A Banks County teacher’s proposal to create a wildlife garden and outdoor classroom earned her school a $1,000 grant from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
The agency announced today that Dr. Wendy Fuschetti at Banks County Elementary received the 2020–21 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.
Fuschetti was selected for her Learning in the Lab of Life proposal, according to Linda May, an outreach coordinator with DNR. “Cross-curricular creativity, community partners and a zeal for empowering students to conserve wildlife made Dr. Fuschetti’s proposal rise to the top,” May said.
The third-grade teacher said she and her students are “excited and appreciative” about the grant award. The funds will be used to buy native plants for pollinators and woodworking materials.
“My students are the designers, creators, planners and constructors of the wildlife garden and outdoor classroom,” Fuschetti said. “They will build bird houses, add feeders, design and install the garden, and develop a working space for outdoor learning.”
Although third-graders are in charge of creating and maintaining the wildlife garden, all 700 students at Banks County Elementary will benefit from the outdoor learning area.
“Nature provides a wonderful context for learning all subjects, not just science,” May said. “Research shows that spending time outside yields other benefits for students, too, such as reduced stress levels, lower rates of depression, and improved focus and problem-solving skills.”
Funding for the grant is provided by The Environmental Resources Network, or TERN, friends group of the DNR Wildlife Conservation Section. DNR Wildlife Conservation staff and a TERN member conduct the contest and review proposals.
Through education, research and management, the Wildlife Conservation Section works to safeguard and restore the diversity of native 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 bald eagle and monarch butterfly license plates