Outside of school, most fourth graders are consumed with various activities such as sports, playing with friends or the latest video games. Most aren’t thinking about raising money to purchase a cow for an impoverished village someplace in the world. This is exactly the thing that is on the minds of Mrs. Ruston and Mrs. Kaidor’s fourth grade classes at St. Barnabas Episcopal School in DeLand, Florida. The class members are soliciting anyone and everyone to sponsor their reading program to help raise money to purchase a cow for an impoverished village through the organization Heifer International. Class members have sought out sponsors that will pledge money to the cause based upon an agreed amount per page read. The class read over 6,000 pages!
“This is such a rich learning experience,” says Tina Ruston, fourth grade teacher at St. Barnabas. “Not only are the kids reading twice as much as they usually do, but they are learning about another culture, where something as simple as a cow can make a big difference! They are grasping the spiritual and emotional implications of this and realizing that they truly can make a difference in the world,” she added. The class is learning that one cow can provide something as simple as milk for a village in need, which is something that they and many Americans take for granted. They are learning that the same cow can be bred to provide more cows and more milk to this village.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our fourth grade, as they have truly caught the spirit of giving to others in such a simple way,” said Paul Garcia, Head of School at St. Barnabas. “In addition, they are seeing how truly fortunate we are in this country. I have a feeling they will never forget this experience.”
The kids’ excitement is spreading beyond just reading. A few have gone above and beyond by operating lemonade stands and garage sales. Through this and soliciting sponsors, the kids have applied communication skills when approaching adults. “It’s fun to see their excitement,” Ruston added. They planned to exceed their goal of one cow and in addition, raise enough support to purchase a goat, or perhaps a second cow through the same organization.
The fourth grade students did exactly that. Finishing their fundraising journey on November 21st, 2016, with enough to purchase 3 Heifers, 1 Lama, 1 Pig, 1 Sheep, 1 Flock of Chickens, 1 Flock of Ducks, 1 Alpaca, and some extra cash to go towards whatever is needed most. This was abundantly more than anyone had expected and Mrs. Ruston hinted that, this year, her class will really understand “Thanksgiving.”