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Phillips Elementary learns what it takes to keep the mail moving


Phillips Elementary has found a unique way to communicate to other members of their school.

For the past four years, with the help of her students, first grade teacher Andrea Harhai has run a post office, to show her class how to become community helpers. This year, with the help of her intern, Leeanne Pinski, the goal was for all students to learn about writing to a specific audience as well as understand the roles of community helpers.

For the first two weeks of May, they ran their post office to raise money for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Each member of the first grade class learned about the jobs necessary to run a post office through a guest speaker, a local mail carrier.

Other books were incorporated into this unit study to help students understand how the mail system works. The class brainstormed the following jobs: clerk, pick up, sorting, cancelling, and delivery with students rotating throughout the jobs so they could understand all the work that goes into delivering a letter.

Stamps were sold by the clerks for ten cents every morning and during lunch. Twice a day, the pick-up helpers went around the building to collect the mail in each of the teachers "mail boxes," which were bags on their doors. The students brought the picked up mail in their satchels to Ms. Harhai's room where it was sorted by addresses.

Each staff member of the school had an address book which helped the students who wanted to write letters put on the appropriate addresses.

After picking up all the mail, the cancellers cancelled the stamps. Students learned that at a post office stamps were cancelled, meaning they can't be used again, which is what they simulated within their classroom post office.

Sorters then sorted the mail in the classroom "pigeon holes," comparable to the ones in the post office, to help the deliverers know where the mail goes. The deliverers then took the mail out of the pigeon holes to go on their route around the school and deliver the letters.

"It was so much fun doing all the jobs, I liked everything about this post office, and even writing letters," a first grader said. "My favorite part was being able to write to another student in a different class."

This school wide project couldn't have been completed without the help of the staff at Phillips Elementary.


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