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Brookwood High School science teacher Carrie Settles Livers, right, helps seniors Ellie Schutter, center, and Michael Hopf tend to plants on Thursday at Brookwood High School.

A Brookwood science teacher who operates an aquaponics lab in her classroom was recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency for her innovative approach to teaching environmental science.

Carrie Settles Livers is the only teacher in Georgia to be recognized with the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators, which recognizes teachers from kindergarten through 12th grade for using the environment as a context for learning for their students.

Settles Livers receives a Presidential Award plaque and an award of up to $2,500 to be used to further professional development in environmental education along with a congratulatory letter from a senior official from EPA and the White House. Gwinnett County Public Schools will will also receive up to $2,500 to fund environmental educational activities and programs.

Up to two teachers from each of EPA’s 10 regions, from different states, were selected to receive this award. The White House Council on Environmental Quality in partnership with the EPA aims to honor, support and encourage educators who incorporate environmental education in their classrooms and teaching methods.

In a Natural Resource Management Course, Brookwood students operate an aquaponics lab and harvest the produce with an entrepreneurial mindset. The produce has been produced and sold at events such as the Lilburn Farmers Market to help raise money for other academic experiences.

“Instead of just having a school garden, we decided we want to fuse (Ag-STEM) with the entrepreneur mindset,” she told the Daily Post earlier this year. “I wanted this program to be sustainable to have seed money to feed people year after year.”

During the aquaponics project, her students learn about the importance of sustainable farming practices and how agricultural farming using scientific concepts of genetics, botany, physics, and environmental engineering can help tackle issues that contribute to food deserts in their community.

The course also provides students with examples of career opportunities in environmental science. The National Sales Director from Organic Valley Farms spoke to students about the company’s sustainable business model. The Chief Executive Officer of Hatponics, which produced the equipment for Brookwood’s lab, shared the story of his startup company.

A representative from the University of Georgia’s extension center discussed fall gardening practices, water consulting firm contracted by Gwinnett County spoke about water conservation and the City of Snellville’s Economic Development Advisor spoke about his honey bee farm and concerns of colony collapse disorder.

Settles Livers has also been named to the University of Georgia’s 40 Under 40 list, was a recipient of a Leavey Award for Excellence in Private Enterprise Education and has organized applications for grants to fund Brookwood environmental science projects.

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Taylor Denman is a reporter born and raised in Gwinnett County. He came back home to seize the rare opportunity of telling stories about the county in which he grew up.

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