Postage stamps are an easy and fun way to increase student participation in classroom activities. Stamp subjects can enhance any curriculum — from poetry to physics to phys ed. They also can be used with any grade level, although they are particularly effective with elementary school children. These tiny bits of paper, and a little imagination, can bring lessons to life.
Here are a few suggestions for incorporating stamps into typical lesson plans:
History can be difficult for young students to grasp, but by engaging the class in hands-on activities, the past can become part of their world. Take the story of Lewis and Clark: how can their mission to explore the West and find a passage to the Pacific Ocean be made relevant to 21st-century students? Teachers can highlight the explorers’ route across a modern map of the United States, then challenge their students to follow that trail using stamps. Where did they go? Who did they meet? What did they see? Students can affix the appropriate stamps to the map or make their own illustrated diary of the trip. More activities related to the Lewis and Clark Expedition can be found in the APS booklet. The pdf is available in the sidebar of this release.
Social studies teachers often require students to prepare a report on one of the fifty states. Using stamps to illustrate the story makes otherwise dry facts become much more exciting. Over the years, the United States Postal Service has issued stamps with state flags, trees, flowers, birds, famous architecture, historic sites, notable personalities, historic events, agriculture, arts, and industry. For example, a report on Pennsylvania might include famous residents such as writer Louisa May Alcott, actor Jimmy Stewart, baseball great Roberto Clemente, and President Dwight D. Eisnhower. In addition, the student might add stamps featuring the hemlock (state tree), whitetail deer (state mammal), the Liberty Bell, the Slinky, Hershey chocolate, Gettysburg, first U.S. oil well, and Valley Forge. The APS offers 19 sets of free downloadable, full-color album pages featuring different states at http://stamps.org/Free-Album-Pages. More are in preparation.
In fact, America’s stamp club has a WHOLE SERIES of free stamp albums that can serve as excellent tools for teachers looking for new ideas. These “mini-albums” cover fishing, baseball, toys, national parks, holidays, movies, space, the Olympics, Black Heritage, Hispanic Americans, and more. A brief history of the story behind each stamp is included.
Many English classes ask students to keep a journal. Why not “A Stamp Album About ME?” Each member of the class would create a personal album using stamps to show some of the student’s favorite things: sports, food, hobbies, vacations, food, activities, pets, holidays, etc. The album could include separate chapters on family and friends.
Stamps are a relatively inexpensive addition to the curriculum. The local post office and mail delivered to private homes or businesses are good sources for new and used stamps. The APS has 600+ dealer members whose contact information can be found at http://www.stamps.org/Dealers (searchable by topic and geographic location). Stamp shows and local stamp clubs are two other good resources (http://www.stamps.org/Show-Calendar). Local stamp clubs often will share duplicate stamps if teachers mention that they want to use them in the classroom.
Why use stamps in the classroom?
- To promote teamwork
- To teach research techniques
- To build communication skills
- To discover aspects of American life
- To explore other countries and cultures
- To encourage creativity through stamp design
- T o reinforce language skills through storytelling
- To increase the motivational level of at-risk students
- To challenge the gifted child as he/she explores with stamps
- To enhance the development of reading, writing, and math skills
- And because it’s FUN!
The American Philatelic Society is the ultimate resource for teachers interested in using stamps in their classrooms. Visit http://www.stamps.org/education or contact Gretchen Moody by phone: 814-933-3803, ext. 239, e-mail: gretchen(at)stamps(dot)org.