When I was a kid I collected stamps. It was a casual hobby that my grandfather introduced me to, and when new postage stamps came out, we turned the hobby into lessons. A trip to the library would happen, we’d look up the subject of the stamp, and I’d learn all I could before placing the new postage stamp into my album.
Stamp collecting, also known as philately, was once a booming and exciting hobby for kids and parents to do together. However, according to a 2011 article from the UK’s Telegraph, “the number of young collectors is declining rapidly, raising concerns for the future of the pastime.”
So what could possibly renew an interest in stamps? How about some collections with fun pop culture nods to help make things exciting. The Washington Post has uncovered a fantastic list of stamp subjects that the U.S. Postal Service is planning for 2014 and 2015. The list includes familiar names, animals, and places, but it also includes an extensive list of subjects just ripe for family research fun. In other words, this is the PERFECT time to introduce your family to stamp collecting.
I took a look at the long list of proposed new postage stamps and found several opportunities for lessons.
1. Biographical History
There are several powerful biographical subjects proposed for new postage stamps. Every person is an opportunity to learn. Three names that stood out for me were Shirley Chisholm, Harvey Milk, and Steve Jobs.
Have you ever heard of this person before? What have you heard?
Looking at this stamp, why do you think this person was important?
What kind of letter would this person have written?
Learning about American history is another gift stamp-collecting can give you. Proposed new postage stamps include the subjects of the Korean War, the bombardment of Fort McHenry, and Five Forks.
Have you ever been to this location, state?
What was the outcome of the battle? (a research question)
What kind of letter would you write to a person who was fighting in this war?
3. The Arts
It’s great that there are so many subjects within the arts that have been proposed for the new postage stamps. Ingrid Bergman, Countee Cullen, and Roy Orbison are just three names that excited me. I am also thrilled to see proposed collections that will include pioneers of graphic design, science fiction writers, 20th century humorists, and pioneering women in film.
Can you tell which art the subject was involved with just by looking at the stamp?
Can you find something the subject created? (a research question)
What kind of fan letter would this subject receive?
One of the designs in development for a new postage stamp is a collection about the solar system. My son has recently started to get super curious about stars and the planets, and I can not wait to see these stamps.
Can you identify the subject on the stamp?
If you could travel to space, where would you choose to go?
What kind of letter would you write to an astronaut?
There will be several opportunities for studying nature within the subjects of the new postage stamps. I’m looking forward to collections on winter flowers, and I can not wait to see the Buckeye Butterfly stamp.
Where do these flowers grow? Where does this butterfly fly?
Can you imagine what it looks like in those places?
What kind of letter would you send with a butterfly stamp?
With “athletes in motion” as a possible new postage stamp subject, you can bet these will be great stamps to collect. No other information has been given about this subject, so I am hoping for a diverse category highlighting male and female athletes.
Have you ever watched these sports before?
What do you think the athlete was thinking?
What kind of letter of encouragement do you think an athlete would like to receive?
Pull out your atlas and start talking! Beyond the stamp subjects (proposed new postage stamps include: Atchafalaya Basin, Horseshoe Lake, and Blue Ridge Mountains), where letters come from is an outstanding way to have a geography lesson.
Have you ever been to one of these locations?
How far is your house from one of these locations?
What would you say on a postcard you mailed from one of these locations?
Interested in stamp collecting or getting your kids into it? The Young Stamp Collectors of America was created to help promote the hobby to children under 18.