Big Fun Dig and Little East

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A big mix of people met and had a blast planting together during the East Austin Studio Tour this past weekend at Blackshear Elementary School.

The School’s Art Teacher Elisabeth Healey debuted her students work and that of several other east Austin AISD schools in the hallways and library of the historic central east Austin school.  The Little East showing included scan file videos showing how the children created their sculptures, drawings, paintings, and photographs.  Swan Music kids put on a concert in the gym.

Meanwhile out in the school garden, Blackshear Bridge held a big fun dig with parents and other volunteers from the neighborhood, former Peace Corps members, Huston-Tillotson University, and Keep Austin Beautiful volunteers.  We transformed some shaggy beds alongside the children’s rockin’ veggie garden into beautiful native wildlife habitat and more veggie plantings.

That’s not all.  New Blackshear Bridge board member and architect Diana Su used face painting to learn what kids in the garden would like to see on their school grounds.  The children, parents, and staff began to fill a watering can with slips of paper to “Nourish Blackshear Elementary” with their ideas.  This was the beginning of a process of charettes, or design gatherings to come up with some action plans for greening the school grounds.

Purly Gates showed up right around the time of the Eastside Pies pizza delivery.  The busy bunch of gardeners paused long enough for a slice and for favorite songs like the Mariposa Dance and Inch by Inch.

Thanks to everyone who helped out including — all of the children, to Campus Green Team member Maria Perez and her daughter Alexa, PTA President Graciela Salgado and her daughter, intern Miriam Salgado, Festival beach gardener Regina Mitchell, permaculturists Kirby Fry and Bobbie Edwards, landscape architect Susan Grantham, architect Diana Su, Huston-Tillotson biology professor Amanda Masino, Doro, Ms. Santos and family, Mr. Urrutia, and the former Peace Corps members.  Thanks Paul Drown for bringing the tools over, KAB for loaning them and Kelly Smith for helping return them. Thanks, Nick Vranes from the Housing Authority for the City of Austin and Ladye Anne Wofford from KAB for helping to organize the date and promotions. Thanks Julio, Kathy, Sylvia, and Alex from Festival Beach Garden for the loan of your water jugs.  Thanks Michael Fried and Randall Holt from Eastside Pies for the pizza and Mundologist Rosina Newton for all the help at The Natural Gardener. Thanks, Purly for the music.  And thanks, Principal Betty Jenkins and Administrative staff members Carol Parton and Jennifer Vasquez for making the big dig possible.  What fun it was!

More Blackshear Bridge News

  • Bo Boatright‘s fifth grade class started off the month by visitiing the school garden.  They had lots of great suggestions and began to identify the wildlife on Blackshear’s campus.
  • Blackshear Bridge high school intern Miriam Salgado and I attended a workshop at AISD’s Discovery Hill on Maintaining the Schoolyard Habitat.  Now, we’re ready for the new plants we put in this weekend! Thanks, Anne Muller AISD’s Outdoor Learning Specialist and Science and Health Resources Coordinator and landscape designers Judy Walther and Stan Wilson with Environmental Survey Consulting.
  • Brent Ryndak with Keep Austin Beautiful came out three times to teach the Generation Zero lessons on recycling, composting, and vermiculture to our Enrichment Time students.  Thanks, Brent!  Ms. Masino has the little red wrigglers right now, but Yasmine would like them to visit Mr. Urrutia‘s class soon.
  • Mary Currier at Ridgetop Elementary put the call out via Anne Muller‘s email list that she has roosters at Ridgetop Elementary and therefore…fertilized eggs that can be hatched!  Ms. Pagan’s pre-kindergarten fourth graders marked each egg for turning with an X on one side and an O on the other.  Then, we put them in the incubator.  Ms. Pagan will see what hatches around Thanksgiving day!
  • City of Austin’s head Arborist Michael Embesi walked the campus grounds with me and has agreed to participate in our upcoming charettes while Diana Su met with architect Tom Hatch who has some great ideas about encouraging student input into the process of developing a campus site plan.
  • Blackshear Bridge introduced Blackshear Elementary School Principal Betty Jenkins and AISD’s Partnerships coordinator BiNi Foster to Huston-Tillotson University Dean Jeff Wilson and Professor Masino who are forming a partnership for ongoing collaborations. The University and the Elementary School are long time E. 11th Street neighbors and have enjoyed other collaborations in the past.
  • Thanks, Professor Masino and Dean Wilson for introducing us to the students with Green is the New Black and Ms. Masino for coordinating the excellent Food for Black Thought discussion led by UT faculty Dr. Dominique Bowman, Dr. Kevin, and graduate student Naya Jones.
  • AISD School Board Trustee Cheryl Bradley has visited Blackshear’s campus twice this month. She lives nearby on Angelina Street and so it was easy for her to enjoy the big dig and Little East with us on Saturday.  Ms. Bradley, her grandmother, and her mother all attended Blackshear and the Trustee is currently working with others who would like an additional founder Mr. Rice to be recognized in a hyphenated re-naming of the school.  She looks forward to connecting with other alumni and welcomes you to contact her —

Finally, Blackshear Bridge is in the process of developing itself as a new non-profit organization.  Thank you Attorneys Justin Bowes and Joseph Fore at DLA Piper for taking us on as pro-bono clients to help with filing our 501c3 papers.  Please mark the date to celebrate with us and with our partner group the  Blackshear Prospect Hill Neighborhood Association at a winter feast on the evening of December 14 at the Old Gamboa Store on E. 8th Street.  Details coming soon.  If you are interested in getting more involved, please feel free to email .

Thank you.  You can’t beet gardening!  Donna Hoffman

Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it. ~ Julia Child

One response to “Big Fun Dig and Little East

  1. Pingback: This Winter | Donna Hoffman·

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