Post office project teaches Fairland youth

Published 9:47 am Tuesday, March 17, 2009

ROME TOWNSHIP — It was that little bit of English spin that allowed Clayton Thomas to hit the mailboxes with such accuracy. Over and over the youngster smashed a colored ink stamp on an envelope, then would pick up it and let it soar into just the right box.

It was a performance of consistency, skill and dedication and all part and parcel of working on the Fairland Dragon Post Office team that each day delivers in-house student mail to all the classrooms at Fairland East Elementary.

The “post office” was established the first of the year at the kindergarten-through-second-grade school with the mission of getting the students enthused about an art in much disrepair in this current era of emails and text-messaging.

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The inspiration behind the pretend post office is principal Margaret Keeney, who did the same project 20 years ago when she was a speech pathologist at the school. At that time she was trying to develop good language skills with her students.

“That was a good place to start,” she said.

Now with high tech taking over daily life like a kudzu vine, Keeney thought resurrecting the post was timely.

“This is to teach the children about letter writing,” Keeney said. “At this age, they are just learning how to write a good letter that makes senses, like what is appropriate to say in a letter.”

Before the Dragon Post Office went into business the students learned the proper form of a letter from inside address to content to closing. Then every classroom came up with its own unique street address from Flynn Freeway for Jana Flynn’s class to Rocky Road for the class who knows which of the 31 flavors they like best.

After that every grade got unofficially incorporated into its own city from Kinderville for the youngest level; Greenville for first grade; and Dragonville for second grade.

Then Shawna Leep, who really does work for the Post Office at the Proctorville branch, came in and volunteered her time to create a reasonable facsimile of the real thing in a spare classroom, right down to a wall covered in tracing paper with fake brick. Leep then taught her daughter, Holly, a first grader at Fairland, the fine points of a dead letter box and the project was complete.

Since this mail delivery happens exclusively indoors these workers don’t have to worry much about adhering to the mailman’s credo because any snow, rain or heat of day will be on the other side of the windows.

And they probably don’t know that the balding founding father with the funny eyeglasses, aka Benjamin Franklin, was the first postmaster. But then how many USPS carriers giggle and skip their way through their appointed rounds? That’s because these letter carriers know how important their work is.

“A lot of kids are proud to get a letter,” Keeney said.