Gulliver’s Mailbox started with a handful of postcards in 2012. It is a free project (random act of kindness /community service) to teach kids about the larger world around them. It can be incorporated into Common Core requirements by involving kids in reading, writing, researching, identifying their community and more. The most important thing is it is free, fun and low maintenance for teachers. Here are some fast facts and fun ideas.
Gulliver, the traveling cat is our mascot. He types (cats can’t hold pens) onto postcards from all over the world, and shares his travels from the perspective of a cat. He may be in Norway one week, Alabama the next, China the third week. It is very random.
Classrooms receive postcards weekly throughout the school year. Gulliver talks about food, festivals, animals, history, geography, science and cultures of people and places around the world. The text is the same, whether it goes to a first grade or 6th grade.
Teachers decide how to use the cards and what happens to them at the end of the year. Often they are posted next to a map of the world, and given out to kids as prizes or recognition. Students love reading them aloud to each other.
Follow-up once a year is requested of teachers to use in social media. This could be in the form of an anonymous quote, story, photos of the postcards (with or without kids) or other evaluation.
“I know most cats don’t like to get into water, but you have to try our famous thermal springs. You will feel like you have been to a luxurious spa” said my friend Bas, a purebred Van Kedisi cat. A native of Turkey, he is pure white but has the unusual trait of two different colored eyes. He invited me back to Turkey after we had so much fun on my previous visit. This time we went to southwest part of Turkey to Pamukkale which means Cotton Castle. Legend has it that the limestone formations are solidified cotton that giants left out to dry. Everyone had to go barefoot to prevent damage to the pools; it was a slippery trip to the 17 pools to enjoy the naturally heated water just like Romans did thousands of years ago. The minerals in the pools, formed by underground hot water sources, are said to help with all sorts of illnesses, especially digestive and circulation problems. The ancient city of Hierapolis was a large city built nearby, there plenty of well-preserved ruins we explored including a restored amphitheater. Nearby, there’s also an archaeological museum for those that are interested in the history of the area. Bas was right, soaking in the warm pools felt good after hiking around the ruins. Purrs, Gulliver
Chilies are a true migrant, tracing its roots back to 5000 BC in Mexico and spreading around the world until many cultures feature them in their dishes. The Scoville scale was created in 1912 to measure pungency or spiciness. The family of plants includes bell peppers measuring between 1 and 100 units, while the hottest, like the ghost pepper, tip the scale at 855,000 or more units. Capsaicin is the oil found in all peppers which give the pepper their heat. When you bite into a hot pepper, your body reacts by dilating blood vessels, inflaming your mouth and making you feel hot all over. Those who eat spicy peppers regularly develop resistance to the heat as capsaicin kills the pain receptors in their mouths. Peppers that are agonizing to those who don’t eat spicy foods normally can be a mild heat to those who eat chilies daily. In addition to spiciness, peppers contain a poison that is harmful to cats, so I am glad I don’t eat them. Purrs, Gulliver
Mom and I flew to California for a family visit and rented a car. When cars were first built about 100 years ago they were very simple. Now they have computers and all kinds of buttons on the dashboard. Each car seems to have a different set up, so this car had the gearshift on the floor instead of the steering column. Every time mom tried to put the car in reverse, she set off the windshield wipers! Next she started the wiper in the rear and couldn’t get it turned off. We put a glove on it and drove down the freeway waving at the cars behind us every 30 seconds! We could have used that wiper when we were running late through the airport on the way home. Wave hi/bye to the baggage drop off, hi/bye to the security clearance team, hi/bye to the postcard seller. Whew, we made it to the gate and onto the plane. Time to go home! Purrs, Gulliver.
What is this thing called gravity? When I am in the airplane it floats in the clouds as if it is a feather, but when I leap off a table, I land on the ground with a thump! My friend Jackie is learning how to fly airplanes. Flying a plane is very different from driving a car. There are no stop signs and traffic lanes are not marked in the air. Even the controls are different. The yoke works like a steering wheel in a car. Push the yoke to go down, pull to go up, and use left and right to roll. Most pilots don’t want to roll the airplane upside down, but it is important to know how to straighten the plane if winds are strong. One of the hardest things about flying a plane is putting it on the ground again. The day you fly solo is like getting your driver’s license. There is custom when you pass your test to cut the back of your shirt off and write the date and plane identification on the shirt. With no instructor to guide you it is a scary experience so the shirt if often soaked in sweat. Still, it is a treasure to those who earn it. “Better to be on the ground wanting to be in the air than in the air wanting to be on the ground” is the motto of experienced pilots. Purrs, Gulliver
Happy Birthday Postcard! This year is the 150th anniversary of the creation of the postcard, which was first known as the correspondence card. Early postcards had addresses on one side and the message on the other. Now the back is divided with address and message on the same side, and a picture on the front. History lovers enjoy postcards which document how the world looked long ago – buildings, gardens and tourist sites all change with time. Postcards also celebrate major events, sports, transportation and entertainment. Between 1900 and 1915 when the postcard was most popular, over a billion postcards were sent. Some people prefer to email and use the telephone to communicate, but I will always love postcards! Purrs, Gulliver
I guess I should stay home once in a while. There are adventures to be found even in my backyard! While I was out exploring, Mom’s friend Ezekiel asked her to show his Flat Stanley around Missoula. Flat Stanley wanted to play in the snow, but found he needed warmer clothes. Mom crocheted a hat and scarf one evening, and the next morning they built a snowman. When the weekend came, they explored downtown Missoula, riding the Carousel. It was too cold for the kayakers to be out in the Clark Fork River, and the colorful piano that is usually in a parking lot was put way in storage. Not too cold for ice cream though, they walked to the Big Dipper and enjoyed Huckleberry ice cream. Huckleberries grow wild and are very tart, but make a good pie, jam or ice cream. They thought about hiking up to the “M” a concrete landmark on the side of Mount Sentinel. Although it’s just 3/4 mile to “M,” it seems much further with its steep incline and 11 switchbacks. Good sense and tired feet kept them from trying that challenge! Last I heard, they are going contra dancing, which is an old form of line dancing. I really missed out on a fun visit with Flat Stanley! Purrs, Gulliver
What makes the Badlands bad? The term was first used by the Lakota people who called the region in eastern Montana and South Dakota “mako sica” or “land bad’. The French Canadian fur trappers agreed in the early 1900s, saying it was “les mauvais terres pour traverse, “or bad land to travel through” because the temperatures were harsh, water was scarce and the land was difficult to cross by foot or horseback. Outlaws made use of these features to hide after committing crimes. Famous outlaws like Kid Curry, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Dutch Henry and the Hole in the Wall Gang would take refuge in the barren land escaping into Canada or to remote hideouts. There is now a Badlands National Park in South Dakota where buffalo and big horn sheep live. The Park has a wonderful fossil exhibit – it turns out that long before humans and modern day animals arrived, dinosaurs lived here and their bones are now fossils! Purrs, Gulliver
“Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler” said the sweet kitten Josephine when she begged me to stay in Paris for Mardi Gras. I found the English translation to that phrase is “Let the Good Times Roll”. Sadly, I had already promised Smokey I would meet him in Alabama to see the celebration in Mobile. So I said goodbye to Josephine and flew to America. Mobile claims to have the oldest Mardi Gras in the New World A. French-Canadian explorer arrived in what is now modern day Mobile, Alabama on Fat Tuesday, 1699. He named the location Point du Mardi Gras and celebrated the end of Carnival. Carnival actually runs from January 6 until the day before Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is the start of 40 days of fasting which in that time meant no meat, sugar, fats, eggs and dairy products. So to use up all the banned food the people had parties with rich food.. Over the years communities have added parades, balls and other forms of entertainment. Smokey and I really enjoyed the Carnival museum later in the week, and learned a lot of history. Purrs, Gulliver
What would it be like to be a quarter, a dollar, or even $5.00? We might sit in a piggy bank for a long time, waiting to be spent. Then one day, we jump into a pocket, go out for a walk and stop in at a store to buy a book or a piece of fruit. In the cash register we could meet new friends, and before long we join someone new as change for a larger bill. Off to the laundromat where we are put in machines, and out come clean clothes. It is crowded in that little box, and it is a sigh of relief when we are taken out and deposited at the bank. There are many coins and bills there, and it is wonderful to see many like us. It is quite a reunion, and we even get to meet money from other nations. Maybe our next trip will be to another state, or even another country! Purrs, Gulliver
Have you ever heard of the Seven Wonders of the World? They are sights that ancient Greeks wrote about as they explored their world. In 2007 a new list was made, which includes The Taj Mahal. In the 1600’s, one ruler in India loved his wife so much he built a memorial to her after she died. The Taj Majal means The Crown of the Palace and is the burial site of both the ruler and his wife. The Taj Mahal has beautiful gardens, a reflection pool and mosque (place of prayer). The buildings are made of marble stone from many different countries, and depending on the time of day, the buildings reflect different colors in addition to white. It is said 1,000 elephants carried the building materials to the site. It took over 20 years to build, and there are rare and semi-precious stones such as jade, sapphires, turquoise and lapis lazuli used in decoration of the buildings. Over 2 million people from all over the world visit every year, and I spent a lot of time just watching them as they explored the palace.