Domino effect: Students inspire donations to food pantries

MUSCATINE, Iowa–This spring, a video of students making a domino chain through their school using cereal boxes went viral. When students and teachers at Jefferson Elementary School saw it, it got them thinking, could they go bigger? Could they use this challenge both to benefit the community and their own learning?

Throughout the final months of the school year, they did just that. On May 21, students used the 6,000 boxes of cereal they collected to create a domino chain that showed off their science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM skills. They then donated all the cereal they collected to the Muscatine Center for Social Action and Salvation Army of Muscatine County’s food pantries.

In April and May, several Muscatine area businesses and organizations pitched in to help the students meet their goal of gathering 6,000 cereal boxes. Krieger’s Auto Group, RE/MAX, and the Muscatine Police Department each donated 1,000 boxes of cereal to the cause. Staff, families, and community members came through to contribute the remaining 3,000 plus boxes of cereal the students received, allowing them to make huge donations to both local food pantries. “I thought 6,000 boxes was a lot, but I’ve been a Jefferson Muskie for a long time and I knew we could do it, with the help of the community,” said Jefferson fifth grade teacher Sarah Manjoine.

While students collected the cereal they would need for their donation and their domino chain, each grade did their part to figure out how they could create a domino chain that snaked throughout their school. “They found all kinds of ways they could tie the cereal boxes to learning math,” said Jefferson Principal Kandy Steel. In kindergarten, students practiced their counting by 10s skills to determine the number of cereal boxes in certain halls. In fifth grade, students learned about kinetic energy and how they could position the cereal boxes to keep them moving the entire time. They also practiced their measurement skills to determine the length of each hallway and how many evenly spaced boxes it would take to span them.

Some classes even found fun ways to incorporate cereal into other lessons too. First grade students combined telling time with the scientific method to find out just how long it takes for cereal to get fully soggy in milk.

The day of the domino train, Muscatine Community School District Superintendent Clint Christopher came to do the honors of pushing down the first box. He welcomed the opportunity to play a role in a project that had a lot of significance for both students and teachers. “I know how much time every student and every staff member has put into this,” he stated. “It’s a huge deal, and for me to be able to do that, I just feel very honored to do it.”

Christopher also felt pleased by all of the learning he saw on display in the construction and layout of the domino train. He observed that students of all ages had the opportunity to work on, “measuring and the scientific process, the engineering process, asking great questions, and, at the end, they get to do something awesome and they get to donate to the community and support the community.”