Sixteen teachers from around Georgia attended a five-day professional development workshop at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia June 8-12. Participants were selected from a competitive pool of applicants to attend the Garden Earth Naturalist (GEN) program.

During the workshop, participants learned about their school’s ecosystem and ways to teach children about nature by taking instruction outside. The workshop included both classroom lectures and hands-on activities in the garden.

“I’ve always enjoyed being in nature and exploring, as well as teaching science and conducting experiments,” said Christine Neeley, a teacher at Dacula Academy in Gwinnett County. “After the GEN workshop, I have a new found respect for the ecosystems surrounding me. I feel my students will greatly benefit from the inspiration I have been given through gardening activities, soil explorations and more.”

The GEN program is taught by Anne Shenk, director of education at the State Botanical Garden, Carol Hoffman, education specialist, and Scott Connelly, assistant professor, both from the Odum School of Ecology.

Following the workshop, teachers continue their work by developing an implementation plan to integrate GEN resources into their yearly instructional program. Upon completion, teachers earn five professional learning unit credits.

The GEN program is a collaboration of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia and the Odum School of Ecology. It is federally funded by the Teacher Quality Program for the Improvement of Math and Science Education. To learn more, visit