Mary G. Hogsett Primary School has been named Kentucky’s Outstanding PreK-12 School for Excellence in Environmental Education. The award, given by the Kentucky Association for Environmental Education, recognizes individuals, schools, and organizations that exemplify dedication, commitment, and influence in the field of environmental education.
“We have a whole-child approach to education at Hogsett Primary,” Principal Suzanne Farmer said. “Our students are 3-8 years old, and we are fortunate to be able to nurture and build on the natural curiosity that young children have about the outdoors. We make connections between subjects like reading, writing, and science through deep studies about topics such as birds. Our students become experts in these topics through inquiry, using our school grounds and other community resources.”
Hogsett serves preschool through first-grade students in the Danville Independent School District, with just over 420 students, and the school’s commitment to young learners and environmental education can be seen throughout its space. It’s not uncommon to see or hear classes learning outside, whether on the natural playground or in the field near the on-property stream. Inside, the hallways feature student work, including detailed student illustrations of birds and trees with species, structures, and functions labeled. (Hogsett’s spring curriculum centers around birds (first grade) and trees (kindergarten) for the second half of the school year.)
During the 2021-22 school year, Hogsett enhanced outdoor learning by applying for a KY Division of Water mini-grant to plant native trees and shrubs along the edge of their stream. Having observed streambank erosion, they wanted to begin to build a buffer zone. Through the mini-grant, opportunities to enhance environmental education grew; students had the opportunity to learn about trees, riparian buffers, native animals, and how water and watershed health provides life to all living things.
On Earth Day 2022, all K-1 classrooms went outside to plant trees and native shrubs, install bluebird nesting boxes, and create a bluebird trail. Now, the newly established riparian buffer and bluebird trail continue to provide excellent opportunities for outdoor learning, and classes make routine observations of the nest boxes, check on the nests, and monitor the trees.
In the fall of 2022, preschools students at Hogsett Primary further enhanced environmental efforts by incubating quail eggs, providing an opportunity for students across the school to connect and further their learning about birds and life cycles. These sensory-rich experiences connected students with their local environment and provided a solid foundation for future learning and stewardship.
“It's exciting to see our young students learning about science and the world firsthand,” Principal Farmer said. “They’re already learning how to improve our community and how to be better stewards of the earth.”