Box Tops for iPads

For two Wapakoneta Elementary School students, they spent part of their holiday break practicing math problems — and they were excited about doing them because a new Christmas present made it fun.

Sisters Audrey and Hanna Sparks used their iPads over the holidays to hone their skills in mathematics. They also can use them for language arts and history as well as other subjects.

Their enthusiasm is just an example of what Wapakoneta Elementary School administrators have found and hope to find more of in the future. With school funding declining and costs rising, school administrators hope to use this year’s Box Top collection program to help fund the purchase of approximately 30 iPads to use for educational purposes and state testing.

“Our plan is to use the money from the Box Tops program — and we will potentially have to supplement it a little bit from the PTO fund depending on what we bring in through the Box Tops program — to purchase a classroom set of iPads,” Assistant Principal Carrie Knoch said. “They would be on a cart and teachers would be able to check them out to do activities for the entire class.

“The more we move into one-to-one computing in schools and the more we move toward skills testing then the students see the iPads as less as a thing to play with and more as productivity tools which is why we are looking at them,” she said.

The school currently has seven iPads for special education students. Gus Wintzer, of G.A. Wintzer & Son, also recently purchased 10 iPads for the school to be used in instruction after seeing how enthusiastic the children were about learning while using them.

Along with helping students in their subjects, any new iPads would also help the school since the state plans to shift standardized testing online which would require more and more computers, Knoch explained. She said at this point the iPads and iPad minis “are all capable of handling the testing so in that case it would really be great, instead of taking each class to a computer lab, we would like to have enough so they could sit in their classrooms and take the assessment tests right there.”

The task to increase the number of Box Tops collected this year falls on the shoulders of Audrey’s and Hanna’s mother, Angie Sparks, who serves as the school’s Box Top Program coordinator.

“I volunteered to be in charge of this program because it is not your typical fundraiser,” Sparks said. “Students are not asking residents to buy anything that they may not use or think is too expensive. The Box Tops coupons are on products we are already buying at the store.  Therefore, all it takes is for the consumer to clip the Box Top coupon off the empty container and send it in to the elementary school.”

Sparks, who is in her second year of being in charge of the program, said she hopes to collect more Box Tops this school year than they did last school year.

During 2011-12, the Box Tops collection earned $4,688.80, which goes to the Wapakoneta Elementary School PTO. Their goal this year is $5,311.

To help motivate the students for last year’s contest, Sparks and others organized competitions including the top class in each grade level receiving a free recess monitored by Principal Mark Selvaggio.

As an added incentive this year, Sparks talked with Armstrong Air & Space Museum Executive Director Chris Burton and the students in the class with the highest overall total will receive a free ticket to the museum.

The latest prize gave Sparks the idea of giving this year’s Box Tops collection a theme, which is “Box Tops Will Take Us to the Moon.” She also wanted to honor Wapakoneta native and hero Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, who died on Aug. 25.

With a high total and a short essay, the school could win an additional 100,000 Box Tops or $10,000 for the school.

Sparks said she hopes the excitement of collecting and dropping off Box Tops spreads since each Box Top is worth 10 cents.

“The kids get excited when they see that there are Box Tops available on something they are eating such as Trix Yogurt or Cheerios,” Sparks said. “They get even more excited when the box says there are three bonus Box Tops available on the box.  That makes their Box Tops worth 40 cents — that’s quite a bit of money to an elementary student.

“To sum it all up, I am asking the residents of Wapakoneta to clip the Box Tops coupons off of participating products and turn them into the school,” she said. “Residents don’t need to have children in school to save them. They can give them to their neighbor kids, grandchildren, nieces, nephews or friend’s child for them to turn into the school. They could also give them to teachers that they may know.  If they don’t have a connection to any students or teachers, they could save them and drop them off to the elementary school office.”

She said last year a person from California mailed Box Tops to the school office.

Sparks, Knoch and Selvaggio also plan to expand the collection to include drop-offs at the Wapakoneta branch of the Auglaize County Public District Library and perhaps a box at a girls and boys basketball game.

“We have been collecting Box Tops for years now, but we have never had it earmarked for any one thing so we want to get the word out that there is still half a year left to collect them,” said Selvaggio, who thanked Sparks because she created a team to help with the collection. “I am all for it and I am excited they are doing it and that the museum has partnered up with us.

“While the kids can earn a free recess, the ultimate reward is they get to use the iPads as a learning tool and learning becomes fun.”