By. Tresine Logsdon, Sustainability Coordinator for Fayette County (KY) Public Schools


As efforts to improve sustainability and wellness continue to increase among school districts, three priorities consistently emerge:

  • Reduce environmental impacts and costs.
  • Improve the health and wellness of schools, students, and staff.
  • Provide environmental education through an interdisciplinary approach incorporating STEM, civic skills, and green career pathways.


Fayette County Public School’s (FCPS) Renovation 101 Teams in Lexington, Kentucky provide rich, qualitative educational experiences with purposeful instruction and programming to prepare students for college and 21st century careers through an E3 lens—Energy, Environment, and Engineering—leveraging the building and site as a 3-D textbook on the technical, sustainable, high-performing features that double as a Living Lab.  Our teams capitalize on the existing 21st century facility design and Synergy Spaces that make FCPS’s renovation projects unique through small learning communities, sustainable design, versatile technology, project and problem-based learning, and outdoor learning spaces.


In 2012, FCPS identified a missed opportunity to acquaint students with architectural and engineering career pathways and train them as Renovation Liaisons to their school communities.  With four renovation projects, we piloted Renovation 101 Teams to incorporate “green” infrastructure with instructional strategies, help students understand how their classroom learning connects to what is happening outside their windows during renovation, and equip student teams with the data and tools they need to explain the how’s and why’s behind their renovation to their parents, teachers, and administration.  Our district was aggressively pursuing innovative, high-performing design features in our buildings—but was not adequately communicating the benefits of these sustainable design components to our school communities.  Then, it dawned on us.  Why not capitalize on our students’ inherent enthusiasm and curiosity for their school’s renovation to raise awareness among our community-at-large?


Thus, our four pilot Renovation 101 Teams were born.  Since then, hundreds of students have served on their school’s Renovation 101 Team.  In many cases, their experience led to a career pathway in architecture or engineering.


Our Renovation 101 Teams meet with architects and engineers once a month to analyze architectural and site plans, discuss the roles and responsibilities of the players on campus, and take a Hard Hat Tour behind the yellow tape.  Meetings are documented with pictures and journaling by a designated student reporter and each spring our Renovation 101 Teams offer a faculty presentation to teach the teachers.  This presentation is also offered to parents during Open House and spring Carnival.  The Renovation 101 Team deploys members to classrooms to provide updates to classmates and maintains an online Renovation Blog.


We have partnered with over a dozen local architectural firms who have graciously met with our students, each with varying degrees of experience working with school-age children.  The district Sustainability Coordinator attends each meeting to facilitate discussion and teaching, but inevitably by the third Renovation 101 meeting the partner Architect is leaping into discussions and leading exciting instruction on how their passion for their profession is creating greener, healthier environments for our students.


Topics that we cover with our Renovation 101 Teams include:

  • An introduction to educational pathways that lead to careers in architecture and engineering through graphs/charts and site/floor plans.
  • A summary of the renovation’s sustainable, high performance components (i.e. daylighting, permeable pavement/drivable grass, on site bio-filtration, increased R-values on walls/ceiling, passive solar <clerestory >, low flow plumbing fixtures, CO2 sensors, green screens, occupancy sensors, replacement LED lamps, VRV systems, increased/improved green space for outdoor classroom use).
  • Updates on renovation progress and phases.
  • Landscaping: what is the relationship between energy efficiency and strategic landscape design?
  • Building orientation: does it really matter what side of the building is facing the sun?
  • Storm water runoff: how will renovation impact storm water runoff?
  • Insulation: how will renovation change our school’s insulation? What is an R-value?  How does an architect calculate the R-value of insulation?
  • Passive solar building design: will the design include passive solar energy?
  • Improved outdoor classroom space.
  • Illustrations/graphics of high performance mechanical equipment (provided by E&SCC).
  • Cost: what does this project cost per square foot?
  • High-performing features to reduce carbon footprint.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act: what role do angles play in the design of ramps?
  • Water usage: how can we estimate how much water will be saved with installed plumbing?
  • Energy Star: does this renovation include Energy Star design/mechanical/structural components?
  • Life-cycle analysis: has one been performed on this project? How is a life-cycle analysis conducted?


A suggested timeline for each Renovation 101 Team meeting is as follows:

  • 15 minutes – Architect/engineer presents one major renovation component that is new since the last meeting.
  • 15 minutes – Classroom discussion and opportunity for students to ask questions about career pathways or other high performing components of renovation.
  • 20 minutes – Hard Hat Tour to visit areas that have been discussed.


Innovation and education are necessary drivers for improving quality of life, while at the same time decreasing negative impacts on the natural environment.   We make a commitment to transform students’ lives by connecting academics to professions, to the world that sustains them.  This can be accomplished by providing a challenging, project-based, visionary educational experience based on sustainability principles, both inside and outside the classroom, through robust partnerships that enable students to interact with professionals in their field of interest.


photo courtesy of Tresine Logsdon

(photo courtesy of Tresine Logsdon)


To integrate the five C’s of 21st century education, FCPS must offer high-level learning experiences that engage students in academic, civic, and career challenges concurrently and harmoniously.  Students who serve on our Renovation 101 Teams are uniquely positioned to experientially learn sustainability through their facility, grounds, flexible grouping, and community partnerships.  The three pillars of sustainability (environmental integrity, economic stewardship, and social equity) fundamentally cross core disciplines (Science, ELA, Math, Social Studies) and naturally increase engagement, relevance, and opportunities for real-world applications of these disciplines.


Our Renovation 101 Teams provide:

  • Constructivist, real-world applications that make learning more relevant and engaging.
  • The ability to integrate scientific, social, and economic thinking and knowledge.
  • 21st century, real-world skills.
  • Appropriate applications of technology that help solve, not create, problems.
  • Exposure to high demand/high wage green and healthcare careers.
  • An awareness of sustainability issues such as human impact, global climate change, environmental justice, energy engineering, and water supply.
  • A pedagogy that encourages creativity, vision, compassion, cooperation, and collaboration in every student.


Sustainability is a lens that looks for the connections between environmental integrity (environmental literacy), economic stewardship (building performance), and social equity (student wellness).  On our Renovation 101 Teams, students actively think about creating a sustainable future–which is inherently forward thinking—that leads our students to not just understand issues, but to act toward creating innovative solutions for our globe’s most pressing problems.  Renovation 101 Teams understand that past, present, and future contexts and impacts are connected—that classroom learning is connected to a real issue or problem.


Rob Deal of JRA Architects in Lexington, Kentucky was pleasantly surprised by how quickly Renovation 101 Team students at Squires Elementary connected their daily lives with an architectural career pathway.  “Using three dimensional architectural modeling was a group favorite.  Many students were able to draw parallels between their own use of technology and how we work as architects.  It is equal parts surprising and refreshing,” said Rob.  “It is inspiring to hear from students, faculty, and staff—because each bring a unique perspective.  Each suggestion and idea informs us for the next school project.  It is a welcome change that the Squires Renovation 101 Team could experience the renovation first-hand and share their learning with their entire school community.”


Fourth grade Squires teacher Tabitha Dellinger saw tremendous improvement in students’ overall engagement in their school’s renovation project and appreciated architects and engineers helping quench students’ thirst for knowledge and hands-on experience with their school’s renovation.  “Learning from the architects and engineers was invaluable! Students were so excited to learn about the process of designing and building our new school. They were able to see first-hand how math and science apply to the real world, and for many of them, this experience piqued their interest in the fields of engineering and architecture.”


About the Author

Tresine Logsdon serves as Sustainability Coordinator for Fayette County Public Schools (FCPS) and spearheads the E=USE2 program, supporting school-based, student-driven sustainability and energy efficiency projects by working closely with teachers, principals, and students.  She has 17 years of classroom teaching experience, most recently at Henry Clay High School teaching AP Environmental Science and Biology.  During her time at Henry Clay, she helped the school become the first Kentucky high school to complete the Kentucky Green & Healthy Schools (KGHS) program and become a Model KGHS school.  Tresine is married to Matthew Logsdon, Language Arts teacher at Henry Clay High School, and they have two daughters.


Sustainability and environmental education have been Tresine’s passion since beginning her teaching career.  She is inspired everyday by FCPS teacher leadership and students’ inherent enthusiasm for sustainability, innovative school improvement project ideas, and voracious desire to learn and do more.