In the words of a great American poet, Mark Van Doren, "The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery." Karen Garland certainly hasn't gone unseen for her passion of assisting discovery. You may know her from social media as she was featured wearing her CCEF shirt all the way in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland. Or perhaps you heard of her receiving the Teacher of the Year Award at Clark Creek Elementary School STEM Academy in 2019. Most recently, she has continuously proven her success as she was selected to serve on a statewide science education board.
As a science lab teacher, Ms. Garland was asked to serve on the Environmental Education Alliance (EEA) of Georgia's board as its Council of Outdoor Learning Chair. The mission of the EEA is to "promote communication and enrichment among professions in the field of environmental education through partnerships, initiatives, and access to knowledge and experiences." Being the Outdoor Learning Chair, Garland has the opportunity to promote environmental education on an even larger level.
Wanting to rebuild capacity for outdoor learning, EEA approached Ms. Garland because of her background in environmental education and her current role as a classroom teacher. As a chairperson, she will have the opportunity to plan the annual outdoor learning symposium which will provide an opportunity for teachers, leaders, instructors, camp counselors, and more to share ideas for getting students outside to learn.
Ms. Garland has always had a passion for teaching others and learning. Though this passion was deep-rooted, she found herself pursuing a different path after high school. She earned her B.S. in Biology from Kennesaw State University and went on to work at the Chattahoochee Nature Center. This experience directly impacted Garland as she came to realize the level of interest people had when learning about the natural world and our connection to it.
Several years later, she began writing environmental curricula and offering professional development around the state for the Georgia Conservancy. Over the years, she learned of teachers wanting to integrate their lessons with the outdoor experiences. This became her passion as she provided teachers all over the state with the resources they needed to create, utilize, and maintain outdoor spaces.
As Garland became more and more involved with teachers, she decided to get a Master of Arts in Education from Reinhardt University. After obtaining this degree, she began teaching third grade at Clark Creek Elementary. She was placed in the Discovery Science Lab and has been there for seven years where she is able to have the campus and garden as an extension to her classroom.
"I have seen firsthand a definite benefit of using outdoor spaces." Said Ms. Garland, "For many reluctant learners, they fail to see the relevance to what is being taught to their life. Therefore, self-efficacy starts with students believing that what they are working on is meaningful. Thankfully, outdoor lessons can be used as a springboard to capture a student's curiosity, imagination, or attention. Yes, learning can be fun!"
There's so much to be said for getting outdoors and experiencing those "ah-ha!" moments. Thanks to Ms. Karen Garland, students at Clark Creek get to do just that. The Cherokee County Educational Foundation is so proud of Ms. Garland and all of the ways she has represented the CCSD well.