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three girls setting up mac & cheese boxes like dominos
Marieanne Quiroz

More than 6000 boxes of Mac N Cheese were set up for a domino like fall with boxes being donated to Food Share of Ventura County.

On Friday, February 9, 2024, Mound's fifth-grade class led an outreach project in which they learned something about themselves while giving back to the community. The students are responsible for planning and following through with various tasks, including cost analysis, publicity, and coordination with larger organizations. Last year, students and staff saw a video of an elementary school that created a "domino run" with cereal boxes. They thought, "We can do that." That would allow students to have a STEM project, practice their leadership skills, and, most importantly, do something meaningful for their community–a perfect fit for their Science and Global Citizenship magnet. Students had to brainstorm ways to determine the number of boxes they wanted to use and then decide what to do with all the boxes when they were done.  To see what their Principal and students thought of this event view this year's MAC 6000 video

Last year's students immediately thought of donating the boxes to Food Share of Ventura County. They wanted to give the boxes to them but realized that cereal, although it has vitamins, does not always make kids feel full. Last year's class reached out to a dietician and talked to her about nutritional value. They then decided their "dominos" should be more satiating and nutrient-dense. They also thought a whole family could eat Mac 'N' Cheese. That is how the Mac 'N' Cheese domino run began.

This year's students loved what last year's students did and wanted to build on it, hoping they could reach even more families in need. Last year's class raised 4250 boxes, so the students set a goal of 5000 this year. They reached that goal and surpassed it, with the current count at 6000 boxes.

They reached that goal by having groups of students present their ideas to the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) and asked for matching donations to help them reach their box goal. They then presented to other classes throughout the school, explaining what they were doing and why. They asked students in those other classes if they could bring in boxes that could be used for their project and then donated to Food Share. Students also created fliers and posters. The focus this year was learning how to publicize. The fifth grade classed then held their second annual "Stuff the Trailer with Mac 'N' Cheese" drive. Students collected 3521 boxes. PTO matched many of those boxes, helping students get to over 5,000. With even more boxes arriving daily, they have reached over 6,000 boxes.  

"Throughout this STEM and outreach project, 93 students will have worked together on math concepts such as volume, area, estimation, multiplication strategies, and grouping. Leadership, teamwork, and communication skills have all been used and refined. They've learned perseverance and grit, how to keep Mac 'N' Cheese from falling over, and how to regroup and revise strategies when it does. Most importantly, the kids are excited to take care of others in our community by providing satiating meals that kids enjoy eating," stated Ms. Tracie Fickenscher, Mound 5th grade teacher. 

Lessons include:

  • Presentation skills
  • Time management
  • Communicating to a large audience (and knowing their audience)
  • Leadership and teamwork

STEM skills include:

  • Figuring out the perfect distance (and reliable distance) between boxes
  • Understanding the effects of outside forces and how to control for those forces
  • Calculating the volume of a box, wagon, and trailer
  • Estimating how many boxes fit in a wagon and a trailer and how to pack the boxes to maximize space
  • Determining how many boxes it will take to get to the front of the school from our classrooms
  • Developing a model and revising it based on data from trials
DATA Student and GRIT Member Flor Arroyo
Areej Khan

ABC7s Philip Palmer visited Ventura last month to talk to VUSD students in the GRIT program at De Anza Academy of Technology & the Arts (DATA).  

GRIT -Girls Re-Imagining Tomorrow- introduces middle school students to tech-focused career options. It opens doors for girls at DATA in an industry that has historically written out women and propels them to brighter and bigger futures in cybersecurity.  

Watch the Eyewitness News segment aired on April 13th for the whole story. 

  • DATA
  • GRIT
Fresh food at VUSD school cafeteria
Areej Khan

We're closing out National Nutrition Month with some significant updates! 

The Ventura Unified School District Food & Nutrition Services Department has been hard at work implementing exciting changes we'll start to see in some schools in the 2023-2024 school year. Most VUSD middle and high schools will implement a sandwich bar, allowing students to have customized sandwiches made on-site daily. They'll also have new tilt skillets that the Food & Nutrition Services Department has invested in. Tilt skillets enable kitchen staff to cook large batches of food quickly and safely at an even temperature. Once all required staff training to use this new equipment is complete, these tilt skillets will significantly increase every participating school's capacity to serve hot meals from scratch.

We visited the Foothill High School Cafeteria earlier today with local media for a sneak peek of the new equipment and to meet VUSD Food & Nutrition Services staff and cafeteria staff, including employee worker Ethan Oritz who enjoys learning food service and serving meals to his schoolmates. "It's a fun place to be," said Ethan...

Foothill High School Cafeteria Student Employee Ethan Oritz 2023
It's a good setting to kind of get used to the professionalism of learning what you have to do…using that and my past experience allowed me to get a job over the summer. I'm going to be a state lifeguard, and I feel like this really helped me. Ethan Oritz, Student Employee, VUSD Foothill High School Cafeteria

The part we're most excited about: VUSD Food and Nutrition Services is establishing a student advisory committee to assist in meal and menu planning. Student inclusion will help ensure that VUSD schools serve meals and snacks students want and will eat. Connecting with our students and learning with and through them is vital to the health and longevity of our schools, and we can't wait to see how much brighter our cafeterias will get with their input. VUSD Food and Nutrition has been building a better food system for years, implementing fresh salad bars and pivoting to safely pre-packaged foods and Universal Meals to address public health and food security for our community during the pandemic. They're eager to roll out these new and exciting changes with more student-approved fresh foods as we shift towards healing.  

Full 2023-2024 school year menus will be published on the VUSD and school websites at the start of the Fall semester. 

VUSD Cafeteria Staff Hard At Work
VUSD Foothill High School cafeteria staff hard at work
  • Anacapa
  • Balboa
  • Buena High
  • DATA
  • El Camino High
  • Pacific High
  • Ventura High