Folks don't typically fashion a game out of handing other people their money, but at Atwater Elementary it has become a fierce skirmish, during the school's annual penny wars.
The penny wars raise funds for the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society, and this year, generated $1,808 in just a week's time, shattering last year's record of $1,352.
For the second year, the effort was organized by second grade teacher Dan Zimmermann and the Atwater Student Council. The way the wars work, Zimmermann explained, is students fill jars categorized by grade level — third through sixth grade — with their pocket change. Every penny is worth a point, while other coins or bills count as negative points. For instance, a quarter is negative 25 points and $5 negative 500 points toward the team point total.
"So you put pennies in your jar, and other stuff in the other jars to poison or sabotage them," Zimmermann said.
There is no prize for the winning class, except for bragging rights, Zimmermann continued.
"We want all the money to go to the charity, they offer prizes, but of course, that comes out of their funding," he said.
Atwater ended up collecting some 65,302 pennies, with about 55,000 of those coming in on the last day, Friday.
With the help of students, Zimmermann hauled 425 pounds of coinage to North Shore Bank, which he says was very helpful in tallying up the grand total.
After the coins were calculated, the sixth-grade team was crowned the winners with 24,000 pennies, beating the third graders by 54 points (less than a dollar).