Thursday, June 3, 1999

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
The children of Wendy Yamaguchi's class at Jefferson
Elementary School proudly display their pennies.

Pupils pinch
their pennies for
zoo pachyderms

A second-grade class collects
39,000 cents to help the
elephants at the zoo

By Crystal Kua


FOR 39,000 cents, Wendy Yamaguchi's second-grade class at Jefferson Elementary School is hoping the elephants at the Honolulu Zoo won't have to pack up.

A pennies-for-pachyderms drive by the Waikiki school students came about after they heard that female elephants Mari and Vaigai were in danger of being shipped out because their pen wasn't big enough to house a male elephant.

Plans are in the works to construct an expanded elephant habitat for $6.8 million.

Yamaguchi's class wants to help with the cost.

Tomorrow, the second-graders plan to load five red wagons with the 39,339 pennies -- or $393.39 -- and pull them to the zoo, which is located a block from the school.

"Our teacher said it's time to help the elephants," said Marissa Okuda, 7.

Yamaguchi showed her class a news clipping which detailed the threatened removal of the elephants because the zoo did not have the necessary improvements to bring a bull elephant for breeding.

"First, the zoo is our neighbor," Yamaguchi said. "I also wanted the children to feel that young people can make a difference in their community."

The second-graders put containers in other classrooms and made presentations to other schoolmates on why they were doing this.

The pennies came rolling in. Students brought them from home and from wherever they found them.

"They started to become aware of pennies on the ground," Yamaguchi said.

Principal Vivian Hee said the students thought they could get a few thousand pennies.

"They figured they were going to collect about $40," said Hee, also an elephant lover with a collection of 500 elephant figurines.

But at the end of each week, they were surprised at the count. They had 15,850 the first week, 12,300 the second week and 11,189 the second week.

The project was also full of lesson plans for the classroom, Yamaguchi said.

Students learned about elephants, sharpened their counting and wrote poems and songs about their efforts.

On the door of their classroom, they charted their progress on a graph.

"We got better at math and we saw how far we were going," Sheylynn Ripley, 8, said.

"And they were having fun in the process," Yamaguchi said.

Yamaguchi plans to treat her students to pizza for all their hard work but their accomplishment seems to be reward enough.

"We're very, very proud," William Parwani, 7, said.

Construction of the first phase of the expansion project is expected to begin in March 2000. The second phase is set to be completed in October 2001.

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