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Students Put Stamp on Postal Celebration

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A skit about ZIP codes, a song about post offices and a poem about stamps.

Has the Point Vicente Elementary School in Rancho Palos Verdes whipped itself into a philatelic frenzy?

Actually, the student presentations recently were part of an effort by the school to help launch a series of five stamps marking the U.S. Coast Guard’s bicentennial. In the process, students learned something about the Coast Guard and the Postal Service.

The stamps, picturing venerable lighthouses around the country, were formally unveiled last month at the National Archives in Washington. But Point Vicente students helped stage an event of their own, presenting the ZIP code skit, the post office song, the stamp poem and a narrative about the Coast Guard in a “second-day” ceremony.

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It was one in a handful of such ceremonies held around the country to help launch the new stamps, according to Herman Sanchez, an educational events organizer with the U.S. Postal Service’s Long Beach office. Students said they enjoyed taking part.

“I learned that stamp collecting is not just a little thing,” said Fola Popoola, a fourth-grader who has been collecting stamps for two years. “It’s big, and you should be proud of it.”

Corey Ratner, also a fourth-grader, said the ceremony left her better informed about the Coast Guard: “I learned that the Coast Guard takes care of a lot more than I expected. I didn’t know they took care of lighthouses or helped take care of the oil spills in Alaska and Huntington Beach.”

Sanchez says the elementary school was picked as the site for a ceremony because it is near the Point Vicente Lighthouse, a 67-foot cylindrical tower built on the edge of a 130-foot cliff. The lighthouse was not the subject of one of the new stamps, however.

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The only West Coast lighthouse pictured in the series is the Spanish-motif Admiralty Head Lighthouse at the entrance to Puget Sound. The others are the lighthouses in West Quoddy Head, Me.; Cape Hatteras, N.C.; American Shoals, Fla., and Sandy Hook, N.J.

The heart of the school’s events was an outdoor assembly featuring the student presentations, speeches by visitors and an unveiling of the new stamps. After the unveiling, Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Alan Carver announced the six winners of a student stamp design contest.

The winning entries, including drawings of a desert landscape, a seal on a rock and a lighthouse, will be sent to a Postal Service advisory committee for consideration as future stamps. The artists, meanwhile, are scheduled to spend a day on a Coast Guard cutter in October.

A makeshift post office was set up on campus, and envelopes carrying the new stamps were emblazoned with pictorial cancellations commemorating the event.

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Pamela Lopez, principal of the school, said the student artwork and presentations developed for the lighthouse stamp ceremony are part of a broader teaching strategy at the school.

Students staged a mock convention, for instance, to mark the presidential election year and will take field trips and prepare presentations when they embark on a study of cities.

“We feel this kind of thing is a real part of life,” Lopez said. “Instead of learning from a book, they learn from experience.”


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