An Atlanta teacher’s proposal to restore a community nature trail has earned her school a $1,000 grant from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
Kendall Xides, STEM teacher at Oak Grove Elementary in DeKalb County, received DNR’s 2021-22 Conservation Teacher of the Year grant, the agency announced today. The annual award goes to a third- through fifth-grade public or private school teacher in Georgia who demonstrates exceptional energy and innovation in teaching life sciences. Funding is provided by The Environmental Resources Network, or TERN, friends group of the DNR Wildlife Conservation Section.
Xides was selected for her Birdsong Nature Trail 30th Anniversary proposal, said Linda May, outreach coordinator with the Wildlife Conservation Section.
“Solid learning objectives, cross-curricular creativity, community partners and a passion for empowering students to conserve wildlife habitat made Kendall Xides’ proposal rise to the top,“ May said.
The funds will be used to replace disintegrating landscape timbers that define the 30-year-old trail and to buy native plants, signage and plant identification markers, and bird nesting boxes. Habitat restoration also will include community-wide workdays to remove invasive non-native plants such as English ivy, privet and nandina. Removing these invasive exotics will allow the natural ecosystem to bounce back more readily.
Xides said she is excited for the resources “needed to restore the Birdsong Nature Trail to a space that is beneficial to our students, community and native wildlife.”
“We hope that during the project, our students, staff and community members gain a better understanding of the importance of conservation and that the Birdsong Nature Trail once again becomes a place where nature and education connect.”
Although third- through fifth-graders are working on the project, the restored nature trail will benefit all students at Oak Grove Elementary as well as community members who use the outdoor space for recreation.
“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.”
The grant is coordinated and proposals are reviewed by DNR Wildlife Conservation Section staff and a member of TERN. The primary mission of TERN, a nonprofit formed in 1992, is to aid in the financial support of the Wildlife Conservation Section and its conservation projects.
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 (georgiawildlife.com/licenseplates).
- Conservation Teacher of the Year grant: georgiawildlife.com/TeachingConservationGrant
- DNR Wildlife Conservation Section: georgiawildlife.com/about/what-we-do
- TERN: tern.homestead.com
- Oak Grove Elementary Birdsong Nature Trail project: ogestem.com/nature-trail-project
- DNR license plates: georgiawildlife.com/licenseplates
GA DNR Wildlife Resources Division