The Post Office Tour Preparation
Here are some key things you’ll want to know before you set your field trip.
- Find out where the General Mail Facility is in your area because they process the mail and have lots of machines for the kids to look at.
- You cannot take pictures inside the processing areas because it would increase the likelihood that fraud could take place. (that’s why I don’t have pictures of the machines, terrorists could get a hold of them and use them to deride the postal service)
- Have a few lessons about addressing envelopes. Our post office let the kids address letters to themselves and the kids watched the machines process them. They’ll get their letter in the mail in the next day or so.
- Our post office limited the number of people on the tour to 25. If you have a large group, you may have to arrange multiple times.
The Post Office Tour Review
Now, for my review of the tour. We went with a group of homeschoolers that chat on Facebook and this was the first time I’ve ever met them in person. The kids ranged in age from toddlers to teenagers.
We met our contact, Erica, inside the post office where people stand in line to ship their mail and packages. We were led to the conference room where the kids addressed their envelopes and we discussed things like how many letters were processed at the plant each day as well as the rules.
We noticed that even though some of the kids in the group have learned about addressing envelopes, some put the zip code before the city, others didn’t remember their address (it wasn’t just the elementary age kids!), and more than a few had to scratch things out. So, I recommend practicing prior to the field trip even if they have studied it in the last 12 years.
Do your kids need some practice addressing envelopes? My kids and I recommend Exercises in English, a curriculum that teaches grammar, usage and mechanics in a variety of situations including writing and addressing letters.
Did you know that the United States Postal Service processes more pieces of mail in one day than FedEx does in a year? The Colorado Springs General Mail Facility does more than 2 million pieces per day and it is 3x smaller than Denver’s General Mail Facility.
Then, we got to have a tour of the floor where all the mail is sorted. I’d heard that post office floors were covered in mail that was kicked around. Perhaps, that’s how it is at another facility. This place was neat and tidy.
The kids got to see their mail get sorted in less than a second in a mail sorting machine after we were told how it works. The machines are normally closed for safety when processing mail. We got a special treat, we got to see how the moving parts worked once everyone was at a safe distance. Since the machines are really long, the mail got sorted by the machine twice so they could see how each section of the machine works.
Part of our tour included seeing the machines that sort catalogs and magazines. We didn’t get to see the machines in action, but we got to get up close to every section and hear how they worked. I didn’t know the post office received several magazines in a bundle that were wrapped like the newspapers I received as a paper carrier decades ago.
We also got to see the dock where semi trucks deliver and/or pick up the mail to be taken to or delivered from other facilities. While there, we learned how bulk mail works. Vendors pre-sort their mail so that their ads and other mail can skip the sorting machines and taken directly to another part of the post office that puts the mail in order of delivery for the carriers. The Vendors get a discount and the money they spend contributes significantly toward keeping the USPS operating.
The kids and adults were encouraged to ask questions throughout the tour. Some tour guides on other field trips allow questions but get tired of answering them. Our guides were excited to show us what we wanted to know and explain until we understood. I was very excited by this because Caleb, 14, is very inquisitive. He wants to know EVERYTHING from strategy, to how machines work, etc and asked the most questions.
Visiting the Post Office may spark an interest in stamp collecting.
Some of the families, including mine, had toddlers in tow. The toddlers were fascinated by the machines, too. We didn’t have any trouble with keeping them occupied. We were told we could bring strollers. There was plenty of room everywhere we went for strollers.
Would I take my kids to the Post Office again in the future. You bet. Our experience was excellent and Jesse is 3 and probably won’t remember it. I also am a Cub Scout Leader. I would love to take them on a tour after we complete the requirements for writing letters and addressing envelopes.
Have you taken a tour of a Post Office? If so, please share your experiences. If not, tell us about that, too.