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$1,000 DNR grant available for top conservation teacher

SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. - 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 may 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 (TERN), a 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 or hunted, such as gopher tortoises and songbirds, and native plants like flowering dogwoods, coral honeysuckle and purple pitcherplants.

Previous grant recipients guided student learning through outdoor experiences. For example, 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 grant funds 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.  

Last year, third-grade teacher Tiffany Smith was awarded the $1,000 grant for her students’ proposal to create a bog garden out of a regularly flooded area at Samuel E. Hubbard Elementary in Forsyth. Completed during the school year, the bog garden solved a water runoff problem and serves as an outdoor classroom for students to learn about native plant and animal interactions. To make sure the garden will be maintained and used in the future, Smith developed a long-term sustainability plan.

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 solid projects that have no other means of funding, will earn bonus points. See for details.

The deadline to apply is Oct. 16, 2017. DNR will notify the grant winner by Oct. 30, 2017. 

For more information about the grant, please contact Linda May (, 706-557-3226) or Anna Yellin (, 706-557-3283). 

Conservation teacher grant/at a glance

  • $1,000 grant to a Georgia third-, fourth- or fifth-grade public or private school teacher (including science specialists) who demonstrates exceptional energy and innovation in teaching life sciences.
  • Provided by the Georgia DNR Nongame Conservation Section and The Environmental Resource Network, or TERN, friends group of the nongame section.
  • Deadline to apply is Oct. 16. Recipient announced by Oct. 30.
  • For more: or contact Linda May (, 706-557-3226) or Anna Yellin (, 706-557-3283).