FMS eighth graders combine math and community service to help the Guilderland Food Pantry

On Friday, Dec. 9, eighth grade students at Farnsworth Middle School combined community service with a math lesson when they held their annual cereal box dominos to benefit the Guilderland Food Pantry.

For the third year in a row, eighth grade math teachers Todd Hanson, Rebecca Been, Mary Grace Judge and Stephanie Cambrea organized the event in the FMS cafeteria. Each had their students collect full-size boxes of cereal in preparation for the unique activity, with approximately 607 boxes donated this year, surpassing last year’s donations of 350 boxes.

Before the fun of the dominos could begin, the FMS math teachers had their students apply their recent lessons on surface area and volume to the boxes of cereal. Students calculated the surface area of the cereal boxes, while the bags of cereal were used to find the volume.

In addition to a math lesson, there was some friendly competition among the four houses at FMS (Hiawatha, Mohawk, Seneca, and Tawasentha) to see which one could collect the most donations. This year, Stewart’s Shops generously provided ice cream coupons as a prize to the house that collected the most boxes of cereal.

When asked what it means to be able to do this every year, the FMS math teachers passionately spoke about how hunger affects a student’s ability to learn and how this activity not only helps FMS families, but people throughout the Guilderland community. “Students cannot learn unless they have a full belly, so it feels really good that we’re helping our community and our students,” said FMS math teacher Rebecca Been.

John McConnell, Executive Director of the Guilderland Food Pantry, explained how cereal is a staple donation item as it’s used both for clients as well as the Guilderland Backpack Program. Each week, the organization sends students from the elementary schools and FMS home with backpacks that contain items for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and cereal is a basic item that is typically included.

However, this year has presented greater challenges for the Guilderland Food Pantry, as inflation has affected the way families budget. According to Mr. McConnell, the need for donations was 55% higher compared to last year. “Our shelves are empty, as far as cereal goes,” he said.

While this is a fun event, FMS math teachers hope their students will gain valuable lessons from this activity. “We’re hoping the kids practice a little bit more gratitude and humility and just helping one another. It works into our Positivity Project we’re doing in the school and teaching the kids how to be a good human,” said Been.

“I think we need to get back to having fun in school. There’s too much focus on the workload and there’s not enough fun left in school and I think we are really trying to get back into that,” said Todd Hanson, another FMS math teacher.

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