web k post officeKindergarten students learned the journey of the mail over the past couple of weeks while running a mock post office inside their classroom.

In a twist on the traditional Valentine’s Day celebrations, kindergartners in Laraine Ray’s class built a post office and mail sorting facility. To gather lots of mail, the students made each other valentines that were delivered to hand-decorated mailboxes every day for two weeks.

“It’s such a big hit,” Ray said. “It’s one of the memories kids carry with them for years. I think they like the opportunity to work with a team and see what to do without relying on a teacher.”

Each student is assigned a role or task: customer, postmaster, banker, stamps, carrier, inspector, cancellation, sorting, and delivery. The kindergartners then go through all of the steps of mailing a letter: going to the bank and counting money to pay for a stamp; addressing the letter; inspecting the mail for stamp, full address and return address; weighing it; sorting it according to address; and then of course, delivering it to the mailboxes.

After the mail was delivered each day, the postmaster held a meeting. Students discussed the “real-life” problems that arose and how to fix them.

For example, one day someone forgot to write a full address on a valentine and there was no return address. What does a post office do when a situation like this occurs?

Another day, the post office was condemned. Someone broke in overnight and dislodged the window counter and threw money and the stamps all over the floor. Before the post office could reopen, students had to fix it and pass a building inspection.

On the last day, once all of the mail had been delivered, the students read all of their valentines. Inside, were caring, heart-felt messages.

Many kindergartners said they enjoyed the project.

“I like that you get to put the mail in real mailboxes and that we get to have jobs and think like the real post office,” kindergartner Lauren W. said. “My favorite part is being postmaster because you get to solve all of these hard problems.”

Classmate Ishaan B. said he learned how a real post office works.

“I get to see how it looks in real post offices and I like the jobs,” Ishaan said. “I haven’t done all of the jobs (yet), but I think postmaster would be the ‘funnest’ job because you get to be the boss.”

Ray has done the project for the past 13 years, but she said it began before she arrived. The project requires students to trust one another and be both leaders and followers.

“It helps them see the importance of doing their part, because if one person doesn’t do their job the whole operation falls apart,” she added. “The goal is to solve problems as we would in real life.”

It also teaches an array of skills including patience, communication, and organization in addition to the academic subjects of math, writing, and social-emotional learning.                  

“I like to do units that have SEL as a big idea and then the skills are under the SEL umbrella, rather than ‘this is a math unit,’” Ray said.

While the basic outline of the unit is the same each year, the project changes with each class because different problems come up and the steps to solve the problems vary.

One year, students decided the wait time was a little slow and they needed something to do so they created an employee lounge for coffee breaks, Ray said. Another time, students learned how to handle oversize mail when a student created life-size valentines.

“It’s a fun unit because it’s so complex, yet so accessible,” Ray said. “It’s a lot more than just running a post office.”


February 12, 2016

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