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Darmstadt Elementary School principal Russ Claus passes out crackers with sardines on them to children on Wednesday, during Sardine Day.
Darmstadt Elementary School principal Russ Claus passes out crackers with sardines on them to children on Wednesday, during Sardine Day. (Michael Abrams / S&S)
Darmstadt Elementary School principal Russ Claus passes out crackers with sardines on them to children on Wednesday, during Sardine Day.
Darmstadt Elementary School principal Russ Claus passes out crackers with sardines on them to children on Wednesday, during Sardine Day. (Michael Abrams / S&S)
A big fan of Sardine Day at Darmstadt Elementary School was fourth-grader Aaron Moore, 9. According to his count, he had 11 sardine crackers.
A big fan of Sardine Day at Darmstadt Elementary School was fourth-grader Aaron Moore, 9. According to his count, he had 11 sardine crackers. (Michael Abrams / S&S)
A line of plates full of sardine crackers for Darmstadt Elementary School pupils to eat on Sardine Day at the school.
A line of plates full of sardine crackers for Darmstadt Elementary School pupils to eat on Sardine Day at the school. (Michael Abrams / S&S)
Ryan McNally, 5, a kindergarten pupil at Darmstadt Elementary School definitely did not like the sardines served by principle Claus.
Ryan McNally, 5, a kindergarten pupil at Darmstadt Elementary School definitely did not like the sardines served by principle Claus. (Michael Abrams / S&S)

DARMSTADT, Germany — Darmstadt Elementary School principal Russ Claus believes the world can be divided into two groups: Those who have tasted sardines, and those who have not.

Claus has tasted them. Thanks or no thanks to him, hundreds of elementary school pupils have as well through something he calls Sardine Day.

On Wednesday his pupils celebrated — or suffered — Sardine Day 2007, an annual affair that pairs munching mushy fish with mathematics in a test of guts and graphs.

“I’m really trying to make Sardine Day a national holiday,” Claus said as he maneuvered chunks of fish onto saltine crackers in preparation for the tasting — the school’s sixth in as many years. “It’s hard to believe that some people don’t like to eat these.”

Dressed in a tuxedo shirt and black bowtie, Claus looked a bit like a dressed-up Charlie Tuna as he tried to manage the kindergartners and first-graders who hadn’t eaten their lunches and were excited to sample the sardines.

“Go eat your lunch first,” Claus told an eager youth who charged the sardine table, his lunch in hand. “This is like dessert.”

Minutes later, Kailon Cobb, 7, snatched up a sardine-smeared cracker, jammed the whole thing in his mouth and began flapping his hands like an injured bird before running back to his table.

“It almost made me throw up,” Kailon said as his classmates recounted their stories of how they’d also been sickened by the bait-size fish, the remains of which were, they swore, stuck to the ceiling somewhere.

“I swallowed a bit,” Kailon said, “but the rest. …” as he pretended to throw up on his tray. A moment later, he jumped up and ran back to the sardine table for more.

Sampling the little fish was not just a taste treat. After the pupils returned to their classrooms, they voted on whether they liked the mustard- or water-packed sardines and recorded their preferences in a graph.

“[Sardines] will never match hamburgers or pizza,” said Laura Lynn Elgin, the school’s assistant principal. She enjoys how Sardine Day ties into math lessons, but when pressed on the subject of sardines as food, admitted, “No, I’m not a fan.”

Neither is Nefeli Supinger, an 11-year-old fifth-grader, who strode into the cafeteria and handed out fliers bearing the slogan “Save The Sardines For The Penguins.”

“I hate sardines. I don’t like them,” said Nefeli, who declined to try them in any incarnation. After resolving that penguins need sardines more than humans do, “I decided to start a protest with some of my friends,” she said.

“I’ll have to talk to her,” Claus said in jest. “Sounds like a suspension to me.”

The anti-sardine rhetoric didn’t faze 9-year-old Aaron Moore. He didn’t just come back for seconds or thirds — he had 11.

“I like the way they taste like tuna fish, and I love tuna fish,” he said.

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