Burlington preschool emphasizes giving

Published: Dec. 20, 2022 at 12:40 AM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Embodying the spirit of Shel Silverstein’s children’s book, “The Giving Tree,” the Early Learning Preschool in Burlington is extending a hand, or branch, to those in need.

On Maple Street, you may have noticed a collection of hats and mittens. It’s Early Learning Preschool’s “giving tree.”

“I tell my students the most important thing I’m teaching them is kindness,” said Christine Leithead, the preschool’s owner.

In 2016, she put out children’s books to celebrate 20 years of pre-K with something other than cake. Since then, the free items people can take have varied.

“In the spring, I tried to think no more hats and mittens, then I came up with the idea of making planting gardening kits for families to use together,” Leithead continued.

Leithead says it was supposed to be temporary, but six years later, it’s become part of her curriculum.

“We learn letters, and we learn about the world, and we learn math, and we learn about social skills, but the most important thing we learn is to be kind,” said Leithead.

It’s a project she, her students and parents enjoy.

“One of the things that drew me to the school was their emphasis on helping people out,” said Carly Klug, Heidi Klug’s mom. “It’s something I try really hard to help Heidi understand.”

“It gives to every people who don’t have enough money because they need warm clothes,” said Heidi.

Over time, more of the community has heard about the tree. Businesses like Vermont Federal Credit Union and Harvest Bakery are stepping up to help for the winter, making sure people stay warm.

“It makes everybody feel good,” Leithead said. “The people who get stuff from the tree, the people who contribute to the tree, even just the people who see the tree.”