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What to do when you get news from Owney

So much class work is done out of books where the math problems and other experiences are make- believe and the teacher knows all the right answers. This project is real life. The students would ask me when we would hear from Owney as if I knew the right answer. Their guess was as good as mine! It's really kind of exciting being on this adventure with Owney.

Once or twice a week you should receive a postcard from another state. You will know Owney has been to that state. You can't really write this into your lesson plans since the cards come in at irregular intervals. I suppose you could hold onto the postcards and schedule time for Owney in your weekly plans, but it's exciting when a card comes in. I rarely waited unless there was no way I could put off our other plans.

This project can be as simple or complicated as you want. At the minimum, you will receive a postcard from (hopefully) each state, mail 50 postcards to the other classrooms, send an e-mail message to Bev and send Owney that same day or the next day to the next state on the list.

When a postcard comes in to your class it is very exciting. There is a lot you can do: graph Owney's progress, learn about the state, find it on a map, and compute the mileage Owney has traveled. You will find more information on how to do this, as well as a few other ideas on this page. If you have other ideas, please feel free to share them. There are students as young as kindergarten and as old as middle school involved this year. I have done most of the following with my 5th grade special day class (learning handicapped) students last year. You may need to adjust for your grade level.

Lesson Ideas

Please don't feel that you must do all of these to participate.

Graph Owney's Progress

Make a huge wall graph. The squares need to be about one-half inch apart. One year I taped graph paper together to make a graph about 3 feet high and about 10 feet long. Last year I used a paper table cloth. Plaid gift wrap or wall paper would also work.

Label with the 50 states in order of statehood going up the short left side of the graph. Label the bottom side with dates (write September then 1,2,3,4. . ) Number the top for the total number of days of Owney's travels. If you draw a line from the bottom left and up one square and over four squares until you go off the graph, you will show the progress if Owney travels four days per state. You could also draw lines for one day, two days, three days, and five days per state.

As postcards arrive, draw a dot (or use a sticker dot) to show Owney's progress. You can see the average number of days by comparing the dots with the diagonal line. Tape the postcards on the blank areas of the graph.

Learn about the States

Record state facts in a journal or on posters. One year we did state reports at the end of the year as a way to learn about the states. They were simple, one-page reports that we glued to one side of a sheet of red, white, or blue construction paper. On the other half, we posted the postcard, a construction paper cut-out of the state, and any other material we received. Another year I had each student keep a journal thoughout the year. You could either copy or stamp the US map on each page for the students to locate the state
Click here for information on ordering rubber stamps.

Betty Foster had an idea for Owney's Journals. She ordered the Owney Postcards from the Postal Museum. These will be the front of a small plastic spiral book. As a postcard is recieved, she will have copies made and add to each student's "Postcards From Owney Book." What a great idea! She says each student will have a "Keeper" from this project.

Carolynn Thompson from Mississippi wrote about an Internet site that might be very helpful. She says it gives information on all of the states. It has lots of links to state flowers, birds, live cams, etc. Click here.

Jo Ann Carter wrote, "Do you know about the site All About the States at the Internet Public Library? I think it would be a great link for our kids." Click here.

Keep a large classroom map. There are some great poster maps that are just the outlines of the states. Write in the postal zip code for the state. There is a pattern to the zip codes. Can your class find the pattern? Can they predict what the next state's zip code will be?

As each postcard arrives, have the students color in the state. They could also outline the states that Owney has already been to for a general picture of our country at the time. They will then write the name of the state, the capital, date of statehood, state bird, state flower, etc. Hopefully this information will be on the postcards, but if not, any encyclopedia or other reference should have this information. You can also check the web links listed above.

Last year I took an encyclopedia with the state flags to the local copy shop and had them do a color copy of the state flags. Since we only did one state report for each state, we only needed one copy each. A class set of the copies could get very expensive! Black and white copies might work. State flags are available as clip art for computers.

Compute the miles Owney has traveled. They could use the last pages for scrap paper for their computations and write the total on the state page. Older students may want to average the number of days per state. Last year we did this by just looking at the graph.

Compute the Mileage Owney has Traveled

Compute the total mileage of Owney's travels. I have sent mileage charts, but one year I had the students measure the maps in their Social Studies books and approximate the mileage by checking the key and multiplying. If you did not receive the mileage, please e-mail me and request it.


I found a book of corny jokes about the states. After we read about the state I would read a joke. You had to know a little about the state to get the joke. For instance, there was one about a tourist who stopped at an Idaho farm to buy 10 pounds of potatoes. The farmer refused to sell just 10 pounds because he didn't want to cut a potato in half. It helped my class know that they grow big potatoes in Idaho.


Compare weather that you are experiencing with the weather where Owney is. If a class doesn't write the weather, check the national news on TV or the newspaper.

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