First Class Problem Solvers

Bring your 1st-3rd grade students to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Postal Museum for a fun STEM program that combines history and problem solving!



About First Class Problem Solvers

First Class Problem Solvers is an exciting skills-based program at the National Postal Museum that focuses on improving students' 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 a real-life scenario. Working in teams, students must design and build a cardboard box that will safely ship a single potato chip without it breaking!


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 efective 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! Through critical examination of 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. Students are divided into groups and asked to apply their skills to a problem by acting as a postal engineer and designing a container that can safely ship a single potato chip without it breaking. 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 this program right for my group?

  • Target age: 1st – 3rd Grade
  • Accommodates: up to 30 students
  • Tour duration: 1 hour

What else should I know?

  • The National Postal Museum does not sell any food or snacks. Limited space may be available for those that bring their lunches with them. Arrangements to eat while on premises must be made with the School Programs Coordinator in advance of your visit.
  • Entry into any Smithsonian museum requires security screening. In order to ensure a prompt program start, visitors to the National Postal Museum should arrive 15 minutes in advance of their program’s start time. Please communicate to all chaperones and students that they will be subject to security screening prior to their visit.
  • The Museum does not have a requirement on the number of chaperones to bring. We simply ask you use your best judgement for the size of your group and the mode of transportation taken to the museum.

When is this program available?

  • This program takes place Tuesdays through Fridays at 10:15 am to 11:15 am and 11:30 am to 12:30 pm.
  • There is no charge for this program, but reservations at least four weeks in advance are required.

Request a Reservation!

Please be advised that submitting a registration form is only a request. Written confirmation (via e-mail) from the museum constitutes a booking guarantee. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address provided within one business week. Questions regarding your registration request should be directed to NPMEducation@si.edu.

As a public health precaution, First Class Problem Solvers registration is currently suspended.