School Garden Spotlight: Blackshear Elementary

In the Grow Local program, we have the privilege of supporting school gardens in Austin, from providing School Garden Leadership Trainings to offering Spread the Harvest resources. We love seeing the ways that school gardens move classroom learning outdoors and offer students a chance to see where food comes from by growing their own fruits and vegetables. Blackshear Elementary is a school in the heart of East Austin that has seen immense school garden growth and participation. We want to highlight their progress to inspire other school gardeners in Austin!

Last September, Blackshear was the host site of our fall School Garden Leadership Training, bringing together school staff, parents, and community members to form a vision for how to strengthen involvement in the school garden. The training was organized with the help of Donna Hoffman, the Sustainability Coordinator for Blackshear Bridge, a school-community partnership. Donna recently attend a Food Matters talk at the Carver Museum where she heard startling statistics on heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, as well as the impact of institutionalized racism on health; “One way ally groups like Blackshear Bridge can help is through making gardening education available through the public schools. The kids are physically active outdoors, soaking up the sun and learning how to grow and eat healthy food. And they love it!” She is also concerned about Austin’s demographical trend of a shrinking African American population, visible in East Austin. “We hope by showing kids how to have fun, to love and take care of ​themselves fully by growing and eating yummy, healthy food that they'll have happy and healthy lives and stay living here when they have that choice as young adults."

One of Blackshear’s goals for the year was to increase opportunities for outdoor education and increase “nature minutes.” Blackshear’s Campus Green Team asked the PK-2nd Grade teachers to teach at least once a week in the garden. School gardeners shared harvests from the kids’ gardens during a PTA movie showing and during Friday enrichment time lessons in the garden. Occasionally, they leave collards, kale, lettuce, cilantro, broccoli, turnips, peppers, and onions at the front office for parents, teachers, and staff to take home and eat. To keep the garden going, Blackshear participates in our Grow Local Spread the Harvest resource program to get seeds, plants, and compost. We’re happy to hear they’re spreading their harvest with others!

Going forward, Blackshear Bridge aims to provide environmental education opportunities to parents and the broader community, as well as continue Friday enrichment time lessons. The garden project is also the recipient of this year’s Bright Green Futures Grant through the City of Austin’s Office of Sustainability, which will be used to improve and maintain the garden.

To all school gardeners, we hope you are inspired to keep growing. We also invite you to register for our spring School Garden Leadership Training coming up on Saturday, February 28 at SFC, so you can plan your vision for the school garden. Happy gardening!