The agency recently announced that Karen Garland, K-5 Discovery Science Lab teacher at Clark Creek Elementary STEM Academy in Acworth, will receive the 2017 Conservation Teacher of the Year grant. The award is given annually to a third- through fifth-grade public or private school teacher in Georgia who demonstrates exceptional energy and innovation in teaching life sciences.
The grant is made possible with funding from The Environmental Resources Network, or TERN, friends group of DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section. The section, part of the agency’s Wildlife Resources Division, conducts the contest and reviews proposals.
Garland was selected for her Campaigning for Pollinators proposal, which she said was inspired by her students’ idea to convert a monoculture of grass outside their school into a healthy habitat for pollinators such as butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. Students will design the garden, plant native perennials and record the pollinator species observed in a citizen science database. A field guide of butterfly host and nectar plants will be created for use in the media center. Also, as part of the school’s STEM Day in May, students will grow and distribute milkweed (the only host plant for monarch butterflies) and educational brochures to the community.
“Clark Creek Elementary is dedicated to fostering all students’ innate curiosity by empowering them to be independent problem-solvers through a variety of opportunities,” Garland said. “Through this approach, students see how classroom subjects relate to the real world.”
Linda May, environmental outreach coordinator for the Nongame Conservation Section, said that committee members reviewing the grant proposals “loved that Mrs. Garland’s project is student-driven.”
“Third-graders saw butterflies flying overhead, but the butterflies never stopped at the school since there was nothing there for them to eat or drink,” May said. “The students understood the importance of pollinators and wanted to help, so they thought of ways to provide suitable habitat at their school.”
Cross-curricular creativity, student collaboration across grade levels and in-kind donations that leveraged grant funds also made Garland’s proposal stand out, according to May.
Additional support for the project will come from Lowe’s, Save Our Monarchs, Cherokee County Master Gardeners and Monarchs Across Georgia. Students will share the responsibilities of watering, weeding and gathering data. Garland is confident the garden will serve as an outdoor classroom that benefits students and pollinators for years to come.
Through education, research and management, the Nongame Conservation Section works to safeguard and restore the diversity of nongame wildlife (animals not legally fished for or hunted), rare plants and natural habitats, while also striving to increase public enjoyment of the outdoors. The agency’s work is funded largely by grants, direct donations and fundraisers such as sales and renewals of Georgia’s eagle and hummingbird license plates.
- Conservation Teacher of the Year grant: www.georgiawildlife.com/TeachingConservationGrant
- Backyard Butterflies: www.georgiawildlife.com/backyard-butterflies
- “Exploring Georgia’s Wildlife” coloring book: www.georgiawildlife.com/ColoringBook
- TERN: http://tern.homestead.com
- Nongame Conservation Section: www.georgiawildlife.com/about/what-we-do
- Support nongame wildlife – buy or renew a tag: www.georgiawildlife.com/licenseplates