Pupils Collect 1 Million Pennies Over Eight Years

Pupils Collect 1 Million Pennies Over Eight Years

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RIVER HEIGHTS, Utah (AP) -- The pupils at River Heights Elementary School know what a collection of 1 million things looks like.

They, and students who went before them, have gathered 1 million pennies over eight years.

"Wow!" said 10-year-old fourth-grader Jordan Hopkins. "That's a lot of pennies."

"It's pretty cool," added Tanner Williamson. "It was a lot of hard work to get all these pennies."

The students gathered in front of their specially built container on Wednesday, filling bags with the pennies.

The $10,000 will go for a worthy cause, possibly helping to build a school in a Third World country.

The school started saving pennies in 1996 as part of a math project by fifth-grade teacher Dave Jorgensen.

He wanted to show students what a million of something actually looked like.

"That number is thrown around so much -- a million people, a million dollars. It's such a common number," Jorgensen said. "But it's really a huge number."

Jorgensen had heard that other schools had collected 1 million grains of rice or can tops. He thought pennies would be a good way of showing what the number means.

And when the students were done collecting, they would have something to show for their efforts.

Jorgensen first thought he would just build a box to hold all the pennies. But 1 million pennies weighs about three tons.

Plastics Resources, a Logan-based company, gave the school a box made out of Lexan capable of holding a cubic yard, which is about the amount of space a million pennies would take up.

"The box showed up and we had a drawing to see which kid would drop in the first penny," Jorgensen said.

Bank of Utah donated 5,000 pennies to get the students started. "It hardly made a dent," Jorgensen said.

Some of the students who started the project already have graduated from high school.

They had hoped to reach their goal of 1 million pennies in time for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, but fell short.

Eight years later, they finally have enough.

"I knew it was possible," Jorgensen said. "A lot of kids volunteered a lot of money and a lot of time. It was a blast."

Principal Vesna Jenkins challenged each student last week to bring in 50 cents, which adds up to 25,000 pennies, to finish the project. She promised to dye her hair if the students reached the goal,

They brought in 27,000 pennies, and she showed up Wednesday hair of blue -- the school color.

The only challenge remaining is finding a way to put the money to good use.

"Maybe there is a benevolent group or soul out there who will come along and help us find a place or match the money," Jenkins said.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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