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First Class Problem Solvers

Bring your 1st-3rd grade students to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Postal Museum!

What is First Class Problem Solvers?

First Class Problem Solvers is an exciting skills development program at the National Postal Museum

The focus of the First Class Problem Solvers program is help students improve critical problem solving skills. During this facilitated experience, students will learn about the processes we all use when problem solving, then witness problem solving in action through museum exploration, and finally have a chance to apply their new-found skills to one of two scenarios:

  • Ship-a-Chip: Working in teams, students must design and build a cardboard box that will safely ship a single potato chip without it breaking!

  • Pneumatic Tubes: After assessing the best possible route, groups of students will build a pneumatic tube system out of PVC pipe to transport a marshmallow from one location to another!

Program Description

We’re training and challenging your students to become outstanding problem solvers. This facilitated, skills-based program will teach your students problem solving skills combined with teamwork, critical thinking, and communication.

First, students are introduced to a framework for problem solving including the following steps:

  1. Identify a problem

  2. Analyze the problem

  3. Create a plan

  4. Test the plan

Students are then given a chance to explore the museum and witness examples of problem solving in action. How has the United States Postal Service met the challenge of keeping our country connected quickly and efficiently in the face of an ever changing American public? By becoming effective problem solvers! By critically examining objects specifically designed to address issues with mail delivery, students are given insight into how even familiar objects have the power to solve problems and change things for the better.

Then, students are given the opportunity for hands-on problem solving practice. After practicing with a simple example, students are divided into groups and asked to apply their skills to a problem as a postal engineer to design a container that can safely ship a single potato chip without breaking or transport a marshmallow through a functioning pneumatic tube system. They are challenged to think about how they might make things work (just like the examples they saw from the United States Postal Service!). After coming up with their solutions, groups will present what their strategy was and test their plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is my group right for this program?

  • Accommodates: up to 30 students

  • Tour duration: 1 hour

When is this program available?

  • This program takes place Thursdays through Fridays at 10:15 am and 11:30 am.

  • There is no charge for this program, but reservations at least four weeks in advance are required.