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Eating their way to 1 million Cheerios

March 02, 2009|By JANET HEIM

CASCADE -- Despite a two-hour snow delay, Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan was at Cascade Elementary School Monday to kick off National School Breakfast Week and help students begin their quest to eat 1 million cereal pieces.

This year's Breakfast Week theme, "Power up with School Breakfast," focuses on superheroes. In that spirit, Principal Rosemarie Pellegrino donned a cape for the day.

To tie in with the theme, staff at the school invited local "heroes" to have breakfast with students during the week -- among them Morgan, Washington County Commissioner William Wivell, police officers and firefighters.

Morgan shared breakfast with third-graders in Angie Bowers' class and talked about the importance of eating a nutritious breakfast, as well as finding out what was on the students' minds.

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She reminded students that the Maryland School Assessments were coming up and that it is important to eat a good breakfast, or "brain food," on testing days.

"The research is well established that breakfast is important, especially for school-aged kids," Morgan said.

Third-grader Cole Torino asked Morgan how she "got to be so high at the Board of Ed." She told him she started out as a teaching assistant and "stepped on every rung of the ladder" to reach her current job. He asked her if she was a school breakfast hero and she replied that she ate breakfast every day.

Cascade Elementary, which offers free breakfast to all students in the school every day school is in session, is the only Washington County public school participating in National School Breakfast Week this year, a result of Food Service Assistant Juanita Kiel's efforts to complete the required application process.

When students arrive at school in the morning, they receive a bag containing breakfast items.

Monday's breakfast included Honey Nut or Fruity Cheerios, fat-free milk, juice and yogurt. Apple Cinnamon Cheerios also will be offered.

Students and staff want to eat 1 million Cheerios in recognition of the $1 million donation to the school from Pen Mar Development Corp.

The project was the brainchild of Kiel, who, along with classroom teachers, worked with students in third, fourth and fifth grades as a way to apply "real-world math skills," Pellegrino said. They counted the contents of numerous prepackaged containers of Cheerios to discover that each package holds 175 cereal pieces.

Students then used a variety of methods to determine how many containers they would need to eat to reach 1 million Cheerios. During the morning announcements, Kiel said it would take 5,715 containers.

With 127 students in the school, it is estimated it will take until May to reach the goal. Each container of Cheerios has a label on it that students sign and return to their teacher after they have finished eating it.

"Eating our way to a million. I did my part to help us reach our goal of eating a million Cheerios by eating breakfast at school," the label reads.

Students earn tickets for each container they eat, and prizes will be awarded.

Large thermometers in the hallway will monitor the progress and there are incentives to keep the students' interest.

When students reach the 250,000 and 750,000 marks, Pellegrino will dress up as a superhero. A pie in the face of two staff members is the reward for reaching 500,000 and when they reach the final goal, Pellegrino has agreed to kiss a pig.

Students also created superhero drawings and the three winners' artwork will compete in a contest at the national level, Kiel said.

Bowers said it was an honor to have Morgan in her classroom for breakfast.

"It's good for them to see her sitting in here in the middle of them, wanting to listen to them. It's special for her to choose us," Bowers said.

Student Joseph Coleman said he liked the way Morgan talked to everyone in the class and listened to their stories.

"She's a really kind lady," he said.

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