Coming Soon

Austin Green School is in the beginning stages of development and planning. We hope to open our doors by fall 2013. Our school will be kinder through high school with the possibility of an early childhood center.
If you are interested in helping us in any way please email us at
In the mean time please enjoy our blog as we make public our efforts and experiences.
We know the road ahead will be filled with many challenges but we are determined to give the community of Austin
the gift of a progressive educational community. Wish us luck!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Great Resources from Lasso the moon

This post is from Lasso the Moon a great parenting blog about modern parenting and more. Please visit their site at

Book Sale Treasure

I found a hidden treasure at a local book sale. I threw an aged copy of Exploring Nature with Your Child :: An Introductory to the Enjoyment and Understanding of Nature by Dorothy Edwards Shuttlesworth into my jammed full $5 grocery bag of books. This weekend I cracked the spine, read the 1952 copyright date and wearily dug into my nearly free handbook. I was awed by the intro:
Children are natural explorers. They have the true explorer’s interest in their immediate surroundings as well as far away places, and they are eager to know why things are as they are.
If you are a wise parent you will look upon these qualities in your child as a sacred fire–always to be fed, allowed to die out never.
An inquiring mind and zest for living are essential for a rich, interesting, and worth-while life. Childhood is a time to nourish and strengthen these fine qualities. Just as your child is a natural explorer, you are a natural guide.
You can be a fellow explorer, too, enriching your own life as well as your child’s. As you look back on your own early years, you may recall the first time you noticed a bud opening into a flower, a bird building its nest, two colonies of ants battling each other. You may remember that such intimate glimpses of nature gave you a real thrill. Now, as a parent, you can find still more pleasure in learning about the ways of animals and the wonders of plants as you share your observing with your child. No need to go on a safari through Central Africa–delightful discoveries await you in  your own back yard, in city parks and suburban gardens, along forest trails where you may hike, and by the side of lakes and streams or the ocean where you may vacation.”
I cannot wait to dive into the section “How to Understand the Birds”!

PS: Other recent, wonderful, library finds include:
The Sense of Wonder
By Rachel Carson
I loved this section, “A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing anti-dote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strengths.
If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift from the fairies, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.
Parents often have a sense of inadequacy . . . If you are a parent who feels he has little nature lore at his disposal there is still much you can do for your child. With him, wherever you are and whatever your resources, you can still look up at the sky–its dawn and twilight beauties, its moving clouds, its stars by night.”
The version available at my library is from 1956. I see that the revised version has photos by Nick Kelsh. He is a wonderful photographer and I recommend *all* of his “How to Photograph…” books.
50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do)
By Gever Tulley
I enjoyed this book, although many of the activities were geared towards slightly older elementary school children (all the way to middle school students). I highly recommend the book. If you are looking for a family oriented holiday gift it would make a nice present for a father.
Barnes & Noble writes, “We all want to save our children from harm, but let’s admit it: Overly protective parents say “Don’t do that!” all too often. This counterintuitive activity book proposes to free beloved offspring from unnecessary, even harmful coddling. In fact, 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do) explains how activities like sleeping in the wild, melting glass, and, yes, playing with fire can be used to educate youngsters about how to stay safe in the face of danger. Forget tiger mom; we want to build strong, self-reliant tiger children.
Gever Tully was fortunate to grow up in a world full of possibilities and adventures. He and his big brother were free to explore their environment and invent their own projects while growing up in the wide-open rural environs of Northern California and interior British Columbia. Their curiosity was encouraged by their parents, who instilled early on a sensible approach to their experiments. Gever’s famous rule while babysitting: “If you’re going to play with fire, be sure to do it outside.” (Note that this was in the ever-wet yards of coastal Northern California, not the tinder-dry inland desert!)
In 2005, Gever founded Tinkering School to teach kids how to build things. He created the school since he believes we all learn by fooling around. Grand schemes, wild ideas, crazy notions, and intuitive leaps of imagination are, of course, encouraged and fertilized. After years of creating playful hands-on projects for kids of all ages, Gever wanted to share with a wider audience the discovery that comes from this directed “fooling around.” Fifty Dangerous Things (you should let your children do) is his first book on the subject. “

Hiatus explanation

So some of you may have been wondering why there have been no recent post. Well, it has been a whirlwind of a couple of months as Rob and I(Jackie), co-founders of AGS have decided to get married. We are getting married in October and did not want a long engagement so that we can continue to focus on our dream of opening Austin Green School. We are continuously amazed at all of the support we get through email from those of you we have not yet met in person and from our friends and family. Everyone seems to be so excited about the possibilities AGS will bring to our children and the community. We still have our highest hopes of opening on a very small scale Fall 2013! Now that most of the wedding planning is done we will start back with more blogpost to keep you informed, enlightened and to share information that we think is cool :0) Thank you all we are truly grateful for the encouragement and support!

Love & Light

Monday, April 9, 2012

Gardening with Children From

 I came across this article from and think it will be very helpful when we start our garden at AGS. Enjoy!

Gardening with Children      
Children are natural gardeners.

They're curious, like to learn by doing, and love to play in the dirt.

Working in a garden, a child can experience the satisfaction that comes from caring for something over time, while observing the cycle of life firsthand.
Gardening gives children a chance to learn an important life skill, one that is overlooked in standard school curriculums. Gardening is also a great way to teach environmental awareness by exploring the workings of nature.
what to plant - top 10 crops for children
Our children were involved with gardening from an early age, and it was gratifying to watch their interest and self-esteem grow as their gardening efforts yielded good results. Although there are many crops suitable for the young gardener, here are our "top 10", which are relatively easy to grow, have short growing seasons and are fun to harvest.

A must for a child's garden. Plant just one or two, since they take a lot of room. Sunflowers will sprout in 1 week, become a small seedling in 2 weeks, and should be 2' tall in a month. In 8 weeks, the buds will flower revealing hundreds of seed kernels. Be sure to gorw 'confectionery' sunflowers, the type grown for food. They will dry naturally in the late summer sun; the seeds, rich in protein and iron, can be roasted for snacks. Save a few for next summers' planting.

A quick and reliable crop to give the child fast results, and also a good way to interest kids in salads. Lettuce likes part shade; keep soil moist especially during the first two weeks. The seeds will germinate in 7-10 days; growing season is 40-50 days. You can grow 'head' (space 8" apart) or 'leaf' (space 4" apart) varieties; the leaf varieties will mature sooner, about 30-35 days.

Quick results for the young gardener. Radishes germinate in 3-10 days, and have a very short growing season of 20-30 days. They can be planted closely, 4-6" apart. Plant in cool weather for a mild radish, or hot weather for a hotter radish.

snow peas
A quick-growing early crop, and fun for kids to eat right off the vine. They take about 10 days to germinate and mature in about 60 days. Peas prefer cooler, partially shaded locations in the garden; they should be sown closely, about 1" apart at most. Snow peas are popular because the pod is edible and since they are a dwarf plant they can be grown without a trellis.

cherry tomatoes
Gotta have 'em! These may be the most fun crop for a child, aside from strawberries. Plant in full sun and use seedlings rather than planting from seed. Put in a 2' stake alongside each seedling; they need to be tied loosely to stakes as they get taller. Add lots of compost. Water at ground level, trying to keep leaves dry. Growing season is 50-75 days. Cherry tomatoes can also be grown in containers.

Child's Wheelbarrow

Our children deserve the best gardening tools. Here's a beautiful, sturdy wheelbarrow you can build yourself. This project is also a great parent/child activity. Click here for the plans.
These flowers are easy to grow and yield results quickly, which encourages the young gardener. Nasturtiums bloom about 50 days after the seeds are planted, with orange, yellow and red flowers. They prefer sunny, dry locations and do well in poor soil. Choose the shorter varieties for garden beds. Nasturtiums are also pest resistant, which ensures a successful planting. The flowers are also edible, and can be used to add colour to a fresh garden salad.

bush beans
Fast, easy, high yield and, because they do not grow tall, they are easy for kids to harvest. Bush beans germinate in 4-8 days, and mature in 40-65 days. It's best to plant a small patch, then another in a few weeks. This will extend the harvest. When choosing seeds, select the "low bush" varieties because these will be easier for children to harvest. Plant closely spaced, about 4" apart. Grow in direct sun; water the soil but try to keep the leaves dry. Bush beans don't need poles or trellises to grow.

Seeds can be sown directly into soil; carrots prefer cooler temperatures. They can be slow to germinate, so be patient. Carrots will mature in about 60 days.The soil should be free of rocks and easy for the carrot to grow 'down'. Keep well-watered and thin to every 3" because crowding will produce foliage but no root. Small varieties are recommended for children, as they're easier to grow and more fun to eat.

A 'never-fail' crop. You can plant red or white varieties; red will mature faster. Children seem to favor the red variety. Cut seed potatoes into chunks with at least 2 'eyes' per. Plant in furrows, about 12-15" apart, with eyes pointing upward. Mound soil up around plant as it grows; harvest when plant collapses.

A 'must' for a child's garden, if you have the room. Plant seeds in a small hill; poke three holes in the hill and put one seed in each hole. Seeds will sprout in about 1 week; after a few days, vine leaves begin to form and creep along the ground. Once there are 3 pumpkins on the vine, pick off any new blossoms. Pumpkins take 80 - 120 days to harvest: it's ready when it feels hard on the outside and sounds hollow when tapped. Let an adult supervise the cutting, using shears. Seeds can be dried to eat, or save for future planting. The meat can be used for pies, and the pumpkin for carving.

other crops our children have tried, but had mixed results:

corn - a heavy feeder, corn needs lots of compost or fertilizer, and requires a lot of growing space in relation to the size of the harvest. If the plants aren't "knee high by the 4th of July", the ears will be small. In our garden, either the crows got the seedlings, or the plants just never got big enough to yield a good harvest.

green onions - easy to grow, but not all that exciting.

zucchini - easy, fast, and impressive size, but it takes a good recipe to get children excited about zucchini.

strawberries - great, but can be a struggle with the predators. We chose the 'ever-bearing' strawberry varieties which have smaller fruit but which bear all summer. Netting the plants from the birds and raccoons, however, was a constant chore which the young children often forgot. Birds became caught in the strawberry netting, which was never fun.

watermelon - similar to pumpkins to grow. They have to be well grown to be large and tasty. In our experience, the fruit was smaller than expected and not very sweet. We prefer to give the space to pumpkins.
Tips for gardening with children
Give them their own garden beds. Whether you use raised beds, containers or ground plots, be sure to give each child his or her own separate plot. Keep it small, very small for young kids. Put their plots right in the middle of the action, with the best soil and light. Set them up for success.

Reuse the sandbox.
If your children have grown past their sandbox years, consider converting the old sandbox to a garden bed. This gives the child continued 'ownership' of a familiar space and encourages a sense of responsibility to the gardening project. Of course, a productive garden bed needs to be in good sunlight and soil should be free of tree roots. It may be necessary to relocate the sandbox if growing conditions are less than ideal.
Give them serious tools. Cheap plastic child's gardening tools are worse than no tools at all; they break easily and frustrate the user. It can be hard to locate good tools for kids, especially work gloves that fit a small hand. With some garden tools, like a hoe or spade, you can easily saw the handle shorter. Let them use your tools if need be; in this way you're acknowledging the importance of the work they're doing.
Engage them through the entire process, from seed to table. Children learn better when they understand the context of their activity. They will learn that gardening can be fun, but far more than idle play; they are contributing to the family well-being. Besides planting and nurturing their garden beds, be sure they alone do the harvesting and preparation of their crop for the table, no matter how modest the offering.

Start from seeds.
While it's a convenient shortcut to buy starters, children will learn more by seeing the growing process as it begins, from seed. The care given to sprouting seeds and nurturing the young seedling are a valuable part of the gardening experience. Seeds will need to be started indoors in a warm room and once sprouted they can be transplanted into pots until ready to set out, or they can be placed into a cold frame which is set on top of the garden bed.

Cheat a little.
Depending on the age of the child, you may need to help out a little 'behind the scene'. Not every garden task is pleasant, and the child may not be ready at all times for all chores. You may need to go out in the evening to pick a few slugs off the lettuce, or be the one to run out and move the sprinkler. They don't have to know about every little help you offer - the child's 'ownership' of the plot is the main thing.
When all else fails, make a scarecrow. The best time to engage children in gardening is when they're in the mood for this activity. If their attention wanes, or the garden tasks become boring, let them build a scarecrow. This activity is still a contribution to the gardening effort and adds another layer of interest to the garden scene. It also reminds the child of the importance of the garden crops.
Show off their work. When giving 'garden tours' to friends, be sure to point out the children's beds. Take a photo of their harvest and send it to the grandparents. The attention given to their work is the best motivator for children to stay involved with a project.
Resources for young gardeners

The Great Plant Escape
- this is a great primer on gardening written for children; follow the clues and learn the plant growing basics.
My First Garden - a wonderful site from the University of Illinois. All you need to know about getting started with your first garden in a fun and kid-friendly way.
The Adventure of Herman the Worm - Activities, games, and linfo.
KinderGARDEN - Has many links and resources for teaching children about gardening. Check out the fun page and the book list.
Pumpkin Circle - Educational pumpking-growing activities for kids for home or school.
The Kids Garden
- Creative children's gardening ideas from the UK

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Spirituality in Education

Spirituality in Education

"What transforms education, is a
transformed being in the world."

Parker Palmer
The spiritual poverty of much contemporary education provides few opportunities for today's youth to quench their deep thirst for meaning and wholeness. Misguided, or unconscious attempts by students to attain some sense of fulfillment often result in varying degrees of addictive behavior toward activities, substances or relationships - all of which make teaching and learning difficult, if not impossible.Compulsive or reckless activity, substance abuse, and empty sexuality can result from students trying to escape the pain of an inner emptiness. In the classroom this can manifest as lack of interest, lack of self-worth, lack of compassion, lack of self-discipline and lack of spirit.

A more 'soulful' education seeks to open the mind, warm the heart and awaken the spirit of each student. It would provide opportunities for students to be creative, contemplative, and imaginative. It allows time to tell old and new stories of heroes, ideals and transformation. It encourage students to go deep into themselves, into nature, and into human affairs. It values service to others and the planet.
A spiritualized curriculum values physical, mental and spiritual knowledge and skills. It presents knowledge within cultural and temporal contexts, rather than as facts to be memorized or dogma to be followed. It is integrative across all disciplines emphasizing inter-relationship and inter-connectedness. It challenges students to find their own place in space and time, and to reach for the highest aspirations of the human spirit.

Books on Spirituality and
Spirituality in Education

Zohar, D & Marshall, I. (2000). SQ: Connecting With Our Spiritual Intelligence. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing  
Walsh, Roger. (1999)  Essential Spirituality.  New  York: John Wiley  
Sloan, D. (1983) Insight-Imagination. Westport, CT:Greenwood Press  
Palmer, Parker (1983)  To Know As We Are Known: A Spirituality of Education.  New York:Harper Collins.  
Moffet, J. (1994). The Universal Schoolhouse: Spiritual Awakening Through Education, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers  
Moore, T.  (1994) Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life. New York: HarperPerennial  
Moore, T.  (2000) Original Self: Living with Paradox and Originality. New York: HarperCollins  
Miller, J.P. (1994)  The Contemplative Practitioner.  Toronto: OISE Press  
Kessler, R. (2000) The Soul of Education: Helping Students Find Connection, Compassion, and Character at School Virginia: ASCD  
Glazer, Steven. (1999)  The Heart of Learning: Spirituality in Education.  New York: Tarcher/Putnam  
Brussat, F. and M.  (1996)  Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life. New York: Scribner
Pearmain, E.D. (Ed.) (1998) Doorways to the Soul: 52 Wisdom Tales From Around The World Ohio: The Pilgrim Press
Grof, C. (1993). The Thirst for Wholeness: Attachment, Addiction and the Spiritual Path. San Francisco: HarperSan Francisco.  
Tacey, David (2000) Re-Enchantment: The New Australian Spirituality. Sydney:HarperCollins
Palmer, Parker (1998)  The Courage to Teach: Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher's life.  San Francisco: Jossey Bass.  
Miller, John P. (2000) Education and the Soul: Toward a Spiritual Curriculum. State University of New York Press
Nakagawa, Yoshiharu (2000)  Education for Awakening An Eastern Approach to Holistic Education Foundation for educational Renewal, Brandon, VT
Great Ideas in Education
Box 328, Brandon, VT

(Translated by Madeline Newman Rios and Gregory S. Miller)
Miller, J &  Nakagawa, Y (eds)  Nurturing Our Wholeness
Perspectives on Spirituality in Education

Psychology Press/Holistic Education Press
Box 328, Brandon, VT

The preceding information and article come from the Holistic Education Network. HEN is a valuable resource for spiritual practices in education. Please visit their website for more information. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

As simple as ABC: Going Green in Education

As Simple as ABC: Going Green in Education

Green schools banner Students are our future – whether they are just entering kindergarten or about to graduate college, you can’t argue with that fact. So much time, energy and money are spent on education to ensure that we are raising up the leaders our world needs for tomorrow… According to the National Center for Education Statistics Digest of Education Statistics of 2010, the United States is home to some 140,000 schools (elementary, secondary & post-secondary) and over 85 million students in public & private schools. Educating our future leaders on the basics shouldn’t be our only goal while they are in school – we should be setting an example for them, including how we treat the environment. And we can start by greening our schools.
We already put money into our schools and they are doing just fine.
Why do they need more money?

We are already putting money into our schools, this is true, but our schools are not fine. Take a look at these staggering statistics:
  • 60% of US schools have major building features in disrepair
  • 33% of America’s schools have buildings in need of extensive repair or replacement
  • 43% of schools have unsatisfactory indoor environmental conditions
  • 20% of schools have unsatisfactory indoor air quality
There are a number of schools on “probation” for mold content or other air quality issues. Our students are spending a majority of their week in these buildings. Problems in other areas require funding that would go to another area and so on and so on… leaving things like air quality at the bottom of the list. Leaving our students in an unsatisfactory environment is simply not acceptable.
Okay, so they need help… But why should I support “greening” my school?
Isn’t that more investment than it’s worth?

Image: Stuart Miles /
Looking for more of a reason than to set a good example for 85 million students while keeping them in a healthier environment? Take a look at these statistics from the Green Schools Leadership Center:
  • Green schools may cost less than 2% more than conventional schools (about $3 per square foot) but they provide financial benefits that are 20 times as large
  • A green school saves an average of $100,000 annually – enough to hire 2 new teachers, buy 250 new computers, or purchase 5000 new textbooks
  • Teacher Retention increases by an average of 3% and teachers experience a 7% decrease in sick days
  • Test scores and learning ability improves on average 3-5% – equating to an annual earning increase of $532 per student
So let me get this straight: we can create a better quality learning environment for our students that will increase their learning ability while retaining more of our teachers in a building that is better for the environment and also happens to save an average of $100,000 per year?
Yes! The statistics are right there and they’ve been verified. Green schools have more benefits and a higher ROI than we give them credit for, even starting with something seemingly small like recycling more.
Fantastic! How do I get started greening my school?
Whether you are a parent, teacher, superintendent or concerned citizen, we suggest speaking to someone who has authority over your school about improvements that could be made to address the green initiative while also providing benefits to the school. The Green Schools Leadership Center mentioned above is a great resource to look through as well as checking out LEED credits that your school can earn through simple adjustments. Though the GSLC was originally created to raise funding to build new green schools, their resources have since expanded to offer help to existing schools looking to implement green processes wherever they can.
Since energy and electricity are some of the biggest environmental bullies, we suggest starting by looking at your energy systems and electric appliances and then moving on from there.
  • Do you have any renewable energy systems – do you have a good spot for a couple of solar panels?
  • Are you recycling all the materials you can recycle (plastic, aluminum, paper, cardboard, glass, batteries etc.) and are you incorporating recycled materials into your everyday processes?
  • Which areas in your building require the most electricity or energy and are there products out there to reduce the amount you are using?
  • What types of foods are served in your cafeteria or dining areas  and could more fresh or organic produce be used?
  • What are you doing with the property around your school building? Is there space for an educational school garden? Could you replace some of the recreational equipment with certified “green” playground equipment?
The list could go on and on!
What types of products of services should I be looking into?
Products and services which feature recycled materials, energy reduction, are biodegradable or can be recycled themselves are a great start. The reason green schools save so much money each year is that they reduce the amount of energy, electricity and water used while also providing a way to use renewable energy sources. In terms of hand hygiene and restroom hygiene, Workplace Essentials strives to be a green leader with its innovative products and services which are perfect for educational institutions.
Whether in your restrooms or in your food service areas, the Foam Hand Soap Service offers a Green Seal Certified formula that meets industry standards and reduces waste.
Earn LEED credits with the help of the EcoDri Automatic Hand Dryer, a touch-free hand dryer which dries hands in 15-20 seconds while using 80% less energy than conventional hand dryers.
Keep your female teachers, teenage and adult students safe from bloodborne pathogens with the Sanitary Disposal Service. A masking tray inside the unit shields and protects the user from the contents while reducing the risk of drain blockage since users will not need to flush sanitary products. Inside each sanitary disposal unit is an EcoCard Sanitary Waste Neutralizer, a biological alternative to hazardous chemicals which reduces exposure to toxins while neutralizing waste with vapor release technology. The EcoCard is made from 100% recycled, biodegradable products.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

More ideas for sustainability

As we continue to develop AGS one thing that we continue to research is ways that we can  use recycled materials and promote sustainability. Tonight I will share with you some images and ideas that we find inspiring for this journey.

Rain water to garden hose

Natural Homemade Glue

Use bamboo for a sustainable material

Wall of Recycling
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle mural made from recycled materials

Recycled and natural materials

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Happy New Year!

We hope everyone enjoyed the holidays! We have been very busy working on the business plan for AGS and we even found a possible location for the school! This is very exciting news for us but we are currently under a non-disclosure and can not reveal any specific info about it right now. However, I will tell you is that the location is in South Austin and is surrounded by beautiful trees. It will probably be a while before we know if this is going to be the home of Austin Green School but in the mean time please send us positive thoughts and vibes as we try to negotiate this deal!

I also want to thank everyone who came out to the benefit show last month for your support. It was so nice to see so many familiar faces and new ones too! We raised some money for AGS and St. Jude's and hopefully spread the word about our school to some new families. A special thanks to Katy Papper and David Winchester who organized the event. Well done!

Please enjoy the photos from the event