Summer’s heat in Austin is a good time to stop, sit by Barton Springs and look back at what Blackshear Bridge accomplished and enjoyed in the 2014-2015 school year. Thanks to the volunteers in our community, to the children, parents, and staff of Blackshear Elementary Fine Arts Academy and Huston-Tillotson University; thanks to the staff of our other fine partner organizations, we have a lot to smile about as we gaze out at the cold spring water.
This school year, Blackshear Bridge expanded the number of hours we facilitated outdoors learning by over 70%. We went from teaching Friday Enrichment Time classes to mentoring the children in Ms. Houston, Ms. Paredes, and Ms. Perez’ kindergarten classes. We went from providing 20 to over 65 hours of garden time. That meant we went from taking about 9 kids a week to taking about 54 a week out to the garden to grow and share food and learn about nature.
In their young lives, this meant that the cafeteria manager observed the children ate more vegetables, an important outcome for overcoming health issues prevalent in our historically African American and Latino neighborhood.
In their young lives, this meant that they learned the power of their own hands and minds to plant seeds, care for them, and then to make those plants into dishes and ice tea — peppermint with apple juice! that their families enjoyed.
In their young lives, most importantly, this meant the children experienced joyful learning and helping each other garden together as a team. As our Board Member, Huston-Tillotson University professor and coordinator of the First Year Experience, Gina Tillis would say — Education is the practice of liberation.
Now we are singing with the choir of other nonprofit organizations calling for growing this field – so to speak – by creating more paid staff positions across Austin to provide school garden and sustainability education.
Celebrating Blackshear Bridge Accomplishments of 2014-2015
- Introduced Inch by Inch: Putting the Garden in Kindergarten
- Facilitated over 3,500 garden, outdoors, wellness and sustainability hours.
- Piloted the first Friday School Farm Stand with fresh veggies and herbs
- Coordinated planting of 23 Trees with City of Austin PARD Urban Forestry
- Coordinated habitat stewards who designed and installed landscaping around the new office of Austin’s African American Cultural Heritage District
- Highlighted need for maintaining Diversity in central east Austin through social media information sharing
- Presented Property Tax & Affordable Housing Community Q&A
- Introduced individuals to opportunities for purchasing affordable housing
Thank you to our neighbors, volunteers and Board of Directors; to the students, parents, and staff of Blackshear Elementary Fine Arts Academy; to the PTA’s at Blackshear and Kealing Middle School; to the staff of Huston-Tillotson University; and thank you to all of our partners. May love and peace fill you and yours and… may you jump in Barton Springs at least once if not several times this summer!