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Blue Colors the Day at Newly Honored School

In true Meadows Elementary fashion, students took center stage at Monday’s Blue Ribbon School celebration.

Sure, there were quotation-laden speeches from dignitaries, wistful goodbyes for retiring Principal Tim Stephens and plenty of certificates and commendations suitable for framing. But students wearing blue overalls, blue hair clips and blue T-shirts ruled the day.

The festivities--replete with a release of white doves from a vine-covered grape arbor--marked the Thousand Oaks school’s receipt of public education’s highest honor, Blue Ribbon status awarded by the U.S. Department of Education.

The coveted designation is awarded to schools that focus on students, offer challenging courses, stress active learning and constructive teaching, involve parents and the community and attain high test scores.

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Meadows was the only Ventura County school to receive the designation this year. It is one of California’s 30 Blue Ribbon Schools--and one of the country’s 269--named this year, noted Conejo Valley Unified Trustee Dorothy Beaubien.

“You people sure are doing something right,” she told the gathering of about 450 students plus dozens of parents and teachers.

During the afternoon program, students demonstrated the school’s unconventional mode of education, called “meaning-based” learning.

A first-grade boy read a terse writing sample from the beginning of the school year and then contrasted it with a longer, more eloquent piece showing his development as a writer. Second- and third-graders crooned their multiplication tables to the tune of “You Are My Sunshine” and “Clementine.” Pupils from Room 9--dressed as starfish, squid and dolphins--sang a tide-pool ditty.

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The point being: There’s more to school than rote memorization and skills drills.

“Meadows School isn’t just a place to open a book and start reading,” said fifth-grader Evan DeMott, the student council treasurer. “It’s a school where teachers open up the window to learning. . . . It isn’t just a place to read and learn. It’s a place to experience and learn.”


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