Schools - January 19, 2011

Eagle Express lands at Encinal School

by Lisa Cope

It's not often the postmaster of Menlo Park is summoned to a local school for the purpose of swearing in second- and third-graders. Then again, there has never been another post office in town like the Eagle Express, which recently opened at Encinal School.

The student-run Eagle Express operates like the U.S. Postal Service, except that second- and third-graders are in charge. Students will be able to write and receive letters within the school and with family and friends anywhere in the country.

The idea came from Encinal Principal Allison Liner. The Eagle Express became a joint project of the Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation and the Encinal School Parent Teacher Organization. "The post office is a great way to build community, connect with one another, and build writing skills at the same time," said Ms. Liner.

With hours of work donated by parent volunteer coordinators Jill Kispert and Heather Karp, the program was designed and implemented over the fall of 2010. First up: designing how it would run.

"We came up with a street plan based on the hallways and classrooms of the school's layout. Then we asked the students to come up with names for each 'street' and conducted a vote to decide what the names would be," said Ms. Karp. Winning street names included "Eagles Nest Lane" and "No Place Like Homework Way."

Ms. Karp and Ms. Kispert worked with PTO volunteers to design and print stamps, create a school-wide address book listing the new street address for every student, and make Eagle Express uniforms and mail carrier bags. The team also installed two large mailboxes on campus and gave each classroom its own smaller mailbox.

Second- and third-graders completed applications and interviews for such jobs as mail carriers, nixie clerks, cancelers and postmaster. Every applicant got hired.

At a Jan.10 school assembly, Menlo Park Postmaster Jeff Gaskill was on hand to swear in the new "postal employees." Principal Liner introduced the Eagle Express and its Code of Conduct, then called the name of each student postal worker.

"It's truly amazing to see all these kids excited about the idea of working in the post office and delivering the mail," Postmaster Gaskill said.

As part of the school's curriculum, students will be writing to other students and will learn basic letter-writing techniques as well as how to address an envelope.

Lisa Cope is a freelance writer and editor living in Menlo Park with her husband and two boys.


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