Penns Valley

Centre Hall Elementary students take care to construct —and not eat — Gingerbread World

Mason Dunlap, 5, points to a gingerbread house Monday at Centre Hall Elementary School with his parents Shannon and Ashley Dunlap.
Mason Dunlap, 5, points to a gingerbread house Monday at Centre Hall Elementary School with his parents Shannon and Ashley Dunlap. CDT photo

Marinn Peters’ house was meticulously plotted.

The second-grader’s roof, however, was made of Frosted Mini-Wheats. The light poles were made of candy canes. And the picket fence was made of miniature pretzels.

Marinn and about 220 other students took part in Centre Hall Elementary’s 3rd annual Gingerbread World, an opportunity to get their creative juices flowing by decorating gingerbread houses with an assortment of sweets.

Marinn went online before school Monday to find ideas for her gingerbread house.

“Everything else I came up with,” Peters said. “I thought of the sled with the candy canes and pretzels and the Christmas tree with the ice cream cone and green icing.”

Students were rotated in the school’s gymnasium during school and were able to pick from a variety of candy they could use for decorations. They also were armed with bags of icing to make their gingerbread houses more sweet.

It’s an idea that Heather and Keith Luse started with their oldest daughter Isabella, 8, four years ago. The Luses operate Delectable Delights in Centre Hall, and Heather Luse is executive pastry chef at Penn State.

“We started doing it with her when she was in preschool and joked that we should do it for the whole school someday,” Heather Luse said. “When she got to school we said we’d do it for the whole school, because it’s something every kid can look forward to.”

Keith Luse coordinates the gathering of candy and icing — he collects candy in 55 five-gallon buckets and about 500 pounds of icing for the students.

“We keep all the candy in the house,” Isabella said. “My dad has the buckets of candy everywhere, but I can’t eat it.”

Isabella, who considers herself a gingerbread house-making expert, built a marshmallow snowman, a Christmas tree with Smarties ornaments and a gumdrop sidewalk.

Third-grader Kendall Guisewhite came in without a plan but made up for it with on-the-spot creativity. Guisewhite decorated her gingerbread house with the most colorful candy on the menu: Fruit Loops, M&M’s and Life Savers.

“It’s fun to create new things,” she said.

She said she wouldn’t pick candy from her gingerbread house to eat but said that some friends may have snacked a little.

“Our teacher was telling us not to eat any, but I think some people were eating a little of their own,” Kendall said. “My friend said she didn’t eat any, but her breath smelled like peppermints.”

Others picked out wrapped Hershey’s Kisses, Smarties and Tootsie Rolls to put on their gingerbread house and eat later.

“If that’s what they’re planning to do, good for them, as long as they had a blast doing it,” Keith Luse said.