Ocean Springs School Wins Top Mississippi Award

A group of fourth graders is using spoons, tongue depressors, and other utensils in a rather unusual experiment about birds.

"They're practicing trying to catch their food with different types of bird beaks, to see which type of beak is best adapted to capture rubber bands, marbles and pennies," Teacher Melissa Lee said.

In another class, the students create and run their own miniature town, complete with city hall and all sorts of businesses. Those unique hands-on labs at Magnolia Park Elementary impressed the judges in the Governor's Education Achievement competition. That's why the judges awarded the Ocean Springs school the top prize, and called the principal with the good news.

"I think what I said to the lady was 'you're kidding!' She said 'no, I'm telling you, you won!' So we were quite excited by it," Principal Jeanne Lewis said.

The judges also looked at how the school uses technology and how well students performed on state tests.

"Especially in our writing assessment, scores have really taken off.  So, we were proud to show them," School Counselor Joan Hershberger said.

Community involvement is another strong point at Magnolia Park Elementary. The school was recognized for programs that help various agencies, like collecting clothes for Goodwill, jumping rope to raise money for the American Heart Association, and organizing a food drive for the needy.

Teachers say it takes strong community ties and team-work to turn Magnolia Park into the best school in Mississippi.

"I know it's a well-deserved award. We have hard working students, teachers and parents, and we're just really proud to have been recognized in the state," Melissa Lee said.

Governor Ronnie Musgrove presented the school with a plaque during a ceremony in Jackson last month. This is not the first big award for Magnolia Park. The school was recognized in 2001, as a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.