After receiving a donation a couple weeks ago from a group of children in Vermont, we asked their teacher, Kathryn McEachen, to share the story of how they had raised the funds. We were thrilled to receive the following beautiful story to share with you about how these young water protectors thousands of miles away came to support our students here at Mní Wičhóni Nakíčižiŋ Owáyawa.
I teach in a small school in west central Vermont, called The Schoolhouse Learning Center. The preschool staff had been inspired by what they’d read about the peaceful water protectors at Standing Rock, and individually, we were all wanting to find ways to help. Then we realized that what would be even better would be to involve our class of four year-olds (known as the Wild Grape class) in raising money to support the protectors as they did their work.
We started slow, first focusing on water, why we love and need it so much, and why we protect it. Then we asked our students, “Did you know there are other water protectors right now who are protecting their water? Some of them had to leave their houses and are living in tents while they protect. It’s getting cold! Do you think we could help them?” Of course, the kids gave a resounding “Yes!” and offered ideas about what we could do to help, including sending them a kitchen and a fully-built house to keep them warm and fed….
The Wild Grape teachers suggested to the children that we have an applesauce sale (since we had just been apple picking and had a fridge full of fruit), and then donate the money to support the water protectors. The Wild Grape class spent two weeks making applesauce. They chopped, stirred, and used a food mill to smoosh the sauce out (this was definitely their favorite part). They helped jar the sauce and put the jars in the freezer. We had made wild grape juice several weeks earlier, so we decided to sell whatever juice we had left, too. Even the tiny two-year olds in the Dragonfly class helped out and made us a pie to sell.
Throughout the two weeks, we also did lots of projects around water- why we love it, and why it is so precious and important. We went to Lake Champlain and said “Thank You!”. We put water on all our indoor plants, and we made sure to drink all the water in our water bottles. We carried water in bowls on our heads all the way across the playground, trying not to spill a drop, then we watered the willow tree by the fence. We talked about ways we could protect water every day in our classroom, and we revisited our purpose to help the water protectors every couple of days.
Finally, we sent out emails to parents and the rest of our school community, letting them know that we were planning a sale to support the Standing Rock protest. The Wild Grapes helped dictate and write signs to hang on our table, and the morning of the sale they stacked the applesauce jars, set out the pies and grape juice, and greeted people as they arrived. When asked about why they were selling applesauce, one child replied, “Well, we are selling applesauce so we can get money to buy a sleeping bag or some books for the water protectors. They are living in tents right now while they are protecting and might be cold or the kids might want more books to read.” They were so happy and proud to be helping. They sold every single jar!
After the sale, we counted our money and talked about what we might be able to buy. Based on the supply list the kids made, the teachers decided to donate to Mní Wičhóni Nakíčižiŋ Owáyawa. After we donated, you all were so kind to write back to us! We read the note out loud at our circle time, then watched the interview of some of the children at your school. The Wild Grapes were captivated by the interview, and it helped them make connections in a way that they hadn’t before. After watching, they said,
“Hey, those are kids like us! They go to school too! They are water protectors just like we are! What do all those signs say? Are those tents where they live? It’s so crowded! Are all of the people who live there water protectors? At school we use our words (not weapons) too!”. They were able to relate in a much deeper way to who they were supporting.
Our goal for the children in our class was for them to feel like they can stand up and help, no matter how little they are; to know that protecting our water and earth is something we should always show up for; and that we will support other people who are protecting water and earth. Thanks to all of you at Mní Wičhóni Nakíčižiŋ Owáyawa and keep up your good work! Much love from the Wild Grape classroom!