Great Leap Frogs at Blackshear

Blackshear Bridge is celebrating growth in nature minutes at Blackshear Elementary Fine Arts Academy in 2014. Congratulations, Blackshear Faculty, Staff, Kids, and Community! 

Enjoy the slideshow and read more below.

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Here’s how Blackshear exponentially increased nature minutes in 2014 —

  • Teachers’ Gardens.  Blackshear’s Campus Green Team asked the PK-2nd Grade Teachers to teach at least once a week in the garden!  They gave the PK-2nd grade teachers their own plots.  This meant an enormous jump in Nature Minutes for the children, teachers, and home-room parents.  Thanks teachers Rebecca Birdwell, Jessica Bowden, MacKenzie Gandomi, Luz Hernandez, Anabel Pagan, Anne Paredes, and Maria Perez for making the green scene flourish in the garden.  And thanks parents Hannah Hadad and Susan Hernandez for helping them!
  • Schoolyard Improvement Project — Our Partnerships paid off!!!   Thank you to partners — AISD Blackshear Elementary Fine Arts Academy, Amplify/The Entrepreneurs Foundation, City of Austin — Office of Sustainability, Urban Forestry Program, Wildlife Austin, and the Mayor’s Office, National Wildlife Federation, Sustainable Food Center and a lot of volunteers from the school community, the surrounding community, and people who came to help from all over the city! With everyone’s help, Blackshear Elementary School planted 23 New Future Heritage Trees!, renovated its Athletic Track, built a Nature Trail, and created a bright, cheerful Fence Sign on the 11th Street, southwest corner of the schoolyard.  You can, too!  Ask us how.

Other fantastic developments

ACADEMICS  Blackshear Elementary School grew from 225 students last year to 281 this year.  That’s a big 25% percent increase in overall students served.  Faculty, staff, and parents rose to the occasion. They expanded curriculum as they became a Fine Arts Academy while maintaining an awesome performance in the top academic ranks of AISD elementary schools.  Blackshear was selected by the Texas Education Agency to take part with 11 other schools from across the state in a Best Practices Case Study!

PTA  Parents and Faculty have gotten together to fortify a dynamic PTA.  One parent member, Mercedes Ferris works for the Austin Office of the American Diabetes Association.  Mercedes is providing training for diabetes prevention during PTA meetings for Blackshear parents and staff — and for other communities in Austin.

PTA parents have asked to know more about the Eco-Code that Blackshear Bridge Enrichment Time kids passed for an Eco-Schools USA Bronze Level recognition.  Parents and teachers were excited about the big tree planting.  They requested more information about both the Eco-Code and the Benefits of Trees.

BLACKSHEAR BRIDGE programs are helping in the pursuit of health by encouraging our community to eat fresh, healthy vegetables.  We shared harvests from the kids’ gardens at  a PTA showing of the movie Frost and during the Friday enrichment time sustainability classes that we taught and continue to teach.  On other days when the veggies need harvesting, we leave collards, kale, lettuce, cilantro, broccoli, turnips, peppers, and onions on the front counter at the office for parents, teachers, and other staff members to take home and eat from the children’s garden.  We log our harvests with our partner group the  Sustainable Food Center’s Spread the Harvest program.  They provide seeds, plants, compost, and training.  Thanks SFC!

Blackshear Bridge also supports students and our community’s understanding and caring for the web of life by creating and educating about wildlife habitat.  Thanks for the input of our partners, National Wildlife Federation, Native Plant Society of Texas, and  Wildlife Austin!

Blackshear Bridge folks are excited about our work.  We will be asking for your help soon to support these programs.

  • We’re working on our next goal which is to provide environmental education opportunities to parents and the broader community.
  • We continue our Enrichment Time Friday lessons in the garden and are expanding to begin helping teachers with their plots. Yesterday, we began our Inch by Inch Sustainability Lessons for PK-2.  In the freezing weather, we ventured uh…indoors this time to Ms. Anne Paredes and Ms. Beverly Houston’s kindergarten classes with David Mallet’s song the inspiration for our program. As the temperatures go up and we step out to the garden, we’ll continue watching Blackshear’s Nature Minutes rise!
  • We are excited as we progress in our collaboration with East Side Compost Peddlers.  More on that soon.
  • And finally, we are absolutely thrilled to have been asked and to have delivered a new native wildlife habitat landscape in front  of the new office of Austin’s African American Cultural Heritage District on San Bernard Street in the heart of 78702 this winter.   Blackshear Bridge is bringing partners there, too!

THANKS in particular for your accomplishments and our collaborations —

Blackshear Principal Betty Jenkins, Assistant Principal Erci Paredes, Rebecca Birdwell, Blackshear Teacher and Chair of the Campus Green Team, Teacher Maria Perez, Administrative Staff Carol Parton & Jennifer Vasquez, Parent Support Specialist Cristina Santos, Campus Advisory Committee Chair Beverly Houston, Head Custodian Erenia Chavez, PTA President Brian Contine, Inch by Inch Volunteers Jason Patman, Elizabeth Fax Fairfax, Huston-Tillotson University Professor Amanda Masino, AISD Director of Maintenance Juan Nunez, AISD Forester Lisa Schissler, AISD Science and Health Resources Coordinator Anne Muller, City of Austin Urban Forestry Horticulturist Supervisor Manuel Flores and staff, Mary Priddy with the City Office of Sustainability Bright Green Future Grant, Former Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Will Livesley-O’Neill of the Love Your Block program,  Meredith Gray and LaJuan Tucker with Wildlife Austin, Kim Herrington and Rachel Malish with Whole Kids Foundation, Eugene Sepulveda and Molly Routt at Amplify and The Entrepreneurs Foundation, Marya Fowler with National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA & Wildlife Habitat Stewards Program, Sari Albornoz and Katie Pace with the Sustainable Food Center, Architects Diana Su and Tom Hatch, Mark Word Design, Jenna Foster, JLF Design & Illustration, Deborah Toodle Video Productions, Mary Beth Maher, George Lange, Andrew Hands, Steven Frantz, Pam and Harry Mendez, Blackshear Bridge Board of Directors — Justin Bowes, Amanda Masino, Steven KiKi Marshall, every community volunteer and most of all to the kids — for participating enthusiastically and having a great time growing green with Blackshear Bridge!

I hope you will come see the birds, bees, and butterflies this spring as we ask your help soon to support the next stage of our work.  Feel free to call for a tour or to volunteer.   Donna Hoffman, Sustainability Coordinator, Blackshear Bridge, 512-299-5776 or

One response to “Great Leap Frogs at Blackshear

  1. Pingback: African American Food Matters | blackshear bridge·

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