We set out from the museum early in the morning and were met by one of the 4th grade teachers, Ms. Engelhart, who drove us to the school. It was the first time in a long while that any of us interns had been in an elementary school, and we’d forgotten how energetic the kids could be, especially this close to the end of the year! They were great, though, and once the presentations started, they settled right down. The morning presentations were really informative and focused a lot on getting the kids excited about everything the Postal Museum has to offer. After Libby, Beth, and I introduced ourselves and talked a little bit about what we each do at the museum, Alex took over and explained how the Arago Website works and picked several different exhibits to showcase the wide variety of things that can be found on the website. Almost all of the kids have been following the World Cup, so they got really excited about the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa exhibit that was just posted (see it here).
One of the coolest parts of the presentation, though, was when Alex started pulling out some objects to pass around the class. Part of the reason I love museums so much is that they put people in contact with the real stuff – it’s not just a picture in a book or on a screen, it’s something real right there in front of you. It was so awesome to see these kids share that same excitement as they got to examine one of the first U.S. postage stamps or an early 20th century ad for breakfast cereal. By far the biggest crowd pleasers, however, were the 200-year-old letter covers signed by Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. (In one of the classes, the kids actually erupted into a chorus of “Ooos” and “Ahhs,” when Alex explained what they were!)
We switched gears in the afternoon, and instead of giving presentations, we worked with the kids to create some fun exhibits using the collections on Arago. The last group of the day was particularly interesting, because we were dealing with some mixed age groups. Ms. Hendrick’s third grade class joined Mr. Rogers's fifth grade class, and together we had to come up with an exhibit that would be interesting for everyone and would draw on both the third graders’ and fifth graders’ skill sets. In the end, we decided to create our very own “Quick Guide to American History,” focusing on important events in American history as portrayed on postage stamps. We split the kids into three groups, and Libby, Beth, and I each took a team and got to work. Each group created their own list – which included everything from the First Census in 1790 to Obama’s Inauguration – and worked at putting the events in chronological order (with the help of their intern-captains, of course). Then we got the groups back together and voted to create one final list of the “Ten Most Important Events in American History” and picked stamps to correspond. The final exhibit can be seen here.