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Teaching with Postcards From America®

Below is a brief description of the various components that make up the Postcards from America website and how you may use these elements in the classroom.

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On our first trip we toured a state a week and sent five Live-at-the-Scene® postcards each week.

Classroom Activity: The scenic photograph and the accompanying photo caption on the postcard, as well as our hand-written personal message on the reverse side, can be used as a launching off point for further classroom discussions.

Each postcard has an official "Email postage stamp" featuring unique, hand designed images of state icons, such as the State Bird, State Flower, State Flag, State Tree and a Famous Person from the State-of-the-Week. The Famous Person stamp usually portrays a historic figure, preferably a U.S. President. For states that did not "send a man to the White House," the Famous Person will feature either another significant historic figure, such as a reformer, author, or someone of unique character.

How to use the Stamps . . .
Click on the word "Stamps" above the postcard and you'll see four-color enlargements of each stamp and a brief biography of the Famous Person, which can be used for class discussions or for homework assignments to "find out more."

Classroom Activity: When possible, descriptions of the State Bird, State Flower and State Tree are also provided. However, (and very disappointing to us) few of the states could supply us with their reasons for selecting these icons. For states that are missing descriptions, you can assign "classroom detectives" to guess why they think a particular bird, flower or tree might have been chosen for the state.

Classroom Activity: Notice the cancellation on the stamp. At first, it appears to be an official U.S. Post Office indicia, but a closer look shows these to be handmade. Many times we insert a hidden message to students who have written to us. If you would like insert a briefe message to your class, send Email to with the message you'd like us to insert (10 words or less).

Click on the on the words Fun Facts above the postcard and get details on the state stats . . . the state motto, state nickname, area of the state, date and rank of statehood, what the state is known for, who the governor is. . .things like that.

The "Historical Note" section contains a brief paragraph on some little-known historic fact about the State-of-the Week. For example, did you know New Hampshire declared independence from England six months before the rest of the colonies did? No wonder their state motto is "Live free or die." And did you know about the first woman mayor? Mrs. Medora Slater was elected Mayor of a Kansas town in 1887 . . . 33 years before women got the right to vote.

Classroom Activity: Look at the brief Historical Note, the year the state joined the union, and other famous things about the state and use these as hints as to why the state motto or state nickname is what it is. (Tip: it's also a source for finding our why a particular bird, flower or tree was chosen as the state icon.)

Click on the word "Map" above the postcard and see a full-color, oversized map of the state we are currently visiting, with an emblazoned outline to help students learn the interesting, jigsaw puzzle-like shape of the state.

Classroom Activity: Names of cities and towns were intentionally removed from these maps, to accentuate the shape of the state. You may ask your students to examine the outline of the state and compare similar shapes, (for example, Michigan looks like a mitten, Louisiana looks like a boot, Oklahoma looks like an old-fashioned shop sign), as a mnemonic device to help them identify the unique and fun shape of each state.

Before leaving on our trip we wrote all 50 governors and asked for their personal recommendation of what to see if one only had a week to visit their state. We specifically asked for a personal recommendation, not a canned Travel Bureau response. The governors were told that their actual responses would be published on the website. Twenty-eight of the 50 governors responded. Their actual responses are published on the Governor's Page.

How to use the Governor's Page . . .
It's interesting to see how each governor responded. Some did what was specifically asked of them, others turned the request over to their Travel Bureaus, and, of course, 22 didn't respond at all.

Classroom Activity: Have students write a letter to the governor of your state expressing their reaction to his or her response, and if no response was included, invite them to participate, because it's never too late to brag about your state. We'll be happy to include any new input.

Everyone loves getting postcards, which makes Postcards from America a wonderful way to get parents involved in their child's lessons at school. Students participate at school with your guidance, while their parents receive the daily postcard at home or at work, thus creating a wonderful "teaching moment" at home. The topic may begin with the postcard of the day, but it leads to so much more. As one single mom recently wrote us:

My 10-year old has been getting your postcards at school. Now I'm getting them at work. I just wanted to tell you that your postcards make us touch on topics that I don't think ever would have come up before. I'm not only learning about America, I'm learning about my son. What a wonderful use of the web."

See what other parents and teachers are saying.

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