An accidental geography project
Modern Day Penpals
When I was about 10, I had a pen pal (I don’t remember now where we got them, possibly it was a school project) -a boy named James from England and we wrote back and forth for many years. When my older kids were about that same age, they mentioned wanting to find penpals, too, but as homeschoolers, we didn’t really know where to start. While browsing online, we stumbled across a website called Postcrossing and ended up finding the greatest accidental geography project.
What is Postcrossing?
With today’s technology like texting and email, the art of the handwritten note has slowly faded away. There’s satisfaction in immediate responses and many people don’t have the patience to wait for the mail. But for children, and some adults, there is such joy in opening up your mailbox and finding actual mail!
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Postcrossing is a project that allows you to send postcards and receive postcards back from random people around the world. For each postcard you send, you will receive one back from a random postcrosser from somewhere else. There are more than 800, 000 Postcrossing members in 208 countries across the world. This means that you can receive personal mail from people living in other countries,from different cultures, with different hobbies and interests. The postcards you receive may be from places you have never before seen, and you get a genuine feel for how other live.
Who Created Postcrossing?
The Postcrossing project was created in 2005 by Paulo Magalhães, as a side project when he was a student in Portugal. He loved to receive mail and postcards from friends and family. He knew more people shared the same interest, but there was no good way yet to connect everyone. And that’s how he got the initial idea of creating the online platform for this thing he called Postcrossing. Its goal: to connect people across the world through postcards, independently of their country, age, gender, race or beliefs. By 2008, 1 million postcards had been sent via postcrossing. By January 2021, 60 million!
How Does it Work?
You do need to be at least 13 years old or have parental permission to join Postcrossing. There are security settings and community guidelines, but because they are postcards, you are not putting a return address or any personal information on the cards that you send.
We try to send postcards from places we have lived or have visited that show geographical features or skylines or other things about the area. Or if a receiver has a specific wish for animal cards or art, we will try and find a card like that. Some people like to know the temperature where you are writing from or receive special stamps. It’s fun to look through the profiles of the people you are sending to and be able to include a personal note.
After you have set up your profile, you can request addresses for cards. You are issued a postcard ID that you include on your postcard, and once you receive or your postcard is received, you log that postcard and ID number onto your homepage. From there you can see interesting stats- how many days it traveled, you can view a virtual map of its travel, and you can keep track of the cards you have sent and received. You can also upload photos of the cards you send and the cards you receive and showcase your favorites.
Since we chose to use this as a geography project, we also liked to pinpoint the country we received cards from on our big world map. We love looking to see how far cards come and learning about different countries and places. Receiving postcards from different places in the world can really turn your mailbox into an adventure. Practicing handwriting is a lot more enjoyable when you have a purpose and destination. And this is a fun, simple, and inexpensive project that anyone can do and at any age. It’s like traveling, but without a passport!