Dupree Outdoor Days Connect Garrard and Jessamine County Students to Nature


“Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart. If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.”

― Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

The Nature Conservancy’s newest Kentucky nature preserve invites people to connect with nature in order to deepen their understanding, appreciation, and support for Kentucky’s lands and waters. Schools in the area responded to that invitation with a resounding yes! During the month of October, approximately 400 students from Garrard and Jessamine Counties visited Dupree Nature Preserve to experience outdoor learning days.


The focus of the outdoor learning days was to allow children the opportunity to explore the trails of the preserve while learning about environmental subjects. Students attended sessions that highlighted Kentucky animals, watersheds and water quality, orienteering, tree identification, and raft construction with the goal of developing knowledge and skills by participating in real-life projects. Students were able to connect to their local environment and learn the importance of stewardship of their community’s natural resources.

Although favorite activities varied from student to student, raft building received the most enthusiastic response. This activity highlighted the ferry that was once found on the preserve. Water travel was important to the settlers that lived here, as it allowed them to ship their goods to a wider market. The questions posed to the students were: How did the settlers cross the river? How did they send and receive goods in this setting? Students were challenged to use natural materials to construct a raft that could transport goods in the absence of a ferry.

One student summed up her experience as the buses were leaving by shouting “Thank you! We had a great day!” Bluegrass Greensource would like to thank Toyota for funding Dupree Outdoor Days and TNC volunteer Ken Brooks for coordinating the events. We had a great day, too!



‘Summer is coming’ mantra means finding fun ways to keep it green

This type of green camping is described as "leave no trace" and certainly more green than big Airstream trailers with wifi, television and toilets. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)Summer is coming. If you happen to be a Game of Thrones fan, you are well versed in the “Winter is coming” mantra of the people from the North. However, since we in Kentucky have experienced way more winter than we care to for a few years, I think changing the mantra to “Summer is coming” is much better.

And it is.

This type of green camping is described as “leave no trace” and is certainly more green than big Airstream trailers with wifi, television and toilets. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Saturday, June 21, marks the first day of official summer, though many have been wearing white pants and shoes (a winter fashion “don’t”) since Memorial Day.

So how can we remain environmentally conscious during the hottest season? It is more than wearing less and drinking more water. See below for the greatest tips for keeping the next few months eco friendly:

Summer BBQs – I have never been a fan of heat, whether it is in the kitchen or under the sun, but I do love to eat barbeque! The eating part is best, but the socializing with friends is amazing.

When planning for a BBQ event, make sure you choose non-disposable options. Now is the best time to find durable plastic plates and cutlery at prices that will support even the most popular person’s BBQ event. Summer is also the BEST time to visit local farmer’s markets for fresh veggies and meats for the grill!

Lawn Care – I have never been one to have a green lawn, although I guess it depends on how you define “green.” My lawn currently is mowed fairly regularly, but that is about it – few chemicals and NO summer watering.

As we move toward the middle of summer, and my lawn becomes more and more brown, I am usually happy since the mowing regimen slows down.

If you are interested in watering your lawn, make it a game for your (or the neighborhood’s) kids. Turn on the sprinkler on a hot Saturday and see who shows up at your house, but just make sure you have enough popsicles!

Mosquitoes – Urgh! I am a giant animal lover, but I take pride in all of the mosquitoes I kill. It takes about seven days for mosquito larvae to become the flying terror, so the obvious preventions include cleaning out gutters, putting Mosquito Dunks in rain barrels and eliminating any standing water, but how else do you deal with the blood sucking beasts in any sort of environmentally responsible way?

Here are a few:

Bats: Bats LOVE mosquitoes. Put up a bat house and hope they come in droves!

Smell: Citronella candles and sprays work to some extent so try them before using much more toxic DEET products. Mosquitoes love floral smells, so you are much better off to use unscented soap, deodorant of lotion.

Breeze: Mosquitoes are poor fliers, so point a fan toward your feet to blow them away!

Gin and Tonic: Quinine has a potential effect on repelling mosquitoes, and the best way to ingest quinine is by mixing a gin and tonic. Just saying!

Energy Efficiency: Find out where your home leaks! I know that winter utility bills are usually the largest, but now is the time to address any home improvement plans. Check out Greensource’s energy audit kits from any Lexington Public Library and find out if your attic hatch or knee walls are giant suckers of cool air.

Summer Vacation: Greening your vacation and staying close to home are almost the same thing, so it is all about how you frame it for your family. Camping (unless you do it the way my family has begun by going to a campground with wifi and electric) can be super eco friendly and even help all of your family members appreciate our great state more than they did before.

You can also choose “one tank trips” across the state where it only takes one tank of gas to get there. No matter what you choose, remember to turn down your thermostat and unplug any unnecessary appliances like the tv, toaster, etc. to save on energy usage.

The best thing summer has to offer is the ability to get outside. Even if it is at a pool or only in your backyard, take a moment to appreciate what is around you, and know that you play a part in keeping it “green.”
1 Amy-Sohner

Amy Sohner is executive director of Greensource and a graduate of the University of Kentucky in Natural Resource Conservation and Management. Sohner has worked with Greensource since its inception in 2002 and is a Certified Environmental Educator. She is involved with the Kentucky Environmental Literacy Alliance, the Bluegrass Rain Garden Alliance, the Licking and Kentucky River Basin Teams, and serves as vice-chair of the Keep Lexington Beautiful Commission. Sohner lives near the Kentucky River palisades with her husband, two daughters and a multitude of pets.

This article appeared in KY Forward on June 12, 2014.


Over 100 pledged to Get Outdoors in 2014

Get Outside pictures


Over 100 pledged to Get Outdoors in 2014 through our annual New Year’s Resolution Program, and Bluegrass Greensource would like to congratulate Joshua Saxton for winning the $100 gift card from Kentucky State Parks!

We would like to thank the following people who agreed to publically commit to  Get Outdoors in 2014 — Stephanie Vihlidal, Kenna Phelps, Laurie Davison, Lauren Monahan, Shanda Cecil, Christina Zavos, Melinda W., Ashley Osborne, Roberta Burnes, Alyse Garrard, Kenya Stump, Burley Thomas, Lori Minter, Eric Comley, Robin Stewart, Jamison Barton, Tracy C, Suzanna Weisenfeld, Beth Kelly, Nicholas Larkey, Jeri Howell, Hannelore Elliot, Tanya Ewing, Gayle Bourne, Linda Johnson, Mark Tower, Trudy Robards, Leann Brown, Chris Tyler, Charlie Lanter, Joyce Fister-Daley, Rachel Ford, Sabrina Oaks, Karen Hatter, Melody, Jaci Williams, Kathryn Turbek, Amy Sohner, Gene Slusher, Storey Slone, Chris Woolery, Eamonn FritzGerald, Amanda Black, Jennifer Mitchell, Bill Settles, Joey Svec, Joshua Saxton, Ashley, Mike Reed, Anita Courtney, Paula Dunn, Dawna Scripps, Cheryl Pena, and Jan McKinney.


Staying active outdoors this winter is challenging but worth the effort

Winter has always posed a challenge to staying active outdoors, and this winter is particularly so with all the snow, ice and frigid temperatures we’ve had. But meeting that challenge head on is well worth the effort.

Research has shown that the more often we find ourselves outdoors and enjoying nature, the happier we tend to be. A 2013 article from the New York Times Health and Wellness blog discussed how exposure to plants is not only a stress reliever, but also seems to raise levels of white blood cells.


(Photo from

(Photo from Dreamstime.com)

Other research, including sources such as the Harvard Health Letter, has shown that being outdoors raises vitamin D levels, which lift one’s mood and fights cancer, depression and heart disease. Over the years peer reviewed research has also examined how increasing the time spent playing in nature for children with ADHD has improved their ability to concentrate and focus.

When the mercury keeps dipping into the negatives it raises questions for us. How can we benefit from the outdoors if we choose to? What do we do with ourselves and family members if we’re going to be stuck indoors more than we’d like? What can we do to help members of our community who might find themselves homeless or overexposed to the elements?

Tips on benefiting from the outdoors when you’d rather be inside:

Many of us have vowed that 2014 will be the year when we get back in shape for good. If walking or running outdoors was part of your new workout plan but you’re finding it unbearable to brave the cold, don’t give up yet. The key to keeping up an outdoor workout plan is all in the clothing. When I first started running I was shocked to find out that running in 40 degrees is actually a pretty perfect temperature with the right apparel. Running tights, thick socks, long sleeved sweat-wicking shirts and jackets, and thick gloves and hats made the runs surprisingly refreshing.

When the temperatures fall somewhere in between 30 and 40 degrees F, hats with built-in face masks are perfect (I have a neon yellow Carhartt one that was affordable and works well). Hats like these also keep your breath warm by filtering it which is good if you have exercise-induced asthma and the cold makes you wheezy. You’ll get used to the strange looks from passersby and like a recent commercial, it might be best to remove the mask when you enter a gas station, but all in all, running or walking in the cold can be done.

If the temps dip below the teens, however, it might be better to take your workout indoors and enjoy nature through a window from the confines of your cozy recliner because few pieces of clothing can make minus-9 degrees bearable.

Happy-making projects for yourself and your family:

When it is simply too cold to get out, workout videos can keep your cardio on track and you on your way to fulfilling those healthy resolutions. A yoga video in the living room can be just as fun as a group workout at your gym, and making time during work can bring a welcome change.

During our break, my co-workers and I have recently been doing a group exercise called “7-Minute Workout.” You can find it as a smart phone app or a video on Youtube. Many a cold gray day has been improved by our micro-workout and it is a fun activity since we usually end up laughing at ourselves as we do “high knees/running in place” and “side-plank.” We leave our conference room a little bit warmer, a little more refreshed and ready to dive back into work.

During the weekends and evenings it is far too easy to veg out and binge-watch shows such as Game of Thrones (admittedly fun, but leaves one feeling sloth-like), so making a list of projects to do can kickstart those creative juices. I promised myself I will complete at least 5 items from my Pinterest crafts page in 2014. Other things such as creating healthy meals and decadent desserts from recipes I have saved are also on the to-do list.

Purging/organizing is also a great indoor activity that helps refresh both one’s living space and one’s head space. I have been streamlining our apartment and getting rid of clothing and items that have accumulated in our closets. Coats, warm clothing, gloves, and scarves have been donated to local organizations such as the Hope Center and The Nest.

Organizing a clothing or home goods swap with friends is also a great, free way to get rid of stuff you’re tired of, while getting new-to-you things you might need. My newly de-cluttered space feels larger and leaves me feeling more free and inspired.

The following are great links to bookmark for the next time you and your family have a lot of indoor time on your hands:

50 Fun Winter Activities from Real Simple Magazine

31 Things for Kids to Do During Winter Break from No Time for Flashcards

29 Things to do Indoors this Winter from Minnesota’s Examiner

Winter learning activities from Scholastic

Themed winter crafts by Activity Village


Helping others endure the cold:

While complaining about the temperature, I have thought of the members of my community who have little choice but to endure the cold. For those without homes or who lack adequate housing, there are actions we can take to help.

Donating warm clothing, in good condition, to local shelters and nonperishables to local food banks will fill a need that increases exponentially with the cold. If you cannot donate monetarily, the following locations accept donations and are in need of the following items:

The Hope Center – Donations can be dropped at: 360 W Loudon Ave, Lexington. Currently in need of coats, cold weather clothing, thermal underwear, socks, gloves, hats and unopened hygiene products.

The Catholic Action Center – Donations can be dropped at: 614 E. 7th St., Lexington (10 a.m.-2 p.m., Monday-Saturday). Currently in need of laundry detergent, coffee, creamer/sugar, large garbage bags, bleach, cleaning supplies and toilet paper.

The Salvation Army – Donations can be dropped at: 736 W. Main St., Lexington. Currently in need of canned meats (tuna, chicken), beef stew and soups, pasta and spaghetti sauce, breakfast cereals, peanut butter, canned green vegetables, canned fruits and juices, clothing in good condition, diapers (all sizes), personal care items (toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, deodorant), and household items for shelter residents who move into a home, such as toasters, microwaves, linens.

God’s Pantry – Main warehouse is at 1685 Jaggie Fox Way, Lexington (9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m.-12 noon on Fridays). Any nonperishable food item is appreciated. Residents of Fayette County can also make their donations at any Kroger location by placing the food in the donation barrel near the customer service desk or exit.


Lisa-Conley-300x203Lisa Conley is an outreach specialist for Bluegrass Greensource.

This article appeared in KY Forward on February 6, 2014.



We spent day ‘unplugged’ as part of a resolution to get outdoors more

For those of you who joined Bluegrass Greensource in including getting outdoors more among your 2014 resolutions, I hope it’s one you’re actually going to keep. Beyond the obvious benefits of getting fresh air, vitamin-D enriched sunshine and exercise, being around nature can boost energy levels and relieve stress. It also can remind us how important our natural surroundings are to our quality of life.

Greensource is asking everyone, adults and children alike, to enjoy more time outdoors this coming year, maybe with a hike, a walk around your neighborhood or geocaching, a real-life treasure hunt. Anything that lets us “unplug” from electronic gadgets and enjoy the outdoors will count.

Learning to identify the trees along your street would provide fun and interesting outdoor time for your family. You could even set a goal to visit at least one state park this year. For a list of other great ideas, click here and search “resolutions.”

A pair of bald eagles perch on a bare branch at Kentucky Dam Village where my family loves to go. (Photo by Donna Stinnett)

A pair of bald eagles perch on a bare branch at Kentucky Dam Village where my family loves to go. (Photo by Donna Stinnett)

My family has agreed to accept the challenge. This past weekend, we started by “unplugging” from electronic gadgets for a day. No phones, TV, computers or iPads – just a day of family time. As a mom of two, 10 and 8, I was looking forward to a day without Minecraft discussions, Jessie episodes and texting marathons.

I did not take into account the fact we use our smartphones to tell time, iPads to do science fair project research and that UK would be playing Vanderbilt. We ended up taking advantage of the warmer weather and spent lots of time outside – walking, playing basketball and doing much-needed yard work. That night, we enjoyed a family game night. All in all, we learned that we could survive while taking some time away from gadgets. There was even talk about a day of no electricity, but I’ll have to check UK’s schedule first.

This summer, we plan to explore a state park we’ve never been to before. I grew up going to Kentucky Dam Village with my family, and I really enjoy taking my kids there now. They just can’t get enough of Mom’s “back in the day” stories or saying the park’s name with a giggle. We’ve enjoyed the park’s hiking trails, swimming spots and fishing and golfing opportunities.

The 18-hole golf course is really top-notch and well maintained, plus some of the local wildlife may even join you. If you have a favorite state park, share it on our Bluegrass Greensource Facebook page here and maybe we will visit it this year.

The year is off to a great start already as my family resolves to get outdoors more. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with nature and discovering new things with my kids. I’m sure you have some great ideas of your own for spending more time outdoors. I’d love to hear about all the fun activities, but only after you’ve enjoyed your time outside.


Chris Clabes photo

Chris Clabes is the development and public relations coordinator at Bluegrass Greensource. Before joining Greensource, Chris worked as a consultant for numerous nonprofit organizations across the state, including the formation of Kentucky Philanthropy Initiative and Gov. Beshear’s Commission on Philanthropy. She was Kentucky 4-H Foundation’s executive director and served as the director of finance for the National Association of Home Builders’ Political Action Committee in Washington, D.C. She is a graduate of the University of Kentucky.


This article appeared in KY Forward on January 30, 2014.


Pet rocks aside, there is plenty in the natural world to bring out our creativity

I always thought my grandma invented pet rocks. First of all, my Grandma Barry (both my grandmothers were named Mary, so I differentiated them by using their last names) was one of the most crafty, talented, creative people I have ever known. She made all of her own clothes, painted all of the pictures in her house (and many of those in countless relatives’ homes), created all of her own Christmas decorations and crocheted enough blankets to warm all of California. She also made incredible, intricately painted, rock animals.


(Photo from Pinterest)

These rock animals were my first exposure to nature crafts, and I loved them. I loved how she could take found rocks of all different shapes and make them into everything from bunnies to dogs and turtles. Each one was completely unique, and I was always amazed at how she would use the individual rock characteristics, like bumps and divots, to accentuate an eye or be part of the foot. She could see much more potential in rocks than I ever thought possible.

Somehow my grandmother’s creativity did not get passed along to me, but her love of using the natural world did. So I take every opportunity possible to take my daughters outside and use what is around us, both as a teaching tool, and to express their creativity.

Now that the newness of summer vacation is waning, I am sure that many parents, like me, are being constantly bombarded with statements that contain the phrase, “I’m bored.” To combat the “I’m boreds” I have created a list of easy to do activities that involve taking kids (gasp!) outside.

1. Rainbow Walk – as soon as my oldest daughter learned the “Rainbow” song from a Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That episode, we were off outside to look for red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and purple colors in nature. Here is a hint: if you have a hard time with blue (we seemed to) use the sky.

2. Pine cone bird feeders – I am super impressed that my daughter can actually pick out a chickadee, tufted titmouse and mourning dove just by their songs, as well as many other birds by sight at our feeders. Her favorite feeder is the one she made at Reforest the Bluegrass a few years ago where she took a pinecone, spread it with peanut butter and rolled in black oil sunflower seeds. We have actually used the same pinecone multiple times.

3. Magnifying glass – Everything is much cooler with a magnifying glass. This is true inside and outside, but a good close-up view can make your whole perspective on the natural world change.

4. One small square – There is book series called One Small Square, and the concept presented in the books is great. Take a cardboard box and cut out the middle from one side to make a frame. Place the frame on the ground and see what you can find. This is just as amazing if you do it on a manicured lawn, a driveway or in a forest. Comparing and contrasting different “habitats” can also be a fun way to get ready for school.

5. Texture rubbings – Place leaves, flowers, sand, etc, under a piece of blank paper and rub with a crayon. If you feel extra crafty, cut the textured shapes out and make people, collages and other art for a gallery show for friends/relatives.

6. Under things – This is actually one of my favorites, which has somehow been lost on my oldest daughter, but I will mention it anyway. Lots of critters – everything from roly poly bugs to salamanders like to live under rocks, logs and even the toy car your children forgot to put away last weekend. I like to try to guess what we can find.

7. Listen – Since school is quickly approaching, I have been trying to get my daughter interested in writing and reading again. We sat outside last weekend with a book and a commitment to three minutes of silence. During that time we recorded everything we heard which was an amazing array of sounds!

There are multiple books written recently explaining the benefits of getting kids outside (most notably Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louve), and as an environmental educator, I agree. I want to make sure that my fellow parents understand that nature is all around us, not just in a park or a faraway forest. If you live in a urban center, the suburbs or in a rural area, taking your children out of the house and away from couches can do amazing things.

All of the things I have listed can be done in a park or a parking lot and are very low-cost. They will allow you and your child to learn what you have in your backyard and possibly grow to appreciate it more. If you want to get even more creative and crafty, there are seemingly millions of ideas on Pinterest or the Internet, and don’t forget making pets out of the rocks you find on your nature adventures!


Amy Sohner is executive director of Greensource and a graduate of the University of Kentucky in Natural Resource Conservation and Management. Sohner has worked with Greensource since its inception in 2002 and is a Certified Environmental Educator. She is involved with the Kentucky Environmental Literacy Alliance, the Bluegrass Rain Garden Alliance, the Licking and Kentucky River Basin Teams, and serves as vice-chair of the Keep Lexington Beautiful Commission. Sohner lives near the Kentucky River palisades with her husband, two daughters and a multitude of pets.

This article appeared in KY Forward on July 25, 2013.


Outdoor spaces offer opportunities for fun and learning alike

As the Kentucky summer starts to ramp up, I enjoy spending more and more time outside. Being someone who struggles with the gloom and gray of winter, the changing seasons and warm temperatures mean more time spent out in the sun, enjoying all that the outdoors have to offer.

That said, as an apartment dweller, it is difficult at times to really capitalize on what summer offers nature-wise. I struggle with the fact that I don’t have a backyard to raise a vegetable garden or the ability to take a dog (none allowed in my apartment complex) on a walk through a neighborhood. Instead, I have to be a little more creative in finding ways to enjoy the season and being outside.

For those of us in apartments without any real outdoor space, a local park is the perfect place to capitalize on the season. Not only can parks offer spaces for recreational sports such as Frisbee golf, basketball, tennis and others, but they are a great classroom as well.

Read this full article today on KYForward

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