Tates Creek Elementary Takes National Green School Award

KY's only public school to earn National Green Ribbon School, Tates Creek Elementary demonstrated excellence and commitment in all three areas of sustainability: building efficiency, environmental literacy and student/staff wellness.  

Tates Creek Elementary representatives will travel to Washington, DC in September to celebrate their achievements and receive the award.

Tates Creek Elementary's Profile from US Department of Education:



Tates Creek Elementary, Lexington, Kentucky

A Green Creek Team leads environmental learning

Tates Creek Elementary (TCE), on the southeast side of Lexington, is home to 659 students and over 100 faculty and staff members.  The student population is 33 percent white, 42 percent black, and 12 percent Hispanic.  Almost 79 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, enabling all students to receive free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch through the Community Eligibility Provision.  The TCE community includes 16 percent English-language learners and 18 percent special-education students.

Tates Creek has received several district sustainability honors and formed a Green Creek Team, which meets during the school day and includes students in grades one through five.  The school also has hired a wellness coach and environmental coordinator.

The campus has a fully staffed pediatric health clinic on site for students and the surrounding community.  The clinic, which offers flu shots, vaccinations, and check-ups, sees some 400 students per month.  Dental and vision screening also are conducted on a regular basis.  TCE has a resource center that provides clothing for students, food bags, and home visits to help with truancy issues.  Wellness is a special class in the curricular rotation to help students focus on physical and mental health.  TCE is the first school in its district to have a full‐time wellness coach, and each classroom has a “wellness corner” to help students feel calm and focused.  TCE offers yoga to adults after school and Girls on the Run for fourth- and fifth-grade girls.  The faculty and staff receive Trauma Informed training.

Students cultivate a vegetable garden in the courtyard.  In the spring, each class receives seedlings to plant.  The physical education teacher, along with parent volunteers, students, and district representatives, help to prepare the beds.  The produce goes to the cafeteria and to students’ families. 

The school is colocated on a campus with middle and high schools.  When Tates Creek Middle and High work on rain gardens and sustainability initiatives, elementary students have the chance to collaborate on volunteering, advanced learning, and the sharing of resources.  TCE was remodeled in 2012, putting more sustainable measures into place.  Lights are on automatic shut-off.  Bathrooms feature air dryers.  New energy-efficient windows replaced the old windows, and more natural light was added.  Rubberized nonslip flooring lessens the need for chemical waxing.

Tates Creek planted trees on school grounds in partnership with the local government, school district, and the University of Kentucky’s Urban Forest Initiative.  The Urban Forest Initiative met with the Green Creek Team to teach about the parts of a tree and tree adoption. 

A regular recycling schedule has been established on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Small recycling bins have been replaced with large outdoor municipal waste receptacles that the school converted to recycling dumpsters.  TCE ordered more class bins and now has one in every classroom and office.


Two water-bottle filling stations have been added, and students are encouraged to use refillable water bottles.  A container for recycling plastic bags is in the front hallway and is emptied and taken to Kroger recycling bins about every two weeks. Faculty, staff, students, and parents have added a container to collect plastic lids, which will be used to create a third upcycled plastic bench.

The Green Creek Team has worked hard to learn what is and is not in Lexington, Kentucky.  The team has visited a materials recovery facility, where Lexington’s recyclables are sorted and sent off to recycling centers.  The students have worked in teams to develop PowerPoint presentations on recycling to show to each class at TCE. 

Instead of an open container with napkins, the cafeteria now uses napkin dispensers, as well as reusable or biodegradable plastic trays rather than ones made from Styrofoam.  Straws at lunch have been eliminated.  At events, the school has moved to cloth tablecloths, which are washed in our energy- and water-efficient washer and dryer.  The school has implemented Chromebooks in grades two through five, with first grade on the way, and faculty uses Google Docs and Google Classroom to further reduce paper use. 

Tates Creek celebrates a walk-to-school day in the fall to inspire more alternative transportation use.

Each month the Green Creek Team conducts an energy audit of each classroom.  They give the classrooms a note on how they are doing concerning energy conservation.  Each class has light switches labeled to remind students to turn off the lights.  Each teacher receives a checklist to complete during school breaks to reduce energy consumption.  Appliances in the school are ENERGY STAR-rated. 

The school has reduced water consumption by 18 percent over four years.

The environmental curriculum has been coordinated with Bluegrass Greensource for supplies, information, and guest speakers, as well as with the NEED (National Energy Education Development) Project. 

The Green Creek Team also had a visit from a community member who uses plastic bags on a loom to make rugs and upcycles old clothes to make items to sell at craft fairs.

In the fall of 2018, Bluegrass Greensource, along with the city of Lexington, offered a teacher environmental academy for five days.  Several TCE faculty attended, from classroom teachers to special education teachers to math interventionists, as well as the STEM and environmental coordinators.  Each day the academy focused on a different aspect of the environment.  Water testing was done in conjunction with the wastewater treatment plant tour.  Solid waste tours of a landfill, including leachate filtering and yard waste to mulch, was covered.  Public transportation information was given to each participant, including details about electric buses, energy usage, and natural gas engines.  The last day covered Project Wild, Project WET, and resources to use in class with all student levels.  At the conclusion, each teacher received funds for a classroom project using information learned from the academy. 

Bluegrass Greensource has an educator assigned to TCE.  This educator’s job is to help teach lessons on the environment, share information and supplies with classroom teachers, coordinate recycling pickup or questions, work with any grade level on projects to learn about the environment, and connect educators to community resources. 

Tates Creek has formed a Kentucky Energy for Youth team.  Students read a fictional story about using coal for electrical power.  Then, students took an overnight trip to a coal town and toured a coal mine no longer in use.  Several teachers also have attended NEED workshops to learn about energy sources and forms of energy.  During a NEED workshop, teachers performed the same activities that students will do and received supplies for use in a classroom setting.