October 25, 2014

Bellwether book drive reaps volumes of support

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Bellwether School teacher Angie King and her students enjoy the pajama-clad comfort of ‘Hunker Down Day,’ following a successful student book drive that collected approximately 400 books for Burlington’s King Street Center. Pictured (from left to right) are Nevin Morton, Kian Reagan-Caer, Benjo Torres, Ira Siegel, Braden Francis, Talia Gibbs and Dominic Petrarca. (Observer photo by Luke Baynes)

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

Angie King’s class of seven kindergarteners and first-graders may have been dressed in pajamas Friday morning, but naptime was the furthest thing from their minds as they sat in a semi-circle in a corner of The Bellwether School.

The PJs were in celebration of “Hunker Down Day,” marking the end of Literacy Week at Bellwether, a holistic education school located on South Brownell Road in Williston.

But King’s class was in no hurry to see Literacy Week end, preferring to talk about the recent student-initiated book drive which collected donations for King Street Center in Burlington.

“We had read ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,’ and in the book, Charlie doesn’t have a lot of money, and he doesn’t really have books and he doesn’t really have food either,” King said. “So we were talking about if everybody in the world has enough books … and we researched it a little and we found that everyone doesn’t have books in their homes.”

The students had their own perspectives on the initiative.

“We were excited to help other people,” said Ira Siegel.

“We ended up having 400 books,” stated Nevin Morton.

“I felt afraid. I loved lots of my old books,” added Benjo Torres.

Despite the trepidations of Benjo and other Bellwether students to part with their beloved works of fiction, the approximately 400 books either donated from their personal libraries or gathered through community outreach are now part of the literary cache at King Street Center, a multi-functional educational facility that serves a large number of immigrant and refugee families.

“The gift of books was much appreciated,” said King Street Center Executive Director Vicky Smith. “It was wonderful.”

King said the success of the book drive is a product of The Bellwether School’s holistic approach to education.

“The principles I try to teach by are making meaning and making magic, because that’s what kindergarten and first grade are all about,” King said. “They’re still so young that the world has so much magic and possibility, but they’re also starting to make some big connections and making meaning of the world that they’re in.”

Bellwether Head of School Debbie Millon agreed that the creative autonomy granted to the students was pivotal to their enthusiasm for the project.

“It came from them. That’s the key,” Millon said. “To allow the kids the freedom to take that curriculum where they want, that room has been alive with their own excitement.”

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