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Improving Math & Science Learning:
Opening our own Post Office
A Cross-Curriculum Study of the Post Office:
Opening a School-Wide Post Office

Grade Level: Elementary First Grade

Authors: Barbara Chavez and Kimberlee Lloyd, Teachers,

P.S. 1M, New York City Public Schools

Collaborated with Kathy Huey, District Two Technology Staff Developer


The first grade social studies curriculum encompasses the study of the community.   Within this study, it is important that the children realize that each part of the community, i.e., the fire station, the police station, the doctor’s office, and so on, plays a vital role in the functioning of the community.  First grade children must realize that people fill these important roles, and without them, the community would not serve its purpose.

Prior to launching this study, students should already be familiar with the post office.  They should visit the post office at least once, and they should understand that people write letters to communicate with others.  Many trade books can be used to introduce the children to the concept of letter writing, including Dear Mr. Blueberry by Simon James (Scholastic, 1991), Mr. Griggs’ Work by Cynthia Rylant (Orchard Books, 1989), and The Jolly Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg (Little Brown & Co., 1990).

As a culminating activity at the end of a yearlong community study, the children look forward to opening their own school-wide, student-run post office.  As well, students in other grades enjoy writing letters to their friends and teachers, and the first graders have the important role of ensuring that their mail will be delivered in a timely manner.

As students operate the Post Office, they will learn many math concepts and skills such as the concept of money, keeping numerical records, counting and adding by fives, collecting money and making changes, categorizing and sorting………..

Different technology media will be introduced and used to supplement and enhance this project.  The project integrates across most curriculum areas – social studies, literacy, math, and technology.


 Goals and Objectives:

§         To help children to understand and appreciate the important role that the post office plays in our community.

§         To help children understand the process of mail delivery and the important jobs within the  postal system.

§         To help children become familiar with the value of money and to be able to count change.

§         To give the children the opportunity to be an integral part of their school-wide community and to understand the important role that they can have on a community

§         To introduce children to the Internet and other technology media.


Lesson 1:  A Guided Tour of the Post Office/ How Mail Moves

Projected Time Required: Approximately 3 Sessions



·        Students will learn how the mail moves within the postal system and community

·        Students will learn the concepts of “order” and “steps”



·        How the Mail Moves by Gail Gibbons (Harper Collins, 1982)

·        Observation sheets (one per student)

·        Paper, glue, scissors



·        As part of a community study, the students should be familiar with the post office, having visited it as part of their community walks.  For the first visit, the class can spend twenty minutes in the lobby of the post office, making observations.  What is the function of the post office?  Why is it an important part of our community?

·        The teacher will introduce the topic by reading aloud How the Mail Moves.

·        The teacher and students will discuss in the correct order the various steps that move the mail within the postal system and the community.  Why is it important to follow this sequence of steps? 

·        Discuss the various jobs that postal workers have (Teller, Mail Handler, Sorter, Stamper, Letter Carrier).  How do the people doing these jobs work together to get the mail from the mailbox to someone’s home?  Why are they each important?

·        The class will revisit the local Post Office and meet with a postal worker for a “behind the scenes” tour of the Post Office.  Discuss the associations between the book and what they see on the visit.  Where is the mail sorted?  What happens to it after it is sorted? 



·        Students will fill out observation sheets after each visit to the post office. 

·        Students will be able to recognize the distinctive features of a Post Office (e.g. the US flag, the eagle emblem, the red, white and blue colors).

·        Students will be able to discuss how the mail moves and who the postal workers are.


Lesson 2: Post Office Jobs

Projected Time Required: Approximately 4-5 Sessions



·        Students will learn about the different Post Office jobs and their functions to expedite the movement of the mail in a student-run post office

·        Students will work cooperatively to run their own post office.



·        Postman Pete by Val Marshall and Bronwyn Tester (Mondo Publishing, 1988)

·        Special stamp-shaped paper

·        Crayons, markers



·        Read aloud Postman Pete.

·        Discuss what a postman does.  Why was Postman Pete important to the community?  What is his job?

·       Discuss the other jobs at the post office.  How is each job done?  What supplies does each job need? 



·        Students will be able to write a description of one job and draw a picture.

·        Students will decide which job is their favorite and argue why they would be good at performing it. 

·        Students will perform their jobs accurately when their post office is open.



Lesson 3: Mailing a Letter

Projected Time Required: Approximately 1-2 Sessions



·        Students will understand that a letter needs to have an address in order to be mailed.

·        Students will understand that there is a specific order that an address is written on the envelope.

·        Students will be able to assign an address to each classroom in the school building.

·        Students will appreciate that the numerical sequence correlates to the locations of houses, apartments, streets, rooms, etc..



·        Envelopes



·        The teacher will show students how to address an envelope to be delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.

·        The class will discuss how addresses are designed.  Are street numbers randomly assigned?  Discuss how confusing it would be for the mailman if there were no specific orders in assigning street numbers.

·        Take a walk around the school and notice how the room numbers go in order.  Why does it work this way?  What would happen if it didn’t?

·        Have students discuss how they could address mail for the school.  Could they use room numbers?  Why would that be a good idea?

·        Come up with a school-wide address system using classroom numbers.  For example:

Ms. Lloyd

Room 412

8 Henry Street

New York, NY 10038



·        Students will be able to decide that classroom numbers would be the most logical choice for the addresses.

·        Students will be able to address an envelope.



Lesson 4: Using Money for the School-Wide Post Office

Projected Time Required: Approximately 3 Sessions



·        Students will be able to count by fives.

·        Students will be able to identify and distinguish different coins and understand their individual values.

·        Students will be able to record their stamp sales on a chart.

·        Students will be able to use a T-Chart.



·        Chart paper

·        Play and real money

·        Stamp sales worksheet



·        The teacher will introduce coins to students and discuss their individual values.

·        The teacher will bring students to the school library to get access to the Internet USPS website.  They will examine postal rates around the world.

·        The class will decide that a five cents stamp rate is reasonable for the mail delivery within the school building.

·        The teacher will explain that the stamps that students will sell will cost five cents each.

·        Discuss how much money is needed to buy two stamps, three stamps, etc.

·        Make a T-chart on large paper as they go.

·        Show the children the Stamp Sales worksheet.  Explain that some children will have the job of recording how many stamps are sold each day.  Practice filling out the chart together.



·        Students will be able to use the T-chart as a reference when the post office is open.

·        Students will be able to count out money.

·        Students will be able tot use the stamp sales worksheet accurately.


Coming Together of the Lessons -

Opening and Running The School-Wide Post Office

Time required: One to Two Weeks

Within this time period, the children need to design stamps that they will advertise and sell to the school-community.  To set up the Post Office in the classroom, an area needs to be established for each job position to work in.  The sorter needs the most area.  They need to have an area to sort the mail by floor numbers and then by classroom numbers.  Cubbies or class mailboxes work well for this purpose.  Stampers will need rubber stamps and ink, letter carriers need a bag, mail handlers need a basket, and tellers need a counter, money, and a sales sheet.

Allow a certain period of time each day for the post office to be open for stamp sales.  About an hour each day works well.  Keep in mind that there will be down time, so others can design more stamps while waiting to do their jobs.  Once the post office is closed, the other “employees” can do their jobs, such as picking up the mail, stamping it, sorting it, and delivering it.

Mail Drop Boxes (plastic US Postal mailboxes bought in stores or painted cardboard boxes) are placed in different locations throughout the school building.  Specific collection time is indicated on the box.  Post Office opening hours should be posted outside the classroom.

At the end of each day, the class will discuss how many stamps have been sold and how much money has been collected.  Pictures will be taken for a culminating project and as celebration of students’ hard work.


Stamp Sales worksheet


Technology Supplementation throughout the Project


§         The Internet

§         Students are introduced to the Internet while they access the USPS website to examine postal rates to different part of the world.

§         While on the USPS website, students can also see the different designs of stamps which they use as reference and ideas for their own designs later.


§         The computer and computer software.

§         Students are encouraged and given opportunities to use the computer to record their observations, to draw pictures of their observations, and to design stamps.

§         Students are also given opportunities to enter information recorded on the Stamp Sales worksheet onto a Spreadsheet set up by the teacher and see how efficiently numbers are added up by the computer software.  They can also confirm their hand calculation after they enter numbers onto the Spreadsheet.


§         Digital cameras are introduced and used to take pictures of the Post Office activities.  These pictures are downloaded and printed that become a part of a class big book.


§         Scanners are used to capture stamp designs.



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