CCSD Teacher Named Georgia Conservation Teacher of the Year!

CCSD Teacher Named Georgia Conservation Teacher of the Year!

Category : CCSD

monarch butterfly

A Cherokee County School District teacher has been named the Georgia Conservation Teacher of the Year!

Clark Creek Elementary School STEM Academy Discovery Science Lab teacher Karen Garland has won the state title and a $1,000 grant from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

The award, made possible with funding from The Environmental Resources Network, is given annually to one third- through fifth-grade public or private school teacher in Georgia who demonstrates exceptional energy and innovation in teaching life sciences.

Karen Garland

Ms. Garland will use the grant to begin the “Campaigning for Pollinators” project, which was inspired by her students’ idea to convert a monoculture of grass outside their school into a healthy habitat for pollinators like butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.

“Clark Creek Elementary is dedicated to fostering all students’ innate curiosity by empowering them to be independent problem-solvers through a variety of opportunities,” Ms. Garland said. “Through this approach, students see how classroom subjects relate to the real world.”

Through the project, students will design the garden, plant native perennials and record the species observed to a citizen science database. Students will share the responsibilities of watering, weeding, and gathering data. A field guide of butterfly host and nectar plants will be created for use in the media center. 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.

“We love that Mrs. Garland’s project is student-driven. Third-graders saw butterflies flying overhead, but they never stopped since there was nothing there for them to eat or drink,” said Linda May, DNR Environmental Outreach Coordinator. “The students understood the importance of pollinators and wanted to help, so they thought of ways to provide suitable habitat at their school.”

The judges were impressed by the project’s cross-curricular creativity, student collaboration across grade levels and in-kind donations. The project also will be funded with donations from Lowe’s, Cherokee County Master Gardeners, Save Our Monarchs and Monarchs Across Georgia.

Ms. Garland will be recognized by the Cherokee County School Board and Superintendent of Schools at the Nov. 16 Board meeting.