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Origins of the Owney Project

In September 1996 our class read Owney the Traveling Dog, by Lynn Hall. We adopted a stuffed dog, named it Owney, and took it on a field trip to our local post office. I began planning how I could send our Owney around the US. Ramon, our tour guide at the post office suggested we use the forwarding process to mail Owney from one post office to the next.
I bought 50 post cards and the class wrote the school address on each one. The students located zip codes for post offices in the capital cities of all the states, and we addressed forwarding labels. Owney traveled region-by-region. We put a letter, the postcards, and forwarding labels into a pack. We mailed Owney with just his pack and $3.00 postage.
We heard from 23 states and then we didn't hear from Owney again.

We tried the same project again but kept track of the zip codes. I bought a new "Owney" to travel to each state, this time in the order of statehood. Once again I mailed Owney with just his backpack filled with forwarding labels, postcards, and a letter. Owney had many adventures and was hosted royally by kind postmasters. We received not only postcards, but letters, faxes, and phone calls to let us know where Owney was. We also received many wonderful gifts from post offices around the country. We received pencils, bookmarks, pins, coloring books, a t-shirt, tour books, and even hard-covered stamp collecting books.
As the end of the school year approached, we became worried that Owney would not make it back before the end of the year. I called New Mexico to see if Owney had been there. He was still there! I explained that Owney must make it back before June 10. They sent Owney to Hawaii, skipping Arizona and Alaska.
We planned a party in Owney's honor. We decided to celebrate his journey whether he made it back in time or not. My twelve students were excited to complete fifty state reports on posters. The post card from each state was attached to the poster. It was very touching to look around the room and see a postcard that came from almost every state. We decorated the room with a patriotic theme and served refreshments to the entire school. Owney made a surprise appearance. The post office in Hawaii sent Owney by express mail so he could make it in time for the party. He came back to us in a box. It was a good thing too. Owney's pack was covered with 31 collector pins from many of the states he'd visited. My learning disabled students proudly served as tour guides as hundreds of students came through our room to see the displays and the guest of honor, Owney the Traveling Dog.

I wanted to share the excitement of this project with other teachers. But how could I afford postage for Owney to travel from one place to another? $3 times 50 states would add up to $150 just for postage! I wanted each teacher to be able to follow Owney's progress. I realized that the postage for each leg of Owney's journey was not too much, and if the students each shared the expense by bringing in postcards to send to each of the other states, no one person needed to spend very much money.
I spent the summer on the internet sending e-mail messages to teachers throughout the country. I was able to contact a teacher in each state. I created this web page. Teachers contacted me to join, but their states were already represented. I encouraged those teachers to start a group of their own. Three of those teachers took up the challenge.
I decided to put Owney in a box to mail. The additional weight caused an increase of postage to $4. But I think it's worth it. Owney was able to travel in comfort with a mail bag and a journal to record all his adventures.
After many adventures including spending a summer in Alaska, Owney finally made it to all 50 states. He visited the president too. Read all about it by going to the itinerary.

Owney made his 50 state trip in one school year. He is being hand-carried to the president by a senator from Maine!

Return to the opening page
Read Owney the Traveling Dog, by Lynn Hall
What to do when you get news from Owney
What to do when Owney visits your school
Owney's Itinerary and Journal Notes
Lesson Extensions
Products you may want to use
Related Traveling Dogs