens; start farm-to-school programs; and plant and care for trees that help capture and store carbon and provide shade to cool buildings, among other benefits.

Visit Project Learning Tree’s website to read stories of students’ action projects. Hear from students about their green school’s journey, and from teachers about lessons they learned along the way, as well as their tips for others interested in implementing similar projects.

Get all five GreenSchools Investigations here which includes:

  • Adult Leader Guide – Information on the benefits of becoming a green school, who to involve, how to form a Green Team, the steps to take to support students in conducting the Investigations, STEM connections and suggestions for additional activities to enhance each Investigation topic. 
  • Energy Investigation - Students investigate how much energy their school uses, the main sources of that energy, and ways to implement energy-saving strategies.
  • Environmental Quality Investigation - Students investigate areas where improvements can be made in indoor air quality, transportation, chemical use, and more.
  • School Site Investigation - Students investigate natural habitats, wildlife, trees, grounds maintenance practices, and ways to make improvements to their school site.
  • Waste & Recycling Investigation - Students investigate how much waste their school generates and where it goes, as well as recycling and composting efforts.
  • Water Investigation - Students investigate the source, cost, and quality of their school's water supply, and ways to enhance current water conservation practices.


“PLT’s GreenSchools School Site Investigation will help you map your school site, inventory the plants and animals, and assess ways the school grounds can be used for outdoor learning.”

 – Annie Hermansen-Baez, Science Delivery and Kids in the Woods Coordinator for the U.S. Forest Service, Gainesville, FL


“Our seventh-graders have accomplished great things since we started with the PLT GreenSchools program. We’ve made major strides in making our school greener using activities from the School Site, Energy, and Waste and Recycling Investigations. Thanks to their efforts, we are now the number one school in our district for energy conservation.”

– Jill Henrie, Neil Richards, and Kelly Flindt, 7th grade science teachers, Owasso Seventh Grade Center, Owasso, OK

“Through PLT GreenSchools, students examine the impact of the school on the environment and then design and carry out activities related to their findings. Students—even at this young age—can carry out rigorous, data-based audits.”

– Tanya Ackerman, 5th Grade Teacher, Bicentennial School, Nashua, NH