USPS Program Gets Stamp of Approval

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In an effort to attract young stamp collectors, the U.S. Postal Service recently started a nationwide marketing campaign to schools across the country. Its aim is to help teach young people about the 20th century and to allow them to choose events and people that will appear on future commemorative stamps.

To support its "Celebrate the Century" program, the USPS sent 200,000 fourth- and fifth-grade teachers the first of six cross-curricular learning kits in the "Celebrate the Century Education Series." The kits highlight the most important people, places and events of each decade.

"We feel this program will be very effective in creating a new generation of stamp collectors," said Jeff Tarkajian, senior vice president and group management director for FCB Direct, the ad agency working on the campaign. "The postal service is intent on doing this and it has managed to create a very involving and educational way of getting it done."

According to the USPS, the kits let teachers take students on a field trip through the century in "an in-depth, interactive and fun way." Afterward, students will vote on the events and people they thought were most significant in each decade. The 15 winners from each decade will be put on commemorative stamps that the USPS will issue as a sheet of 150 in the year 2000.

The campaign will run through early next year. The USPS began advertising it last fall by sending 1.5 million solicitations to teachers. It received nearly 200,000 responses from those wishing to take part in the program. Ads were placed in trade publications, and direct mail packages also were sent out. Teachers who missed the original registration still can sign up.

The six kits will be mailed out two to three months after one another. There will be one covering the years 1900-40, and one for each decade after that. Each kit is a three-panel folder that includes a guide instructing teachers on how long to deal with a particular topic and how to connect each lesson to the curriculum.

For the students, 30 topic cards discuss a particular event of the decade. For instance, the 1950s kit includes cards on the Cold War, desegregation and the national highway system. Also included are bookmarks, stickers, a resource guide, a timeline poster and ballots for students to vote.

"These kits have been designed so that they can be photocopied and re-used for years to come," said Karina Fassett, vice president and account director at FCB Direct.

According to Fassett, the teachers who already have used the kits have been impressed with how complete and comprehensive they are.

"The feedback that the postal service has received from the teachers using the kits has been fabulous," she said. "Once we sent out the 1950s kit and word of mouth began to spread, [the USPS has] gotten more calls from teachers who are interested in signing up for the program."

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