JANESVILLE

Head teacher Dennis Condon wore an Uncle Sam hat on his head, a patriotic lei around his neck and sunglasses decorated in stars and stripes.

He also carried a long ruler with a Monroe Mustang taped to the end because—wait for it—“Mustangs measure up.”

This was not a moment of lunacy but the beginning of Wednesday’s Monroe Elementary Summer School Fourth of July parade.

Condon served as a kind of majordomo, making sure everything was right and infusing everyone with his energy, which appears to come from a mix of rocket fuel and espresso.

Monroe’s parade had everything you’d expect. With variations.

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A group of Monroe Elementary School summer school students bounce balls and spin hula hoops during an Independence Day parade Wednesday in Janesville.

Instead of Shriners driving tiny cars in complex formations, the parade featured duathlon students in bike helmets and streamers riding in circles. Next week, those students will run a mile, bike 3 miles and then run another half-mile.

Instead of a drill team, the physical education students took to the streets with colored playground balls, hula hoops and jump ropes. These were kids who were participating in the “engaging in exercise and movement” part of summer school.

Instead of politicians waving and handing out leaflets, the youngest students marched and waved flags. Better a grinning kindergartner with a flag than a politician with a leaflet.

And instead of throwing candy to the crowds, students accepted donations for the nonprofit ECHO, placing the food in decorated wagons.

Even the school’s custodians got into the spirit, bringing up the rear of the parade with decorated trash cans designed to collect the overflow.

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A veteran carries the American flag during Monroe Elementary School's Independence Day parade on Wednesday in Janesville.

Add to that an honor guard of veterans, a police car, an ambulance, a fire truck and a pristine Chrysler LeBaron, circa early 1990s, and you have a complete parade.

Afterward, students were treated to freeze pops with the square plastic ends cut off. This is an important detail. No one wants to spend the Fourth of July holiday with a cut on the inside of a cheek or a missing tooth.

Parade participants were happy with its success.

Chloe Williams, 8, described it as “Awesome!” and pointed out that students had collected food for ECHO.

The best part was making the wagon floats, she said. Chloe’s float had balloons, streamers and stars on it. Her brother, Emmett Williams, who reported his age as “5 and a half and a half,” said he got a high-five from “the horse,” aka Monroe’s mustang mascot.

Emma Field, 6, said she liked shaking the tambourine she made out of decorated paper plates and something that sounded like beans or pasta.

Of course, never a moment can go by without learning—or as educators say, “mastering core competencies.”

Condon explained that the summer school team was “engaging and empowering the inner Mustang.” Students second through fifth grades were working to “gain awareness and solve real-world school, neighborhood and community problems through a project-based learning focus.”

The parade was about learning how to celebrate the country’s independence from Great Britain.

The food collection for ECHO was part a larger project that involved visiting the charity, learning about its mission and helping out. Students also are working on projects for Rotary Botanical Gardens and local senior apartments.

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A student smiles during an Independence Day parade at Monroe Elementary School on Wednesday in Janesville.

Life, liberty, the pursuit of kindness and a parade. The Founding Fathers would be proud.

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