What do the parents say?

Once a month, Mainspring hosts a Parent Supper. At the most recent, parents were the teachers! Groups worked together to answer 4 Questions and then took turns reading their responses to the entire room. It was wonderful evening; parents were really engaged and shared some great advice. Here’s what they came up with: List Some Parenting Tips You’ve Learned at Mainspring • Make sure physical needs are met. (Hunger, sleep) • Read! Read! • Every moment is a teachable moment…to teach them teamwork, responsibility, language • Get down to their eye level when talking to them • Important to have a consistent routine so they know what to expect. • Build in some “Mommy Time” to keep your sanity. Teach your kids some self-directed activities • Keep your kids active! • Ignore what you can ignore • Pick your battles • Teach them to take one “Thank You Bite” at dinner…as thanks to the cook. • Increase their activity to get them to sleep easier • Give them freedom to choose; use more positive discipline • Every child is different and needs to be treated accordingly • Patience is key! • Learned to understand physical needs (and how they affect behavior)

What Have You Learned About Food / Health / Sleep / Exercise? • All tied together: More activity → More Healthy Food → More Sleep • Serving sizes are much smaller than we realized • There are resources available to help parents • Turn the TV off one hour before bedtime / white noise while sleeping / keep room cool • Get them exercise spread throughout the day • Relation of screen time to sleep • Self-soothing; taking a break • Idea of going shopping together and cooking together. • Pick your battle with food…don’t force • Work out when the kids are playing (so you have extra energy later, too) • Get at least 8 hours of sleep…more for kids. • The brain develops during sleep • The sleep schedule is key. Don’t wait until they show they are tired; it’s too late. • Present healthy food as the meal, but not too many options. They will eat what is presented, but they’ll also seek choices, which may lead them astray.

What Do You Wish Were Different About Mainspring? • The parking. (Unanimous!) • Open later…traffic is hard to get through (3 comments) • Have a “date night” for parents. (One parent jokingly asked if dates were provided!) • Use “date nights” as a way to raise funds • Change the sand on the playground to coconut husks • Wish we had a crossing guard / parking attendant • Miss the Child Inc partnership • More guest speakers at Parent Supper • Wish every parent came to PAC and took advantage of the parent support

What Do You Love About Mainspring? • Teachers are amazing • Learning techniques are on the children’s level • Environment: You can reach out to the parents • How the children are introduced to healthy eating • The many volunteers • Teachers • Curriculum • Community • Support Staff • Food • Individual attention

- Rudi Andrus, Executive Director

Summer breeze

summer1 Summer is in full swing and we just recently had our first day over 100°, but things have been heating up all summer here at Mainspring! We had a blast watching USA explode to the round of 16. They may have lost in Brazil but not in the Shining Stars classroom. They re-created the game to ensure a US victory. In fact they went all the way to bring home the trophy!



The Dewdrops have been staying fresh by breaking into the dance world with Creative Movement.  They’ve been enjoying learning about new sounds and instruments while learning how to use their bodies for art and music!



The Shining Stars, Mockingbirds and Songbirds took a field trip to the Thinkery as they continue to learn about astronomy, simple machines and the wonders of the world!




The impossible happened, as James Cameron predicted in Terminator, when robots took over the Songbird classroom! Fortunately for us they are very cute robots with great dance moves.

Another cutting-edge resource for Mainspring

If you noticed, Jennifer, Chloe and Sam have each been in training for a week with the incredible Dr. Karyn Purvis, her colleagues from the Institute of Child Development at TCU, and about 200 other child welfare professionals from TravisCounty. That’s because Mainspring is participating in a new program called the Travis County Collaborative for Children. This project (just begun) has the goal of improving care and outcomes for children in the foster care system in TravisCounty. This can be accomplished by putting every person that touches a child’s life (from the foster parent, the caseworker, the lawyer, the CASA, the therapist, the teachers etc.) through a trauma informed care training called Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI). TBRI is an emerging intervention model for a wide range of childhood behavioral problems.

The TBRI principles are simple, but profound. The foundational idea is that relationship-based trauma can only be resolved through loving, stable relationships, such as can be offered by nurturing caregivers. By using the connecting, empowering and connecting principles taught in TBRI at Mainspring we are able to teach children new and improved coping and self-regulation skills.

We hope that by joining the Travis County Collaborative for Children Mainspring can become part of the healing process for families and children involved in the child welfare system.

A story about a sidewalk

Have you seen the new sidewalk…or the Counting Caterpillar on the Dewdrop playground? DSCN0981

If you haven’t, be sure to check them out. These works of beauty were brought to us by the generous folks from Parchment.

On Tuesday, we had close to 40 Parchment volunteers roaring to go! In a mere 3 hours, this group was able to accomplish an astounding amount of work. Everyone can see the newly installed pea gravel walkway that will lead families from one building to the next and is complete with the custom mosaic stepping stones made then as well. Inside, hands were busy creating professional artist portfolios for all of the wonderful Wee Little Arts work from the Fall semester.

All hands on deck for the mosaics!

Big thanks to United Way Greater Austin for connecting us with this amazing group to complete projects that would have otherwise been impossible for us to tackle alone.

Bookspring / RIF Day 2013

Grasshoppers enjoy a good book under the fort in celebration of RIF day. Today was Reading Is Fundamental day at Mainspring! Twice a year Bookspring/RIF provide a rich reading experiences and brand new books to underserved children all over Austin, including those here at Mainspring. Books aren’t just about reading and enjoyment, they have the power to help children make sense of the world around them and to push at the corners of that world to make it as wide open as possible.

Our theme for today was Books At Bedtime so one class at a time Mainspring children, dressed in pajamas, packed into our blanket fort to hear a story read by a volunteer and to talk about their own bedtime routines. Afterwards they were led to a shelf (stocked by Booksping) that was packed with brand new, high quality books and told they could pick one to keep. After making their selection a volunteer wrote their name on a Bookspring/RIF bookplate.

All morning I’ve been hearing children “read” their names written in their books, or ask teachers to read their book to them. I saw Shining Stars showing each other the pictures in their book and improvising a plot line to go along with them. I saw Sunflowers sitting in laps, reaching out to touch the pages of brand new board books.  I saw the joy that a book and a story can bring to even the smallest child and I was reminded why the work we do at Mainspring is so important. Because what I really saw was a school full of children being given two of the best things we can offer them: a book and the lifelong love of reading.

- Rudi Andrus, Executive Director

Fairy tales and mentors

Mainspring has taken on another wonderful opportunity, this time in partnership with St. DominicIMG_0816 Savio High School. This school requires its students to acquire 15 hours of community service per year. More specifically, it charges these students with finding high-need, direct involvement opportunities. Mainspring is lucky enough to have been asked to be a part of this as an organization. Last week, about 12 Savio students (Mentors) visited our 3 and 4 year olds to complete a few hours of fun and service. While here, the Mentors helped guide our Songbirds and Shining Stars through creating a fairy tale of their own. The most recent theme in the classes had been focused around fairy tales and so it was only appropriate as a culminated project, they get to map out, design and bind their own book!

The experience with everyone working together was one that I know our kiddos won’t forget and we hope the older kids got something out of it too! We are already making plans for a visit in the early spring!

Pumpkin Time

If you were ever wondering how many different ways you can use a pumpkin in an IMG_0249educational setting, the past couple weeks at Mainspring could give you an idea; the highlight of all of these being the culmination of making a Jack O’ Lantern. Using such a universally iconic representation of the season, our teachers did a wonderful job incorporating pumpkins in to their recent lesson plans. Here are some of the ways pumpkins were used in the different classrooms

  •  Dewdrops dipped whole small pumpkins in paint then rolled them across long sheets of paper to see what shapes they make.
  • Honeybees talked about different colored gourds then made their own using varying colors of tissue paper.
  • Songbirds spent time scooping out seeds and chronicling the feel, smell and taste after they baked them.
  • Shining Stars took to clay and sculpted and painted their own, exemplifying that each pumpkin is different and unique

IMG_0242Pumpkins are a fun, natural way of exploring the world around us while connecting to core curriculum components each class teaches. Plus, it’s a whole lot of fun!

Best of luck 2013 graduates!

From the accounts we have gotten from parents, it seems the 2013 Mainspring GRADUATION NEWSLETTER PIC graduates are loving their new classes and we couldn't be happier! It is always bittersweet to see the group go, and we hope that we have done everything we can to provide for this moment in their educational life! Kindergarten can be a scary place at first, but it is our deepest hope that through their time here, the former Shining Stars have picked up the skills needed to take the scary and turn it in to successful. A big thank you to each parent who has participated in our Parenting Program over the past year. We are firm believers in the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child” because we see first hand how much persistence, patience and love needs to be given to each child and no one should go at it alone.

Now that summer is coming to an end, we are launching full-steam-ahead with what is sure to be the best school year yet!

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.

DSCN0761 DSCN0764 DSCN0765 DSCN0767

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!

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!

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, 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.