Highland News Leader

Successful completion of serious challenge for students meant soaking of Silly String for principal

Watch a local principal get covered in Silly String

The principal at Alhambra Primary School and Grantfork Elementary School had her students cover her in Silly String as part of a challenge that encourages kids to reduce their screen time in Southern Illinois near St. Louis, MO.
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The principal at Alhambra Primary School and Grantfork Elementary School had her students cover her in Silly String as part of a challenge that encourages kids to reduce their screen time in Southern Illinois near St. Louis, MO.

To say Cynthia Toblert gets wrapped up the character education programs at Alhambra Primary and Grantfork Elementary schools could be somewhat of an understatement. Last year found Tolbert, the principal for both schools in the Highland School District, duct-tapped to a wall. This year, students smothered her in Silly String — all in an effort to promote the cause.

Each year, the schools host a "Cruisin' with Character" program. Toblert said the program promotes good character, health and wellness through a variety of activities. Tobert said most of the students' favorite part of the program is a wager called "Take the Challenge."

The challenge begins with a five-week course that teaches students about screen time. Tolbert said the course encourages kids to get away from their TV, computers, video games, phone and tablets and find healthy alternatives for play.

"So what we try to get parents and students to realize is that screens can be OK, but how much we spend on them could have detrimental effects on our health, well being and academics," Tolbert said.

In the final week of the course, Tolbert challenges the students to go five whole days without screens.

"Some kids like it. Some kids hate it. But they do get really super excited to do the challenge," Tolbert said.

Each class keeps track of its screen usage over the week. The two classes with the best participation gets to do something crazy to Tolbert.

"I like to do something different each year, just to keep the momentum going with the kiddos," Tolbert said.



Students at Grantfork Upper Elementary School in Grantfork, IL and Alhambra Primary School in Alhambra, IL, part of Highland Community United School District 5 in Highland, IL in southern Illinois near St. Louis, MO, were asked to not use electron

For the challenge's first year, Tolbert took a pie in the face. The second year, the students dyed her hair many different colors.

"And I have super long hair, so they liked that," Tolbert said.

This year, students from Linda Stearn's third-grade class at Alhambra and Marilyn Paur's fifth-grade class in Grantfork got to cover Tolbert in Silly String.

"I will do anything I can to help motivate them and keep them from being on screens too much," Tolbert said.

Other activities

Aside from visiting local nursing homes, another "Cruisin' with Character" activity that gets students up and moving are the schools' Mini Marathon and walking programs.

For 13 weeks, students try to walk a full marathon. During recess, the students can choose to walk with a teacher and gradually add the distance walked each day until it totals 26.2 miles.

The Grantfork students who meet the final mark will get to take a field trip on May 11 to Alhambra Primary School Mini Marathon, where the students will cheer on the primary students as they run the last mile in their own marathon walking program.

During this event, Tolbert said a 10-year-old cancer patient from Leaps of Love, a Highland-based charity that helps kids and families struggling with childhood cancer, will be presented with a check of $734. The money was raised by "Penny Wars" at Alhambra Primary School, another "Cruisin' with Character" activity.

"We're just trying to get kids to be active and think about wellness and doing things for others," Tolbert said.

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