It all started with a book.
“The thing with teaching kindergarteners is, it doesn’t often go according to plan,” Porters Point School teacher David Allbee said. “I’ll have planned something and I’ve planned it really well, and all of a sudden I have to adjust my plan because their interest is so great in a certain subject. So, I have to be quick on my feet. This project came about in that sort of way.”
After spending some time with energetic and imaginative kindergarteners, it’s not hard to understand what Allbee meant. All you have to do is mention the names Beatrice, Katjie or Goat Lady, and the children are tuned in.
“She sold her goats to the same project that Beatrice got her goat, and that’s where we’re going to get our goats!” kindergartner Esther Gray said.
Beatrice is the main character in “Beatrice’s Goat,” a book by Page McBrier. The children’s storybook is based on the true account of Beatrice Biira, an impoverished Ugandan girl whose life is transformed by the gift of a goat from the nonprofit world hunger organization Heifer International.
Prior to Beatrice, the class read “Boxes for Katje” by Candace Fleming. They thoroughly enjoyed the story of two girls from separate countries who bounded over sending each other packages.
“The Goat Lady” by Jane Bregoli came last. It tells the story of an elderly woman who sent her extra goats to the Heifer Project so they could distribute them to those in need, like Beatrice.
“I specifically chose a few books that had international themes because I have kids in my class from other countries who have moved to this country,” Allbee said. “The connection between the characters in the books were that people were helping each other across international lines. People were sending aid to different countries and friendships grew out of that.”
It wasn’t long before the students started making their own connections, both between the books and within their own lives. They began thinking about how they could help other kids like Beatrice.
“Beatrice had to work so hard, and then some nice people got her a goat. Then she had to take care of the goat to get money and then she went to school,” kindergartener Praydence Handridge said.
Allbee said the project had greater lessons.
“It really exposed the kids to the idea that we’re really privileged to go to school in Colchester and that public education is funded here. It also gave them an appreciation of what they have,” he said.
After some brainstorming, the students decided they would make and sell bracelets to raise money to buy a goat through the Heifer Project.
“We introduced the idea to the parents, and before we knew it, kids were hawking bracelets at their family birthday parties and holding their aunts and uncles accountable,” Albee said with a laugh. “The money started rolling in, and it was more than I expected.”
Praydence and her friend Madden McMahon were thrilled at how much money the class raised.
“We raised so much money, we got enough for two goats and some chicks,” they said. “And people can have milk. They can sell milk for good food so they can survive and they can sell it to get money to go to school.”
Through the project, any offspring produced by a Heifer animal will be gifted to other families.
“The most impressive thing is that somebody can make a difference. One little thing that a child can do, can create an avalanche of good deeds,” Allbee said.
To learn how to donate to the Heifer Project, visit its website at www.heifer.org. To watch a video of this story, visit Colchester School District’s website at www.csdvt.org.