A herd of cackling elementary school kids stampeded through the aisles and checkout stands of Safeway in Soldotna earlier this month.
The invasion wasn't hostile. It was educational.
The kids were on a field trip to get a bit of hands-on experience as consumers. The students competed in games designed to teach the origin and nutritional content of foods, as well as how to shop for bargains and count money.
Teams of fifth- and sixth-graders roamed the grocery store aisles in search of the lowest price on each of 10 items, such as bread, cheese and milk. The teams gathered the items they picked in each category and rolled their shopping carts up to checkout stands set aside for the contest.
Shopping to save money proved to be a challenge despite an abundance of reduced prices.
Baskets of items wait to be scanned by elementary school students as part of a field trip. Safeway in Soldotna hosted students from Redoubt Elementary earlier this month.
Photo by Mark Harrison
"It'd be like sale here, sale here, sale here," said fifth-grader Landon Anderson.
In the final tally, however, team savings ranged widely. Teams saved from about 50 cents to $18, according to store manager Mick Galic.
In the afternoon, the kids got a chance to test their skills as checkers. The students competed to see who could scan the bar codes of a hand-carried basket full of items the fastest.
"It was fun," said sixth-grader TJ Earll. "I got 15 seconds."
The winner of the contest was a bit faster. Kati Morril scanned the dozen items in 8 seconds. Her reward was a Safeway pizza party for her sixth-grade home room.
Tori Marcano, Tyler Glidden, and Delana Duncan (upper left to lower right) tally cash and coins provided by Wells Fargo to get experience handling and counting money. The fifth-graders toured the Soldotna branch office to get an idea how a bank works.
Photo by Mark Harrison
Upstairs another contest was under way.
At tables set up in the store offices, students competed for the title of "Fastest Teller in the Northwest." The kids counted cash and coins out of small, cardboard Wells Fargo strong boxes and entered the totals on a deposit slip as fast and as accurately as possible.
"It was kinda hard," said fifth-grader Tyler Glidden. "The money would go around and fall (off the table) and you'd get mixed up."
The day before, the students had visited Wells Fargo Bank offices to learn a little about personal finance and what goes on at a bank, including how tellers handle money. The contest was a way to make what the kids learned more tangible.
"It gives them a chance to put what they learned into action. They get a little hands-on experience." said Andrew Riddell, Wells Fargo business relationship manager for the Soldotna branch.
First- through fourth-grade students participated in activities designed for their grade level earlier in the week.
First- and second-graders played games that identified produce items grown in Alaska and the vegetables and fruits with the highest vitamin C.
Third- and fourth-graders competed to find the items produced from different countries and the most kinds of "jack" cheese.
"Our younger kids were surprised 26 different countries supply Safeway," said Todd Syverson, principal of Redoubt Elementary.
The event was the first time Safeway and Wells Fargo had teamed up with the elementary school to offer hands-on education, but the school hopes it won't be the last.
"Our teachers and our kids have really enjoyed it," said Syverson. "Our goal is to have this be an annual activity."
Once a year may be all the adults and teachers involved are willing and able to handle.
Toni Scroggins, who's been at Safeway since the Soldotna store opened, helped kids scan barcodes for the checkout contest. Scroggins noted the kids were well-behaved, but there was a definite reduction in chaos when the mob of students left.
"They did pretty good," she said. "Of course, they're nervous and excited. A few minutes after they leave it's an unbelievable calm, quiet."
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