Rocket Week

We implement  school-wide learning themes during the school year so that teachers can share resources, so children see the same subject presented in many different ways throughout the building, and so children can build on knowledge gained throughout the years they are at Mainspring. But in the summer, teachers have free choice to teach about whatever interests them or their children. This past week has been “Rocket Week” and the fun learning activities have soared!classroom rocket Classrooms are filled with cardboard rocket ships. Books about space fill the mini-libraries located inside the individual classrooms. Kids have made beautiful earth pictures out of coffee filters with diluted paint. They constructed and dressed up in astronaut suits made out of aluminum foil (for the hats) and that hose that connects a clothes dryer to the wall (for the arms). Posters of the solar system adorn the walls.

Two years ago this week, the final space shuttle was launched. We don’t have televisions at Mainspring, so one enterprising teacher streamed the launch through his laptop and projected it onto the wall. Thirty young children from two classes sat enthralled for much longer than a child development expert would tell you is possible. They counted down, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Blast Off!

Then, the children went out to the playground and lined up along the fence to watch their teacher fire off a blaster rocket he had purchased for them. Again, they counted down to Blast Off!

My desk sits right by the door and I get to hear what children tell their parents about their day. As children left school that day, almost every child was telling their parent about the rockets.

This is great early education in action. Kids were very interested in the topic. Vocabularies increased to include many new words. The theme was presented in many mediums from stories to art to a live re-enactment. Technology facilitated the learning, but didn't dominate it. Teachers got to share their passion and be creative. It was fun.

Mainspring - and the children who are here - are blessed to have such wonderful teachers. They say that the greatness of any organization lies in its people. The Mainspring staff is the most amazing group of caring, resourceful, hard-working people that I've ever had the honor to know. They are the embodiment of great early education in action!

- Rudi Andrus, Executive Director

United Way Days of Caring

On Friday our West Playground received a much needed face lift! Thanks to a group of volunteers from Cisco, organized through the United Way of Greater Austin’s Spring Days of Caring, the rocky eye-sore next to the Honeybee classroom is now a utopia of beauty! During the West Playground's closure while the modular building was constructed rocks, debris and the like were unpleasantly unearthed. While a serious effort was put forth by Mainspring staff to make the playground usable, much more work was needed to unlock its full potential.

Beyond the 20 wheelbarrows full of rocks that were manually sifted from the sand play areas you can find a beautifully landscaped area, complete with native plants and mulch. Now the entire area not only looks nice but is more functional as erosion control.

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HUGE thanks to Cisco and United Way for partnering to bring willing and able bodies our way. The whole day was such a success and we are so fortunate to be a part of such a loving, caring community!

America obsesses about food while ignoring hunger

Good nutrition is an essential part of Mainspring's program. In the clip below Tom Colicchio, renowned chef and "Top Chef" judge, and producer of the documentary "A Place at the Table", talks with Chris Hayes about hunger in America, food assistance programs, and the vital role nutrition plays in education. Clip courtesy of MSNBC's "Up With Chris Hayes". A short advertisement precedes the clip. The audio can be muted.

Meet our new Education Director!

Help us welcome our newest addition to the Mainspring family, Sam Schlickeisen:Sam I discovered my passion for working with families when I was a teenager working as a camp counselor for the YMCA of Austin. I led summer and after school programs for children in Manor, TX and later at a mixed use space on East 6th Street. I was always the one in the dirt, taking pies to the face (as a way to reward my group meeting a goal) and leading the Mini Mardi Gras parade of bikes and wagons we'd organize each year. 

Through college and after, I worked in a variety of childcare settings and during my senior year was accepted as an intern at The Children's AdvocacyCenter for DentonCounty working with children who had been victims of sexual abuse. I was part of a team helping the children and their families move past the trauma and toward healing and closure.

After graduating with my degree in Development and Family Studies my husband and I moved back to Austin as quick as we could. I have since worked for The Meadows Center for the Prevention of Education Risk and at Pearson doing educational research and assessment. I also worked at the ACC Lab School, which gave me first hand knowledge of the inner workings of an extremely loving and high quality early childhood education center, which led me to Mainspring Schools.

I firmly believe that being a part of the "village" that helps raise a child is a special gift and an awesome responsibility. My husband and I are foster parents to two children (a brother and sister) and every day with them reminds me that having a supportive network in invaluable to parents. I'm hoping to be a part of that network for parents at Mainspring.

I am a passionate educator and look forward to putting my skills to work to improve and innovate the education your children receive here at Mainspring! I am excited to get to know you, your children and your families as we work together to ensure the brightest possible future for all of the students at Mainspring. Please feel free to come to me with questions, concerns or suggestions about your child's life and learning at Mainspring. I am excited to partner will you and with the amazing teachers and administrators here.

Giving much thanks

The day before any holiday break is always an exciting one around here, especially this one. With some families already taken off for a long weekend, the feeling about school is light and festive. Not sure if it started with the generous token of appreciation from Parent Advisory Council (PAC) in the form of Breakfast Tacos, but it certainly added to the delightful morning. If you would walk in to the Shining Star room this morning, you would find a well organized and possibly the cutest “Spider Diagram”. It details what it means to be thankful and what each student is thankful for; the results of which range from “Spiderman” to “Fluffy” to “Mom and Dad”. As we grow older, we lose sight of the simple things to be thankful for. For this, we are grateful we have young ones around us to keep us remembering the “small” things.

Among the many things were are thankful for, we must highlight one that stands most prominent today. After today Kassi Longoria, Center Director will be leaving us to spread her acquired wisdom and experience with multiple Childcare Centers throughout the area as Director Mentor for the Texas Workforce Commission. This is a wonderful opportunity for her and we wish her all the best in all her endeavors. As we proceed in finding a replacement for Kassi, it will be hard to find someone with the compassion she shared and we thank her for all she has given Mainspring over the past 4 years.

3M - More than just sticky notes!

We are so fortunate from time to time when we are reminded of how generous our community can be! 3M, a global company, provides countless services and products for people nationally and internationally. While this large corporation could easily skate by, not noticing small institutions like us, 3M’s devotion to community service asks it’s many branches to intentionally and proactively search for non-profits and provide tailored, hands-on support. This past Friday, members of the local 3M Supply Chain department stepped away from their desks, put on work gloves and spent the day beautifying our grounds! The group of about 30 spent the day giving the classrooms and courtyard a nice Fall Cleaning! The magic didn't stop there. Outside, members of the group spent hours weeding, tilling and raking both playgrounds - and if you have ever weeded Bermuda grass, you know what a chore that is!

After a full day of work around here, this place was gleaming and everyone here was so thankful for all their hard work!

Be sure to like us on Facebook so you can see how the Songbird and Shining Star classes helped us thank the group for everything they did!

Breaking good… ground

Today was a very exciting one around our campus. With our General Contractor, WS Walker, fully mobilized, the first bit of ground was broken in preparation for the new building! With months of preparation leading up to this date, the building excitement came to a realization as the front-end excavator pulled up and began crushing the playground sidewalks. While all of this will take place outside of the Shining Star (4-year-old) classroom, you can imagine the onlooking eyes of curious minds. Needless to say, the teachers are going to have their work cut out for them in the coming weeks getting these kids engaged in anything but construction!

From beginning to end, we are planning on 3-4 weeks working time. Keep checking back, as well as our Facebook page for the most current updates. A HUGE “Thank You” to everyone who has donated money and/or time to get us to this point. Our dreams are closer because of you!

Early childhood brain insights: Early educators make an impact on brains

Reblogged from Early Childhood Brain Insights For optimal brain development, high quality early learning experiences should be available to all children, regardless of the setting they are in, and regardless of their abilities, special needs, and regardless of family income.

Read the entire post: Early Childhood Brain Insights: EARLY EDUCATORS MAKE AN IMPACT ON BRAINS.

Getting parents to eat more vegetables - easier than you think

Reblogged from Nourish Interactive We all know that we need to eat more vegetables.  We, as parents, also know that we are key role models for kids and they are watching and learning from our behaviors.

According to the latest USDA guidelines, we should actually being filling half our plate with fruits and vegetables.  And actually a bit more vegetables than fruit ;-)

So how do we get ourselves to eat more vegetables!  That is a good question and this study may be the key with a pretty simple solution.

By adding more variety of vegetables to your meal, adults were more likely to eat more vegetables.  The study found that adults actually ate about 1/2 serving more of vegetables if there was a variety of vegetables.

Read the entire post: Getting parents to eat more vegetables-easier than you think.

Mainspring awarded USDA "Farm to Child Care" grant

We are happy to announce that we have been awarded the USDA’s Farm to Child Care grant again this year! The goal of this grant is to help children learn more about where their food comes from and how important it is to make good choices concerning our food and how it is produced.  The grant also incorporates the Team Nutrition initiative, which the USDA began to help families and schools teach about healthy eating and exercise.

Last year we were able to buy materials like posters and portion plates for the lunch room as well as start a farm delivery program where we get most of our fresh produce! The children were introduced to a lot of new tastes, not only from the farm but we also tried some exotic foods from around the world!

This year I hope to continue bringing new culinary experiences to our children and getting them excited about healthy food! Our chef Rachel has done an amazing job in the kitchen offering up creative, delicious meals with the vegetables she receives while keeping with the USDA’s guidelines on proper nutrition.

We will also be adding a few new activities to our nutrition initiative such as cooking classes and guest speakers for our parent suppers. We want to help not only our children learn about healthy eating and sustainable consumption but our community as well.

For more info visit the USDA’s Team Nutrition website and the Sustainable Food Center

- Brendan Wells, "Songbirds"

UPDATE: The "Farm to Childcare Grant" officially ends August 31, 2013 but Mainspring is committed to continuing the teaching and practice of healthy nutrition and sustainability, such as serving meals that include farm-fresh produce, on-site gardening, and learning units on healthy eating and where our food comes from.

Pulitzer Prize winner Leonard Pitts speaks at Mainspring's 2012 Annual Luncheon

Mainspring Schools sends a heartfelt Thank You! to everyone who supported and attended our annual fundraising luncheon. The crowd gave keynote speaker Leonard Pitts, Jr. a standing ovation for his right-on remarks in which he identified quality early education as the most important factor for changing a disadvantaged child's chances in life. Special thanks to the generous individuals, corporations, and foundations who helped Mainspring reach its fundraising goal.

Mainspring featured on KXAN

Mainspring is featured in a new video at KXAN.com, presented by veteran reporter Jim Swift. Swift has written an accompanying story that is eloquent and remarkably informative. He writes knowingly about Mainspring's program and philosophy, the vital importance of early childhood education, and the challenges faced by parents of young children and by providers of quality child care.