Introducing, Junior Nature Explorers!

Anyone who has or works with young children these days has surely noticed a trend where kids spend less and less of their time outdoors. Some blame the prevalence of screens in the home. Some blame “helicopter parenting,” which is shorthand for parents who hover over their kids and try to remove any sort of danger or obstacle they might face. And some blame the idea that the sense of community that defined many of our neighborhoods, towns, and cities has degraded to the point that it’s not safe to let our children play outdoors without adult supervision.

Whatever the reasons for this trend, the results are often the same – most young children have less experience being outdoors in nature. In the past few years, there’s even been a new term created to describe this: Nature Deficit Disorder.

At Bluegrass Greensource, we believe that the outdoors and nature make the best classrooms, particularly when it comes to reaching young minds early on and connecting them with a sense of wonder and curiosity about our natural systems. For many years, we have been developing a program that encourages preschool children and their teachers to get outdoors more and use the natural world around them as a classroom. This summer, because of a generous grant from Norfolk Southern, we are happy to finally bring this new program – the Junior Nature Explorers Program – to life.

“As the mother of a preschooler, I am extremely excited about this new program,” says Amy Sohner, Bluegrass Greensource’s Executive Director. “I see how much my daughter responds to discovering worms under rocks and veins in tree leaves. Junior Nature Explorers will expose preschoolers in Central Kentucky to the wonders of nature and show preschool teachers how to use the areas outside their buildings to inspire exploration.”

Simple in design, the Junior Nature Explorer Program has two parts. In the first phase, Greensource educators will provide three in-depth lessons to preschoolers, guiding them as they play, explore, and learn about the world around them. After completing the series of lessons, each student will be awarded a Junior Nature Explorer certificate and given their very own Explorer Kit, which will include books used in the program, a magnifying glass, binoculars, and nature journal. The second part of the program involves working with the teachers to help them better incorporate outdoor learning into their curricula. After completion of the program, classrooms will receive an Explorer Resource Kit that is filled with all of the materials used in the program, as well as a detailed packet that includes all of the lessons. This is being done to ensure that the participating teachers can continue to replicate these lessons for future classes.

“Every time we go outside, there is an opportunity to learn about something new in our natural world,” says environmental educator Kara Sayles, who has been working with young children at Bluegrass Greensource for nine years. “Exposing children at a young age to environmental education can help them understand the world around them. It can help them develop a sense of place, allowing them to utilize their innate, natural curiosity to develop a life-long desire to learn.”

If you are a preschool educator, or know a preschool educator, who would like to participate in this program, please contact our education director, Pattie Stivender at to register or learn more about our early childhood education offerings.

For more information about Bluegrass Greensource education programs, check out the video below!


Stream Days at the Academy for Leadership at Millcreek Elementary

IMG_3916Millcreek has a wonderful tradition of having Stream Days twice a year. On these days, every student learns to appreciate the stream that they have behind their school. By seeing the creatures that live there and exploring their school’s landscape, students discover why the health of water matters to everyone and everything and how they can help to keep water clean.

This year kindergarten through second grade went on a wildlife safari where they saw animals that used the stream, including ducks, minnows, and even some aquatic insects.  Third through fifth grade were in the gym due to weather. However, with the help of experiential education extraordinaire and Children’s Garden Education Coordinator at the Arboretum, Emma Trestor-Wilson, the creek was brought to them! They shifted through leaf packets and rocks to discover that a lot of creatures live at the bottom of stream! After that, students played a game with a parachute (remember the multi-colored parachute you used in gym class?) where they tried to clean the litter out of Millcreek and other pollutants out of larger bodies of water. It was wonderful to see students so engaged in an activity where they were practicing cleaning a stream!

The stream itself has gone through a major transformation. It began as nothing more than “eroding, urban ditch” but was restored to “improve water quality, create habitat for animals and aquatic life, and create a facility for environmental education,” according to the sign at Millcreek. This was a major effort put together by 17 agencies and businesses including Toyota, Kentucky Fish and Wild, Ecogro and more!

Millcreek continues to provide a wonderful opportunity for their students to get outside and appreciate nature! The students there truly have something special!  Not only do they have the stream, they have a committed staff.  This includes the teachers, especially Ms. Snowden, who organized the event, and Coach Parr who was so concerned about the litter we found at the creek from stormwater runoff that he led a group of students to do a litter clean up, and an administration that are committed to environmental education. Nice work, Millcreek!


BGGS Open House

There was a flurry of activity and much excitement as Bluegrass Greensource Educators hosted an open house for educators in the Bluegrass area.  Educators and students were given the opportunity to learn about environmental activities and materials available to the public.  While teachers and educators discussed lessons and upcoming events students participated in hands-on activities.  The recycled jewelry table was crowded with older students making earrings and bracelets.  Younger students made animal track books to take home.  Recycled hover crafts made from CDs and bottle caps were a big hit with all age groups!  BGGS educators also modeled how to host a waste free event by using compostable and/or reusable tableware.  If you weren’t able to attend but would like information about activities and materials available to the public please contact Pattie Stivender, our Education Director.

See photos from our event on our Facebook page!


Preschool Programs: We’ll Bring the Science to You!

Bluegrass Greensource is pleased to extend the LiveGreenLexington Program to reach preschools and childcare centers in Fayette County. At Greensource, we believe young children need to be given the chance to fall in love with the natural world before we ask them to save it.

Our programs for early childhood include the same overarching themes as school agers, such as water, waste reduction, and energy conservation, but weigh heavily on science investigations, observations and inquiry. Designing programs that act as in-classroom field trips, Greensource educators are eager to bring the wonders of science to early childhood education.

Here is what an early childhood teacher has to say about our programs:

“Our children became the “enforcers” at home about water use, what recycles, turning off switches and litter. Personally and professionally I think we have to teach them these habits early.” – Ann McKinley, Calvary MDO and Preschool

We are currently seeking additional preschools and childcare centers who would like to participate in our free programming. For more information, please view our program flyer.


LiveGreenLexington School Partners Recognized for Outstanding Efforts in Sustainability

Students from across Fayette County marked Earth Day 2015 by holding up each other’s green initiatives and successes, and dozens of schools received banners touting this year’s sustainability achievements. Forty-two public and private schools attended this year’s recognition ceremony.

The big highlight for Morton Middle was designation as a Kentucky Green & Healthy School. (Only two others in FCPS have reached this level – Henry Clay High in 2010 and Jessie Clark Middle in 2012.) Meanwhile, Bryan Station Middle celebrated its selection as a 2015 Green Ribbon School. (Others that have received this national honor were Wellington Elementary in 2014, Locust Trace AgriScience Center in 2013 and Rosa Parks Elementary in 2012.) Providence Montessori Middle School received recognition as Bluegrass Greensource’s volunteers of the year.

This year’s ceremony was held at the Kentucky Theatre where the students learned of LFUCGs green initiatives from Susan Plueger, director for the Division of Environmental Services.  Mayor Jim Gray congratulated teachers and students for their sustainability efforts.  The Bluegrass Youth Sustainability Council shared their project committee work – noting that students from eight public and private high schools worked together to achieve their goals.

The council’s facilitator, senior Millie Ma of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, delivered an impassioned speech that inspired the crowd.   “Through the interconnected networks we have formed, we can make a difference. It is up to our generation to shift the trajectory and realign our priorities,” Millie said. “Our dedication to improving sustainability will undoubtedly translate into a life-long commitment. We aren’t just the leaders of tomorrow. We are the leaders of today, and we are the key to a better planet.”

Awards included congratulations from Live Green Lexington (LFUCG and Bluegrass Greensource) to its recycling, water and energy partner schools; kudos from FCPS for E=USE2 participants; nods from Kentucky Green & Healthy Schools and Kentucky NEED (National Energy Education Development project); and “Excellence in Water Education” prizes presented by Kentucky American Water. In a new twist on the latter, 10 schools submitted public service announcements on the value of quality water from river to tap, and four were selected to receive water bottle refilling stations: Cardinal Valley, Julius Marks and Wellington elementaries and SCAPA at Bluegrass.