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Pennies add up: Students have ‘cents’ to reach 1,000,000

Pennies add up: Students have ‘cents’ to reach 1,000,000
Pennies add up: Students have ‘cents’ to reach 1,000,000 | Pennies add up Students have ‘cents’ to reach 1,000,000, million, Margaret Newton Elementary School
By CHRIS MENEES
Staff Reporter
The students are all one in a million at Tiptonville’s Margaret Newton Elemen-tary School.
A million — that’s how many pennies the students and faculty have collected with the support of the entire community.
School principal Sherry Darnell said the effort to collect one million pennies — $10,000 worth — started about 21⁄2 years ago and was initiated by a fourth-grade teacher who asked to do the project with her class to show them what a million looks like.
Unfortunately, the teach-er, Linda Beatty, died before the project was even halfway complete. The faculty voted to continue with the project she started.
When it came to making “cents,” the community was also drawn into the project and asked to help the students in their effort.
“You just can’t believe some of the places we’ve gotten pennies,” Mrs. Darnell said.
The school held some unique fundraisers to collect pennies, such as selling duct tape by the yard and duct-taping a coach to the wall and allowing students to cast votes for one penny each to pick the winner of a faculty milk jug-decorating contest.
Mrs. Darnell said a lot of people from the community stepped up and volunteered to bring pennies, with a local women’s club even collecting pennies as a project.
“It really has been a community effort,” she said.
The manager of the local Food Rite store asked his employees — many of whom are high school students — to consider getting one 50-cent roll of pennies to donate to the elementary school each time they were paid.
“He would just bring in containers full of pennies once a week,” Mrs. Darnell said.
The school’s bookkeeper was in charge of keeping a tally of the pennies each time donations were made. Faculty members had penny-counting parties and Mrs. Darnell said her own parents, who live in nearby Hickman, Ky., would even haul home buckets of pennies to count for her.
She said the staff “finally got smart” and a school maintenance man cut tubes which would hold 100 pennies so the staff could just pour them in for easy counting.
“It has taken an incredible amount of time, collecting and counting,” Mrs. Darnell said. “The counting part and the keeping up … it has been phenomenal.”
The principal said students would bring pennies in plastic bags, gallon jugs, boxes, Tupperware containers, backpacks and more. “You name it,” she said with a laugh.
One man from the community delivered a wagon full of pennies and staff members were charged with counting them.
Penny pinchers
The pennies are stored in a unique steamboat receptacle — the Penny Queen — which was constructed about a year ago by trade and industry class students at Lake County High School. It replaced various containers which had held the coins.
The high school shop students took measurements of the pennies, considered the weight and did all the math to construct the boat.
Mrs. Darnell said they were worried about the weight of the pennies on the floor and the boat was constructed so the weight could be evenly distributed to avoid cracking the floor tile.
The boat features tiny furniture on the deck, a paddle wheel that actually moves and a calliope. It was beautifully painted by a local artist, Karen Griffin, the sister-in-law of a teacher, and also bears a plaque in memory of Ms. Beatty, the teacher who started it all.
After the staff counted the donated pennies, the students poured them into the boat.
“We kept a ladder out there so when the kids brought them in, and as we got them counted, we’d let the kids pour them in,” Mrs. Darnell said.
The pennies were dumped into the top and filtered down so the students could monitor the progress through port holes.
I feel like a million
After nearly 21⁄2 years, the final $2,000 to finish the project was donated by a local farmer who asked to remain anonymous, according to Mrs. Darnell.
“We converted that money to pennies and poured it into the boat so the kids could truly see one million,” she said.
Getting $2,000 worth of pennies was no small feat either.
The pennies had to be ordered from a bank and were ordered in increments of about $150 at a time. Then, the school custodian accompanied staff to the bank to retrieve the pennies.
“I think 500 pennies weighs about three pounds,” Mrs. Darnell said. “One million pennies equals about three tons.”
The penny removal will be time consuming. The boat comes apart in layers and, as each layer is unbolted and removed, scoops will be used to remove the pennies.
“They knew if we got them into the boat, we were going to have to take them out of the boat, so it was planned out,” Mrs. Darnell said.
First State Bank in Union City has agreed to take the pennies for the school. They will be packed into sand bags in 50-pound increments and transported to the bank, where they likely will be poured into a counter for counting on a Saturday when it’s less busy than a weekday, according to the principal.
“But one trailer will not hold them all,” she said. “One pickup truck won’t hold them all.”
Mrs. Darnell said the faculty didn’t really expect the penny project to end as soon as it did and believed it would take another year to reach the goal.
Margaret Newton Ele-mentary School is small, with only about 300 students, and Lake County was recently ranked the 11th poorest county in the United States.
“There’s not a lot of extra money available, so this is amazing,” she said.
An open house was held Thursday night to allow the community to see the fully-loaded boat and its precious cargo.
The $10,000 will be given to the school’s Parent-Teacher Organization and will be spent on the children.
A penny
for your thoughts
Mrs. Darnell said the collection has also been a learning experience for the pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students who comprise the student body.
“The goal has been for the kids to see how much a million is, when you talk about a million dollars or a millionaire,” she said.
“We made it educational for the kids, too,” she said.
For example, students have received sheets of “fun penny facts.” They have learned the penny was the first U.S. coin to have a picture of a president on it and they know the average penny lasts 25 years.
“It’s been a learning experience for all of us,” she said.
Even though the project has been a time-consuming team effort, Mrs. Darnell said, “It’s been worth it.”
“It’s taken everyone helping,” she added.
And you can take that to the bank.
Published in The Messenger 1.25.12

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