The mail must go through! This pledge by the U.S. Postal Service secures a right denied to residents of some other countries but expected by Americans. On the mild spring morning of March 12, all three second-grade Timnath Elementary School classes “hoofed it” to the Timnath Post Office. This modern version of the Pony Express made it a multi-purpose project to learn math lessons, discover Timnath’s rich history, study the workings of snail-mail, and send themselves — like “Flat Stanley” — around the United States.
A friend or relative had been pre-selected as an intended recipient of a miniaturized drawing of each child. No computer or copy machine magic here. The youngsters had to measure their own heads, torsos, arms and legs, and mathematically shrink them to one-quarter scale before drawing themselves. Some kids even colored the hair on their “flat me.” Accompanying each sketch and folded into a standard mailing envelope was an instruction letter from the teacher with a note from the child on the back. Recipients were told to carry the drawing with them and take photos of it in interesting areas of their town, then send those or postcards back to their child.
In hourly succession, the three classes marched south along Main Street. On the way, each group’s teacher shared information about some of Timnath’s historic buildings and original purposes.
Then they reached the destination, where Postmaster Eileen Cordsen had been eagerly expecting their visit. Cordsen has served as postmaster for the Timnath Post Office since 1992, having previously worked for the U.S. Postal Service in Aurora, Fort Collins and elsewhere.
Certified Substitute Teacher Susan Hutchens explained to her 9:30 a.m. group, Liz Hemphill’s class, that people must treat Post Office grounds with respect, avoid trampling on plants and flowers, and never damage mailboxes or other objects. The children next gathered around Cordsen in the lobby as she explained the surrounding locked postal boxes, why people rent them and how that procedure works.
The postmaster gave a detailed description of mail’s journey. In response to one boy’s concern about his letter heading to Alaska, she talked about planes/trains/automobiles along that specific route. Some locations are so remote, she said, that mail must be dropped out of a cruising airplane in hopes the bundle lands close to its target!
Leading the group to the counter, she answered a host of questions, discussed postage requirements and described some of the many postal services available. She assured the youngsters that mail must never be opened by anyone but the recipient unless it ends up in the dead letter office. Then, specially trained personnel read whatever they must to ascertain the letter’s intended location.
These tech-savvy 7 and 8 year olds, unlike children of previous generations, consider mail a basic computer function rather than a pen-and-paper product forwarded to one intended reader via a brick-and-mortar building and multiple transportation forms. Intelligent, animated questions resulted and the kids came away with a newfound possibility of communication.
When they exited the building, the children mailed their letters in the big, blue box out front. Hutchens again cautioned them to treat the mailbox with respect and always double check that their letters have actually dropped down into the box. In single file, the children opened the cavernous metal container, carefully placed their letters in, closed the box, re-opened it to be certain the letters had indeed been swallowed, and stepped aside for the next classmate to take a turn.
Their correspondence properly sent, the laughing, chattering children headed back to school where the exciting excursion no doubt became the hot topic at recess and beyond.
Any adult who takes our mail system for granted can now ask a Timnath Elementary second grader about it to gain a new respect for the many fascinating facets of the U.S. Postal Service.