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Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The Green Leaf February Edition

 The Green Leaf February Addition, Vol. 2, #1

Green Academy Newsletter 2.8.21

Hello Community!

A year ago, I wrote my first installment of the Green Leaf, the Green Academy Newsletter. Little did I know how much would change and how a monthly newsletter would soon become a single entry for an entire year.

We have a new faculty member! Jack Jeansonne is our new Green Academy educator. He replaced Maia Chambers. Maia left to assist her husband in his Realty business. 

Jack is an amazing educator. He taught 8th grade science last year here at Small. We pulled him over because we feel he fits in with us perfectly! He already has a vast knowledge of native plants and animals. He has multiple snakes in his classroom. He has even bred them in the past! He is very handy. Jack sponsors the Dungeons and Dragons club and the newspaper club. He coaches boys Soccer. He has an art degree and is regularly making art, building frames, and building models by hand. Jack has jumped in with both feet and is already taking students out daily and has started installation on a Milkweed garden. We are happy to have him as an addition!

Spring is usually a busy time of the year. This year everything seems to just be calm outside. Nature is doing what it does. It feels weird but feels right. We are maintaining, but in small groups. We are installing, but only on a finite scale.

We did work on some projects already this year. Through community support and the Living Tree Crowdfunding program we were able to build an outdoor learning space with room for up to 40 (non-social distanced however.) It includes picnic tables and the supports for sunshades. 

A new mural was finished on the second floor welcoming all to “Cougar Country” and featuring some iconic imagery. 

We built an outdoor sitting space on our nature trail. We attempted to not use nails and screws but vandals made it to where we had no choice. We removed some over grown trees that were damaging older Oaks, many invasives, and then harvested cedar for most of the seating.

Like I said, projects are small and more personal, but sometimes that’s just the way it needs to feel to make those better connections.

We are still in the process of finishing our Firewise Garden. We need to install the signage and continue to care for the trees and plants in the area.

Due to the structure of the Green Academy, we are always working to find ways to fund our projects and innovations. Austin ISD and Small MS have always been supportive of our program. However, beyond our salaries the district and the school provide little to no funding to our program. 

We are in a constant need of funding. We have 4 educators that have amazing ideas and plans. We are unceasingly searching and applying for grants opportunities. Many other schools are now moving into Environmental education. This is wonderful for the field, but makes it much harder to find a steady source of funds.

Student Lab Fees are used to support small projects and replace basic resources. 

For the life of the Academy we have had a biannual plant sale. Our last sale was on March 12 and 13, just before we all quarantined. We have continued to hope school would go back to something more traditional, sadly we haven’t. 

This year we are going to try and have another Market Day. Ms. Chambers had students create handmade products to be sold to the community. Students created products like paper embedded with wildflowers, candles, bat boxes, etc. We plan on allowing students to complete this project again, as a chance to replace assignments. 

Students and Faculty at school have been working hard to create all natural soap. We have branded it “Clint’s Small Batch Handmade Soaps”. The link to the order form is below. We used a standard natural formula consisting of olive oil, coconut oil, grapeseed oil and lye. In a few bars we added goat’s milk. The additions to each batch changed including sea salt, oatmeal, charcoal, herbs, citrus peel, and various essential oils.

The all natural handmade soap will be available the week of March 8. It will be available for pick-up, sent home with students, or available to be shipped for a small fee. 

Funding will obviously go towards funding staff and student projects. To help assist in all of our projects, we are also beginning to set aside funding for a Green Academy trailer. Since we do not have a truck, the next best thing will be a trailer for transporting animals, plants, and supplies from hardware stores. If you would like to help more specifically with this project please contact me regarding donations. 

Please remember to support all of our campus programs. Also please visit our Small Gardens blog,, and our Instagram account, @insmallgardens.

Thank you!

Gang Green

Monday, May 11, 2020

Animal Eyes

Fire Ant Treatment - Chase Pest Control
I am a fire ant and I have lost my colony I scurry around frantically trying to find them. My colony depends on each and every ant to do their job and serve their queen. I have to get back! I head in a bush where I often search for food but nobody is there. All of the sudden I spot a human!  This human could be a danger to my colony. A sense of duty overwhelms I sting its leg repeatedly but to no avail, it is too big, I crawl up to its strange ginormous arms and sting it there, I have finally triggered a response from the human, it screams and shakes me off.  Another human who I did not see at first laughs at the other human. This human is bigger and has longer hair, it is sitting in the bushes with a journal. All of the sudden I find my anthill I am eager to get home. I run along the concrete river and I see a large dent in the shape of human foot on my home I run inside to salvage any of my friends and coworkers that have survived, the damage is massive, I wonder why humans choose to cause so much destruction and I get to work...

Squirrel Feeders: The Best of 2020 (6 total) - Bird Watching HQ 
Squirrel by Charlotte Sigler
I am a squirrel. I’m trying to eat from this bird feeder but these tiny birds keep dive-bombing me. It doesn’t help that two large humans are watching me. But I’ve seen them here before. They put out this delicious seed and always refill the water. I see them a lot, sometimes outside sitting and watching me, or from inside their house. Lot’s of other people come to eat the delicious seed too. The little birds that live inside a house in the tree above where I’m trying to eat, keep dive-bombing me and chasing me up and down the fence. I’m not even doing anything wrong! At this point, I’m in a completely different tree and they're  STILL going after me, this is an outrage!

Squirrel By: Kristin Thompson 

Spring has Sprung 
Hibernation is done 
The hunt for nuts has begun 

I live in a hole 
I live in a burrow
 I live in a lair 
I don’t care what you call it I call it home 

Most people think it would be easy to be a squirrel 
Most people are wrong 

Spring has Sprung 
Hibernation is done
 The hunt for nuts has begun

 After a while I have a good stash 
But then another squirrel does snatch 
The majority of my snacks

 Nuts and berries
 Berries and nuts 
Night did fall
 The sun is gone
 Then an idea comes along 

Spring has Sprung
 Hibernation is done
 The hunt for nuts has begun

 I have no ability to fly
 So footsteps must be kept quiet
 The only sounds heard Are the chirping of night birds 
And the dancing of the trees in the night

 I creep past a few houses
 And the third house I pass Is the location of the thief 
The thief will feel my wrath

 I grab some nuts And Run 

Spring has Sprung
 Hibernation is done 
The hunt for nuts has begun

 I return home
 My stomach is full
 I smile and think
 I’m such a sneaky squirrel!

Golden-cheeked Warbler Overview, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of ... by Heath Smith
I am a bird sitting on a fence, wondering why is the world so harsh? I know the answer, everyone knows the answer. Life is so harsh because it has to when it's most inconvenient. for example I am a bird as you know and and because of the pandemic no one is putting food in there bird feeder so I have to hunt. hunting is hard because even though I know it's the cycle of life it's kind of sad having to eat worms and bugs. If I want to eat I have to be stealthy and sneak up behind bugs or worms and distract them and then I'll eat them. Today Is sinco de mayo so People will be having food out. And there will be water out and sodas and burgers to eat so being a bird is pretty easy right now. There will also be people so I will have to sneak up to get the food. I hope that I'm not caught trying to eat and drink some of the food because some people might try to hurt me because they are mean. And I REALLY hope I don't run into any cats that would be horrible.

Fire Ant by Clara Mirkin

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Allegiance to Gratitude

Allegiance To Gratitude
By Kira Rice And Ryder Armstrong

Today, we are grateful for all of life. We recognize that, as people, it is not our job to try to control life, but to live amongst it in harmony. 
The Earth
We would like to thank the Earth, which gives us a home. We would also like to apologize to the Earth. For she has done so much for us, and we have done so little for her. Please know our thanks come with great remorse and regret, for we have hurt the Earth more than we ever should have. 

The Waters
We would like to thank the Water for allowing life to carry on. We thank the water for quenching all our thirst. We apologize to the water as well, to say sorry for polluting his currents. We now acknowledge that we have caused the water a much greater pain than he has ever deserved.

The Marine Life
We would like to thank the marine life for continuing to live on. To them, we also apologize. We apologize for over fishing, and for destroying their habitats. We regret hurting all of the majestic species of the waters.
The Plants
We would like to thank the plants, they give themselves as food. They heal our injuries and illnesses. We would like to apologize to them as well, for destroying the forests. Please know we are trying to resurrect the great wild forests, jungles, swamps, and grasslands.

The Animals
We thank the animals too, but to them, we cannot apologize enough. We apologize for hurting them. We apologize for destroying their habitats. We apologize for over hunting them. Most of all, we would like to apologize for causing the sixth mass extinction. Please know we are deeply sorry.

The Air
We are thankful for the air we breathe. We thank the air for all the cool breezes on hot summer days. We know that without the air, life would not be possible. Our thanks comes with an apology too. We are profoundly sorry for ruining your peace through pollution.

The Rain
We thank the rain for filling the lakes, cleansing the waters, and bringing water from sky to earth. We are sorry for turning you into an enemy of nature by forcing you to bring acid upon the earth.

The Sun
We thank the sun for bringing us warmth each day, for you are never too lazy to rise, and never sleep in. We thank the sun for never taking a sick day, for rising and setting every day without fail.  Without the sun, no life would be here today. You give nutrients to life, and you give us all a reason to wake up every morning. There’s a reason that it is you at the center of every solar system. We thank the sun for providing us with clean energy. We thank the sun for using his gravity to keep our solar system together.

The Teachers 
We now thank the Teachers who have been there to educate the young so they could do more and be more. We also thank them for giving us knowledge. Not only knowledge of maths and science but, but knowledge of sharing and respect. We thank them now, more than ever, for working extra hard. We apologize for not being more grateful to you, Teachers.

The Doctors
We now feel a great sense of gratitude towards our doctors who are risking their lives everyday as they go to work. They have always been important to our community, but now they are our heroes. Everyday they step into a battlefield against an invisible enemy, more courageous than any troops.
We know that these words can never possibly make up for all the wrong our species has done. We acknowledge that we probably have not thanked everything, but we have tried our best. If we have left out anything, we would like to thank them now. We are tremendously sorry for all that the human species has done to hurt the beautiful Earth. We give one more thanks, a thanks for the natural world for forgiving us, even when what we have done to you is unforgivable. We give a great thanks to the natural world around us, and hope you know that we are trying to help.


You may not know this but the U.S. Government has only been legally governing the protection our environment for around 50 years!

The Environmental Protection Act (1970), the Environmental Protection Agency (1970), Endangered Species Act (1973) and Earth Day have only been around since the 1970's.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the creation of Earth Day.

What are you doing to celebrate? How are you working to make the world better? How can you reduce your impact on the environment and the world around you?

There are many sites dedicated to ways in which students and families can do their part. Please also remember Earth Day doesn't have to be recognized on one day. EARTH DAY IS EVERYDAY.

Please visit the Sierra Club to see how you can take you part. They are providing videos, tips, and activities. Keep Austin Beautiful also has local ideas for Earth Day At Home.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Wildflower Center confirms a new Owlet!

Athena the great-horned owl and baby

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is a magical place! Located in Southwest Austin very near to the Clint Small, The Wildflower Center has been a resource for teachers and students alike. The 7th Grade Green Students usually visit in the Spring and get a chance to explore their native trails, water education programs, cave ecosystems and the propagation greenhouses. Teachers are able to visit for various educational trainings.

Over the past decade, the Wildflower Center has had a nesting Horned Owl directly above their entry arch. It is always exciting to see Athena, the nesting owl, return to her perch, especially when a little one is there to greet guests as well. There is always a crowd excitedly pointing and taking pictures.

Please take the time to visit their site for educational materials and information about their amazing research.

Hopefully we can all visit in person very soon!

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

More Student Photos

Merely a bird in a field of words
Many sounds from all around
my kin chirping, the city bustling 
yet only one boy stops to listen.

I see bird's flapping, chirping and singing 
I hear my vents buzzing yet I can still hear nature
I see the leaves on a tree dancing from the wind
I can feel the cold weather yet I'm as warm as pie
I can see a toddler laughing and playing 
I can smell the fresh air that's not so common anymore 
I could hear no thoughts coming out of my mind
I could hear no cars making load noises
I could feel my mind at rest.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Amazing Student Photo Submission!

During our Distance Learning, students in the Native Plants and Animals class were asked to make observations of birds around their home. These observations did not need to be academic or for identification purposes. They were just to see what they could see and hear. Maybe to even make guesses as to why what they were observing was occurring. The goal was to make a connection with nature in a place they may not always think of as being wild and natural.

Here is one of the submissions. I was truly blown away!

 I hope we continue to have students making connections and producing beautiful work!

Monday, April 6, 2020

Student Sit-Spot Excerpts

Grass - Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"I am a blade of grass. I stand with many others like me , but I still feel lonely. I watch all the other insects fly by. I wonder if they feel lonely too, they  seem to fly and migrate all together. But are we similar then we seem? I wish I could turn into a human and have a real conversation or relationship. Maybe I could turn into a bird and fly far away and if I needed something I could just let out a pretty little song. While I’m deep in my thoughts I heard a rustle from the bushes. Could this be the thing that kills me?! Fear fills my head like a river flowing into the sea. But, alas it's just the wind. I go back to my daydreams but deep down I know I will only be a lonely blade of grass."

12 Facts About Oak Trees You Wood Not Believe | The Fact Site
"I am a tree. I am a tall oak tree. I am tall and powerful and i can feel the breeze as the wind gently blows on my trunk, my leaves are green and smell so sweet. Fall is approaching, my leaves will change… my leaves will fall. it is spring and my leaves are bright, filled with color, it's easy to see the light. They will change, time will tell. People waste their time, cutting down other trees and such. I am a lucky tree. I have not been chopped down. Though i am only a tree. I cannot do much about it when I see my brothers and sisters being chopped down and killed. As people walk by, I can hear them chatter. A small girl, no older than 12, came up and sat on one of my branches. She is sitting there, quietly, no movement. I hear her rustling on my branch trying to get comfortable, though its difficult to do such a task with such a hard chair to sit on. More children walk past. They say hello to the girl with a cheerful voice. Then they continue to walk along my trail. My trail is next to a quiet apartment complex. Nothing much ever goes on there. On the other side of my trail, however, you will find two schools, one with younger children who can barely walk. And the other with older children. The older kids are the ones who visit my trail. They only come every once in a while, but when they do come it is always a wonderful experience for us. The girl has left, our visiting time is done. I'll see you next time, but for now, i bid you farewell."

Trail In The Woods Free Stock Photo - Public Domain Pictures
"There I was sitting in the grass when it happened. The very ground seemed to be imploding in on itself as quickly as it started. It stopped taking hundreds of people with it, but I'm getting too far ahead of myself . I'm Zachary... and this is how the world ends....So there I was sitting there then it happened just like R.E.M predicted."

Beautiful Rock Formation In Woods Free Stock Photo - Public Domain ...

"Another human passed by me today, they didn't even notice me, I will be forever lonely. One of the many humans that came into my trail today sat right next to me. They are silent. I hear the sad emptiness of crickets, I hear dogs far away mourning for something to do. I see tiny little insects crawl around and over me. Me a lonely little stone. I see birds flying around in couples singing and dancing gracefully in the air like angels. I smell the blossoming flowers of soon to come spring. I see the damp earth after rain storms. I see and feel the untamed wind pushing anything in its way aside like it is some kind royal figure. I smell the brisk air of the soon to end winter."

Free stock photo of blue, green, sky through trees"I saw the dark green leaves rustling in the light wind.  The birds were singing in the fantastic weather.  You could smell the grass and trees.  It was a sunny day but I was shaded by the tall trees.  It was so calm and peaceful you could just fall into nature.  I saw a spiky plant lying on the ground.  I saw little white ball attached to leaves on the soft ground.  I saw puffy white clouds floating above my head.  I saw so many different shades of green in the trees and in my surroundings.  It made me feel relaxed and connected with nature.  I got to connect with my surroundings instead of worrying about the crazy things in my every day life."

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Vernal Observations and Journaling

Spring is often viewed as a time of rebirth and beauty. The Vernal Equinox brings us closer to longer days which begin to signal new growth and budding. The phrase "Spring Showers Brings May Flowers" exists for a reason. I also believe spring is a time to recognize loss and change, and that all things are cyclical. Everything is truly Connected.
Prickly Pear, the fruit of new life

Mexican Plum Blossom strongly fragrant

The loss of a species but the life force for others 

Agarita Bloom
Duality of Old and New

The Name Says it All

Spring time allows the Green Academy to be spending much more time outside. We have mostly escaped the rollercoaster ride of 30 to 40 degree temperature jumps. When the rain and weather cooperated, we are maintaining gardens, preparing new sites, and finalizing semester projects. It is also a chance for students to make a larger connection in nature. Throughout the Green Academy journalling and observation is key. Students are taken out to complete Sit Spot activities. The goal of which is to become comfortable with silence, themselves, and the appearance of "nothing" happening. This allows students to become part of nature and invisible to their surroundings. Students can then truly see what nature has to offer. The Westcreek Neighbor Nature Trail is where we bring the students. Only a short jaunt away, it allows to be fully immersed while still being a safe distance from Small. Students are required to make observations using all of their senses and then write various literature entries in their journals ranging from narratives to fictional story telling.
Immersive Journalling

Gaining Perspective

Using more than one sense

While students were working, Mr. Rosenberg took the time to make some observations of his own.

While walking towards the trail, I immediately noticed my signs of the arrival of spring. The new growth of the Red Bud appear to exploded in contrast to the overcast day. Why does it always seem like the green growth and other springtime colors are more vivid on a day like today? The Purple Martin scouts are circling above. I love the real world connection to nature and science these birds allow us to integrate in class. The distinctive song of the mourning dove appears to be the only natural sound. A call and answer of neighborhood dogs seems to verify this. Once we enter the trail and students begin to silently settle, this all appears to change. Dawn songs and warning calls ring out. There are so many I can't distinguish where they are or which species is doing it. Tree limbs shake and shiver. As I pause so does a squirrel. Squirrels curiously hop and scurry as if to watch me. Bright honeysuckle blooms line the path. Students are partaking in nature's nectar. In the new growth of trees, nests are easily visible. Are they the remains of successful nesting birds or are they an early attempt at an evolutionary imperative? Time will tell. Grackles appear to be the only birds that have no feel or shame. They call and scream from high above. Across the fence the the hoarse screech of a Red-Tailed Hawk makes me curious. Has a kill has been made ending one life but continuing others? I am continually reminded of the cyclical nature of all things. Birth and death is a part of all of this.

One quick note. A new mural is being commissioned to Welcome all to "Cougar Country". The progress of the mural will be posted on Instagram and here. Stay turned.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Spring Plant Sale March 12 and 13

More information to come! Let us know if you have any requests.

Living Tree Crowdfunding Campaign is LIVE!

We have officially posted or Living Tree Crowdfunding campaign aimed to install a new Outdoor Learning and Experiential Space. Please check it out and share it with your circles! Thank you for your continued support and care!

Green Gang

Living Tree Outdoor Learning and Experiential Space Giving Campaign

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Green Leaf Newsletter

The Green Leaf: Green Academy Newsletter 2.18.20

Hello Community!

Spring is a busy time of the year for all people involved in the outdoors, and the Green Academy is no different. The gardens are being maintained and manicured. Our diligent work is leading to our gardens blooming in extraordinary ways! We are also aiming to complete many new projects in our outdoor learning spaces.

Last semester the Capstone students finished their projects. We installed murals, pollinator gardens, introduced a new flock of chickens, purchased new bee hives, and many other amazing projects.

We were lucky enough to have been awarded two different grants. Both of which are almost finished being spent and established. One was to expand our urban forest and shade canopy on campus. The second was a partnership with Austin Fire Department to construct a demonstration garden on campus to educate our community on gardening with wildfire prevention in mind. There will be two informational signs manufactured and put in place before the end of this semester.

Due to the structure of the Green Academy, we are always working to find ways to fund our projects and innovations. Austin ISD and Small MS have always been supportive of our program. However, beyond our salaries the district and the school provide little to no funding to our program.

Student Lab Fees are used to support small projects and replace basic resources.

For the life of the Academy we have had a biannual plant sale. Our next sale will be on March 12 and 13. We sell student grown native plants, herbs, and vegetables. We will also be selling student created products including goat milk soap and paper embedded with wildflower seeds. The Green Academy Market Days products have been made over the past 2 years.

We are in a constant need of funding. We have 4 educators that have amazing ideas and plans. We are unceasingly searching and applying for grants opportunities. Many other schools are now moving into Environmental education. This is wonderful for the field, but makes it much harder to find a steady source of funds.

Our current plan is to begin a crowdfunding campaign. Austin ISD has partnered with Learning Tree. We are putting together a plan to create a new outdoor learning space. This outdoor learning space will almost double our outdoor seating allotment at Small. The space will be placed in a location that will allow it to be utilized by almost the entire student body. The outdoor space could be used for direct teaching, small group learning, nature observation, or just calm reflection. Research has shown that outdoor education can improve school performance, increase health and child development, and can improve civic attitudes and behaviors. Once our campaign goes live we will notify our wonderful community.

Please remember to support all of our campus programs. Also please visit our Small Gardens blog,, and our Instagram account, @insmallgardens.

Thank you!

Gang Green


Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Student Blog Posts Coming Soon!

Students are the heart of our program. Now they will become the voice. Over the next semester, students will begin observing and documenting the ebb and flow of our program. Occasionally their work will be posted here. Keep an eye out!

Friday, April 26, 2019

10 Years of Change

The Small Green Academy and the In Small Gardens blog are nearing their 10 year anniversaries.

Small Middle School has been around almost 20 years and has been increasing its green footprint the entire time. The real growth of our outdoor learning environment began in 2010, and it appears is has been exponential growth.

With the assistance of our resident Art Genius, Mr. T, we have 2 photos to show the growth, change, and impact of students on the environment and habitat restoration. Thanks and enjoy!

Small MS Northside Circa 2010

Northside 2019