The goats on the grounds of Sharon Elementary School have been brought in to eat the poison ivy. (Herald / Nicole Antal)

Sharon School Goats Devour Poison Ivy

Submitted 2 years ago
Created by
Nicole Antal

Those driving on I-89 near the Sharon exit may have noticed new residents on the school grounds. The three goats are temporary guests at the Sharon Elementary School and will be staying there until the end of the school year.

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The goats are there on official business, so to speak..

Rachel Piper, Sharon preschool director, is the driving force behind this project. Last year, she and the other preschool teachers started attending workshops on nature-based education. She hopes to replicate what other communities in Vermont have embraced: implementing a “Forest Kindergarten” program one day a week.

“We will still be able to hit all the standards that we are supposed to,” she said, adding that other programs around the state have been very successful, and the children’s response in those communities has been encouraging.

One major issue for this program to even be considered is that, even though the Sharon Elementary School (and preschool) campus sits on several acres, there isn’t any suitable space for the program to flourish.

“The forest where we take the children is covered with poison ivy”, Piper said, “except for the paths. It defeats the purpose of the program to take the kids in the woods, to tell them to stay on the path designated for them,” adding that the whole purpose is for them to explore and learn while doing.

In the past, the school has tried spraying chemicals on the poison ivy to limit the spread. It hasn’t been successful.

Piper did research on how to control poison ivy using natural methods, and found that goats love eating it. She worked with Cynthia Powers at the White River Valley Supervisory Union to fund this project through the Preschool Development Grants Expansion Grant, which will cover part of the cost.

She thought that finding someone to bring the goats would be a challenge—but working in a rural village has its advantages.

One of the staff at the school, Ian O’Donnell, raises goats on his farm in Tunbridge and has been trying to offer this service in the area. He delivered the goats and is able to keep an eye on them during the day.

“The children’s response has been great. I saw the preschoolers today visit the goats, and the children were so happy to learn more about goats,” said O’Donnell.

He plans to bring them back in the fall and next spring to keep the poison ivy under control.


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