First-graders at Connoquenessing Valley Elementary School got a glimpse of places all over the world without ever leaving their classroom.
The youngsters in the Seneca Valley school have received hundreds of postcards this school year as part of "The Great Postcard Race."
"I've been doing this for about eight years," teacher Stacey Richard said. "This was a very good year. We received postcards from all 50 states but also got many more from out of the country."
The students started the quest for postcards in February, after reading "Me on the Map" by Joan Sweeney, a book about a young girl who discovers her city, state and country by using a map.
"After we read the story, I send a note home asking parents to send in cards if anyone is traveling," Ms. Richard said.
One first-grader, Emerson Peffer of Harmony, received more than 100 postcards. Her mother, Billie Jo Peffer, said her sister, Dee Dee Johnson, is vice president at Ampco Corp. in Pittsburgh and she asked her business contacts to send postcards to Emerson. The result was postcards from Belgium, the Netherlands and other countries.
Most of the cards were mailed to the school, and Ms. Richard read them to the youngsters as they came in. "It was really about geography. I think the lesson they learned the most was that people live in other parts of the country," she said.
Ms. Richard said some postcards came unsigned and others were unique. One youngster received postcards that contained only one word each, and after all of the cards had arrived, they spelled out a message when put together.
Ms. Richard said she received a wooden postcard this year, perhaps the most unusual one she has gotten since the exercise began.
In past years, classes have assembled cards from 50 states, but this year the cards came more quickly and in larger volume, she said. She credits the change to social media.
Maureen Ditson, whose daughter Paige is in Ms. Richard's class, said she sent emails to all of her friends and posted the project on Facebook. She also emailed the governor's offices and tourism bureaus in some states.
Paige ended up with about 80 postcards, including one from President Barack Obama.
Ms. Ditson said she has a friend who volunteers at the White House who was able to secure the postcard for Paige.
Ms. Richard said every pupil in her class received at least one card. She said the class usually has a hard time getting postcards from Alaska, Hawaii and North Dakota, but this year the New England states proved to be more elusive.
The youngsters will take the postcards home at the end of the school year and for some, it will be the start of a collection.
Ms. Peffer, whose daughter, Emerson, collected the most postcards, agreed.
"It was exciting getting all of the postcards," she said. "When she brings them home, we are going to throw a postcard party and make a scrapbook for Emerson."
Laure Cioffi, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.