Who knew a book written by students about their lovable but escape-prone class pet more than a decade ago would inspire another team of students to create a book about a pig learning the importance of budgeting and planning?
Hanford High School students Holly Craven, Abby Davis and Remington Steelman say they wanted to do more than teach young kids about financial literacy as part of a project for DECA, a student club that prepares students for future careers in business and as entrepreneurs. They wanted their audience to have a role in the teaching as well.
That led them to create “Hamilton Wants,” which follows the dreams of an ambitious pig wanting to be a celebrity and the steps he realizes he needs to make that dream real. The simple storyline is accompanied by illustrations from White Bluffs students who collaborated on the project. HAPO Credit Union financed the books’ publication so it could be distributed to schools.
“If anyone is going to write a book that kids can understand its other kids,” Abby said.
The project closed the circle begun by Holly and her fellow classmates writing about Houdini the hamster at White Bluffs years ago with their teacher Christan Connors. That book, “Houdini Was…,” was published by Scholastic and generated a $5,000 prize for White Bluffs. Holly, Abby and Remington wanted to do something similarly memorable for the students who were involved.
“And I knew Mrs. Connors would be into working with us,” Holly added. “I emailed her immediately and she said yes.”
Holly, Abby and Remington worked with Connors, who now teaches art at White Bluffs, to flesh out the project, such as developing the storyline and working out how her students could contribute. Connors recruited White Bluffs’ art club to contribute the illustrations, with Holly, Abby and Remington spending time with the students to talk about the project and create the Hamilton character.
White Bluffs students created a variety of illustrations, from Eric Carle-styled cutouts of various Hamiltons to simple drawings and even printed money. Connors also had her art students work with residents at Brookdale Meadow Springs to further share the project with the community.
Connors said seeing her current art students get invested in the project and encourage and praise each other’s work reminded her how “Houdini Was…” was such a transformative experience.
“To have those seniors come back and want to start the cycle again and incorporate the younger kids is just such a gift."
Christan Connors, White Bluffs Elementary art teacher
Copies of the book were printed locally through Minuteman Press so the Hanford students can distribute them to classrooms around the district. They recently shared the book with a second-grade class at Sacajawea Elementary. Their goal is to share the book with more classrooms this school year and present their project and its results at the state DECA Career Development Conference in March.
Overall, the Hanford students are pleased with the project turned out and how they, in turn, may have planted the seeds for the next student-created publication to come out of Richland schools.
“I really feel like getting them something they can take home is really important,” Remington says. “Maybe one day they’ll go, ‘Oh wow, I remember getting this as a second-grader’ and it will be something they’ll carry with them.”