Monday, September 22, 2008

Egg Cartons and Pinto Beans

Every year, Kim and I get to search for safe alternatives at our sons’ school for parties, craft supplies, and other activities. It begins to feel like a scavenger hunt sometimes: “We need some egg-, milk-, and nut-free gum drops to use on a gingerbread house. I’ll start with the stores on the west side. You hit the stores on the east.”

We’ve already had our first scavenger hunt of the year now. Our boys’ fourth grade teacher uses egg cartons and pinto beans to help her students understand division and multiplication. They use the twelve sections of the egg carton and divide up the beans between them – a good tactile reinforcement of math.

The only problem is, the used egg cartons the teacher has been saving for several months to use in the classroom aren’t safe for Kim’s egg-allergic boy. So off on a scavenger hunt we went!

First, I tried ice cube trays. At Target, the ice cube trays had sixteen compartments. At the dollar store, they had fourteen compartments. I stood in the aisle, a mountain of blue and white ice cube trays in front of me, and called Kim. “They have 14 compartments. Do you think that’s okay?”

“Maybe we could saw the extra two off the end,” she suggested.

“Or maybe we could paint the extra two compartments a different color and tell the kids not to use them,” I said.

Both solutions sounded kind of lame. We thought for a minute. Then Kim had an idea. “Forget the ice cube trays,” she said. “Let me make some phone calls.”

Later that afternoon, Kim had found an egg farm in the phone book, called them, and spoke to a nice man who just happened to have several dozen brand-new, unused egg cartons, still in their plastic wrappers, sitting in his office. It turns out they’d changed their packaging recently, and these egg cartons were the leftover old style and he didn’t know what to do with them.

Kim did.

So she drove out to the egg farm, and drove away with 54 unused, uncontaminated egg cartons.

When she took them to the school this morning, the teacher gave her a strange look. Kim quickly explained why these cartons were safe, and the teacher was very relieved. “I thought surely you should know egg cartons weren’t safe for your own kid!” the teacher laughed.

So all is good now. I’m buying a new bag of pinto beans this afternoon for the teacher to use (because her old ones would be contaminated with last year’s used egg cartons). So by tomorrow, the kids will be multiplying and dividing their way to a whole new level.

And Kim and I can chalk up another successful scavenger hunt!

1 comment:

Lori N said...

What a great idea! My son's violin teacher is having the kids use egg cartons to help train their bowing (they hold the egg carton like a violin & then "bow" in the groove between rows) - needless to say my little guy isn't doing this exercise. But now I've got a scavenger hunt of my own to go on. Thanks for the idea!