Red Cedar Elementary students help unload the more than 6,000 boxes of cereal donated to Bluffton Self Help. PHOTOS COURTESY RED CEDAR ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

The idea began with a mid-February Facebook post from Red Cedar Elementary School parent alum Mindy Winn. A school had lined up 400 cereal boxes down a hallway and made them fall like dominoes.

It’s exactly the kernel of creative possibility that the school’s principal, Dr. Kathy Corley, lives for. She presented the idea to her team of educators, and just seven weeks later, with the help of all corners of the Bluffton community, the Red Cedar Foxes had set a new Guinness World Record.

The school’s students and staff collected more than 6,000 boxes of breakfast cereal and set a new world record for most cereal boxes fallen in a heart-wrenching series of attempts on April 5.

“It’s the kind of thing that happens when you have an amazing team. Everyone owned a piece of this,” Corley said. “And then once we put it out there, it was just the kind of thing that everyone wanted to be a part of.”

Businesses from Hargray to Publix and neighborhoods from Hidden Lakes to Berkeley Hall all contributed cereal boxes. The top cereal-collecting class, Kristen Howell’s first grade crew, won a pizza party and a chance to pie Howell and Corley in the face thanks to their 712-box haul.

For the innovative educators at Red Cedar, the attempt had the perfect combination of education, community service and fun. Students used math and science to find just the right way to make the rows of boxes topple. They wrote letters that were attached to the boxes donated to Bluffton Self Help. And they learned selflessness in donating 6,153 boxes of cereal that BSH executive director Kimberly Hall said will provide upwards of 40,000 meals to local families.

Dignitaries such as Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka and Beaufort County School District Superintendent Frank Rodriguez were on hand to witness the attempts. Police officers and firemen helped reset the lines of fallen boxes after five failed attempts over the first hour of trying.

“It got a little hairy there. I now know what my teachers feel like when I come in to audit a class,” Corley said of trying to accomplish the feat in front of her bosses. “But our staff, our kids never wavered.”

The sixth time proved to be the charm. After barely cracking 1,000 boxes fallen in any of the previous attempts, cereal engineer Christopher Ratzel and a team of volunteers marveled as 3,730 boxes toppled.

That broke the previous Guinness World Record for most cereal boxes fallen in a domino fashion set by H. Frank Carey High School in Franklin Square, N.Y. They made 3,416 boxes fall in 2017. The record was even once held by a U.K. division of the cereal giant Kellogg’s.

“We all would have loved to demolish the record and have all the boxes fall, but it was incredible to see everyone’s hard work pay off,” Corley said of the pending record (the school went through a meticulous application and verification process and is awaiting official word that the feat has been certified).

“Our students and staff accomplished a great deal through this initiative. Perhaps most important, they gathered over 6,000 cereal boxes which they will donate to Bluffton Self Help,” said Rodriguez of the accomplishment. “That means that they are helping those most in need in our local community. Students learned about compassion and great citizenship as a result. And, oh yeah, as an added bonus, they hold the World Record for a cereal domino drop.”

Both students and staff immersed themselves in cereal science for seven weeks. They took lessons of force and action taught in fourth and fifth grade to account for the momentum gained as the boxes fell. And they learned the ins and outs of proper formation.

“The mega Cheerios boxes, if they’re all in a row, it’s a problem. They slow down and stop falling. We found that the generic Raisin Bran had more raisins than the Kellogg’s and Post, and putting them in between the Cheerios, because they’re heavier, that made things happen,” Corley said. “And we learned that Fruity Pebbles cannot be trusted. They just didn’t want to stay standing up.”

Students spent weeks crafting messages and drawings that will be attached to each box, providing a personal attachment between the students and recipients.

“We donated water to troops in Afghanistan years ago and I had an Army officer call me. He had received the water after a horrific day in the field,” Corley said. “He said those messages meant the world to him and his fellow soldiers. So we had to make that happen here.”

Every box also has a QR code that links to the video showing the world record being set.

Media outlets from Miami to Cleveland to Los Angeles and Tokyo picked up the good news story, showing staff wearing cereal-themed T-shirts and Corley donning a Tony the Tiger facemask.

The students finished delivering the final boxes to Bluffton Self Help right before spring break.

“It was an incredible thing to watch these kids. I am so blessed to get to work with a staff that never stops challenging themselves and the kids,” Corley said. “If you have the ability and authority to make stuff happen and there’s no downside to doing it, you should always make good stuff happen.”

Tim Wood is a veteran reporter and proud Red Cedar parent alum. His favorite cereal is Cocoa Puffs, though he has been on a Frosted Flakes roll of late. Contact him with story ideas at timwood@blufftonsun.com.