SOCIAL CIRCLE — The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is offering a $1,000 grant to a third-, fourth- or fifth-grade public or private school teacher in the state who demonstrates exceptional energy and innovation in teaching life sciences. Science specialists covering those grade levels can also apply.
The Conservation Teacher of the Year grant is coordinated by the Wildlife Conservation Section of DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division. Funding is provided by the section’s friends group, The Environmental Resources Network, better known as TERN.
Through education, research and management, the Wildlife Conservation Section works to safeguard Georgia’s native diversity of wild animals, plants and their habitats, while also striving to increase public enjoyment of the outdoors. The purpose of the grant is to recognize and help an outstanding teacher who uses Georgia’s native wildlife and habitats as the context for learning, explained Linda May, DNR environmental outreach coordinator.
“Georgia is home to an amazing diversity of wildlife,” May said. “We want to support a talented teacher who highlights these natural wonders with his or her students in creative ways.”
Previous recipients covered state curriculum standards through innovative lessons, scientific research and outdoor investigations.
For example, after teacher Karen Garland taught her third-graders at Clark Creek Elementary STEM Academy about the amazing lives of butterflies, she led them through a habitat survey. To the students’ dismay, they realized the Acworth school lacked pollinator habitat. They even noticed that migrating monarchs flew overhead but never stopped at their campus.
To give the butterflies a place to refuel along their journey, students created a garden with native flowering plants that provided rich sources of nectar. In addition to drawing a variety of beneficial insects, the new habitat attracted songbirds and other wildlife. Grant funds were used to buy butterfly field guides and all supplies needed for the garden. Master naturalists, high school agriculture students and other community partners contributed to the effort.
Last year, grant recipient Kimberlie Harris partnered with the science department at Samuel L. Hubbard Elementary in Forsyth to teach Project Soar students about Georgia’s endangered animals. After researching species and learning about threats to their survival, the third-graders in Harris’ “ecoteam to the rescue” created a bat habitat at the school, complete with bat houses and native plants that attract insects for the bats to eat. The project was reported by Macon media, including The Telegraph newspaper and WMAZ-TV, as well as Georgia Farm Bureau, raising awareness about bats in the community.
“As a gifted educator, I typically see students who are engaged and working at exceptional levels, but my students surpassed my wildest imagination when completing this project,” Harris said. “The bat habitat provided a forum in which every child had an opportunity to show off their expertise.”
This fall, another talented teacher will be selected to receive funding based on project design, evaluated through applicant answers to grant proposal questions. Projects that are especially creative and teach about Georgia’s rare or endangered species, as well as solid projects that have no other means of funding, will earn bonus points. Details are available at www.georgiawildlife.com/TeachingConservationGrant.
The deadline to apply is Sept. 6. DNR will notify the grant winner by Sept. 27.