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Hi, I’m Heather Girton (Early Childhood & Elementary School Director) and I LOVE getting mail. Ever since I was little, the idea that a special card or package was waiting in our mailbox made me happy. When I was in third grade and we became pen pals with a class across the country in Idaho, I was smitten with the idea of writing and decorating letters. Getting a response always made my day. Even now as an adult, I sort through our daily mail and get that little burst of joy when I see a card from my cousin or mom. Imagine my glee when I first came to Orchard a few years ago and heard about the Post Office project hosted by the 2nd grade. At the time, my Preschool class adopted “Mail Kitty” (a mailbox featuring a pop-up cat ), we wrote a song (quite the jam) and every day my heart soared hearing their squeals at getting something special made just for them.
Fast forward to this year. A year when our community is so clearly searching for connection to one another and something that is just plain fun, it seemed obvious it was time to reinvent the Post Office project. When I pitched the idea, everyone was on board, though they may not have realized just how big of a mailbox we’d need. In January when we started planning with teachers, I heard nothing but happiness and excitement (yep, even teachers LOVE to get mail -hint, hint!)
When we opened for business, I was shocked by the response from our families, students, faculty and staff. We had almost filled our mail totes and kept our volunteer postal team busy for an hour. Not bad for a first day! All in all, in our first week, we easily exceeded 1,000 pieces of mail across the school. Tomorrow (Feb. 26) is the final day of the Orchard Post Office, and we've easily crossed the 3000 mark! Thank you to our volunteers from every division who helped make it happen!
Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight the fantastic academic opportunities this project has in store for all of our students. Letter writing obviously offers the chance to flex our fine motor skills with handwriting and a dash of extra art time for our youngest students. In addition, I’ve seen our students practice literacy concepts (including a book writing project going on between 8th and 3rd grade Special Friends), math skills (with sorting the mail) and even Science (a few friends have been researching fun animal facts to send back and forth). Even our just-for-fun projects at Orchard are full of opportunities to see the skills we teach applied in new contexts.
While I’m excited about the learning going on with this school-wide project, the emotions behind why it’s turned out to be so successful is really the reason to celebrate. The response just proves how much our community is rooted in kindness. It also illustrates our need for connection to one another in new or different ways.
Think about it - we have letters going back and forth across the entire school - with participation from every group that makes us so strong. Our families, our teachers, our staff and our amazingly thoughtful and joyful students are all-in on this project that, at the end of the day, boils down to being kind and bringing joy to someone.
No doubt, this project pulls at my heartstrings because of my own childhood happy memories about mail. I went into it thinking it would be a little something that we may get some participation with and we’d enjoy whatever came our way. What I didn’t expect was that this simple project would be the thing to illustrate just how special our Orchard community really is. It makes sense, though. I’ve always thought what made us so unique was the strength of our relationships and how we “show up” for one another. It turns out, our Post Office is the vehicle we needed to offer up just the right amount of joy at just the right time. With every envelope I see dropped into that big green mailbox, I’ve never been more proud to be an Orchard Owl.