$1,000 grant available to top conservation teacher


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 for the Conservation Teacher of the Year grant, according to the Nongame Conservation Section, part of DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division.

The grant is coordinated by the Nongame Conservation Section and made possible through support from The Environmental Resource Network, or TERN, friends group of the section.

Through education, research and management, Nongame Conservation 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 nongame wildlife as the context for learning, according to Linda May, DNR environmental outreach coordinator.

“Students love learning outdoors,” May said. “Through their natural curiosity, children develop a fondness for wildlife and the places they call home. Ultimately, this awareness and appreciation prompt them to become good environmental stewards – and then our natural resources benefit, too.”

Nongame refers to native animals that are not fished for or hunted and to rare native plants, species such as gopher tortoises and purple pitcherplants.

Previous grant recipients guided student learning through outdoor classrooms.  For example, at Savannah Country Day School, science specialist Bill Eswine and his students turned a large drainage ditch on campus into a bog.  The new habitat was used for wildlife observation and data recording, as well as learning about the potential effects of pollution and other threats to ecosystems.  

More recently, students at Unity Grove Elementary in Locust Grove catalogued the plants and animals found on their school grounds through a “bioblitz.” Fifth-grade teacher Melanie Hartfield coordinated this effort, using the grant to buy naturalist backpacks, binoculars and other supplies. Her students identified their findings, created an e-book and taught the school’s third-graders about wildlife and habitats. Through cross-curricular activities, students gathered valuable information about Georgia’s native and invasive exotic species, gained an appreciation for nature, and became better stewards.   

This fall, another talented teacher will be selected to receive funding based on project design, which will be evaluated through grant proposal questions. Projects that are especially creative and teach about Georgia’s rare or endangered species, as well as those that have no other means of funding, will earn bonus points. See www.georgiawildlife.com/TeachingConservationGrant for details.

The deadline to apply is Sept. 19. DNR will notify the grant winner and award funding in October.  

For more information about the grant, contact Linda May (linda.may@dnr.ga.gov, 706-557-3226) or Anna Yellin (anna.yellin@dnr.ga.gov, 706-557-3283).