My STEM Units

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

National Parks: Treasures for Teachers - Traveling Trunks and Materials on Loan

The musty smell of an old steamer trunk.  The creak of a rusty hinge.  Magic awaits inside.  What is this magic box?  A Traveling Trunk!

Traveling Trunks were set up by the National Park Service as a way to bring the park to your classroom.  Perhaps your school is located too far from a national park for a field trip.  Or maybe you wish to build background knowledge before you do take your students to the park.  Either way, Traveling Trunks are a wonderful way to bring materials into your classroom.

What sort of Traveling Trunks are available?

  Traveling Trunks are as diverse as the national parks from which they hail.  Some are filled with books about fossils, Native Americans,and landforms.  Others are overflowing with period clothing (pioneers, civil war, etc.).  Yet others contain salmon eggs!  Most trunks are aligned with the state standards for science and social studies.

The trunks themselves are also quite diverse.  Some are old steamer trunks, reminiscent of centuries past.  Others are suitcases which previously transported wardrobes through airports, repurposed for carting books through classrooms.  Most are plastic bins, favored for their durability and shipping effectiveness.

How much do the Traveling Trunks cost?

Most trunks are 100% free.  While there is never a "rental" fee, there may be shipping costs involved.  

How can I request a Traveling Trunk?

LearnNPS has done a wonderful job of compiling a list of national parks and monuments which have Traveling Trunks.  One thing to keep in mind when searching for trunks is that not all trunks can be shipped.  This is due to some being just too heavy and others are simply too fragile.  Some parks require that teachers pick up these trunks in person.  And while many parks do ship their trunks, some only ship within-state.  To request a trunk, go to  Once there, click on "Parks as Classrooms" on the left margin.  From there, click "Traveling Trunks".  At the top of the page, you will see a box where you can enter search criteria, such as grade level, subject, and location.  

Besides Traveling Trunks, what other materials are available on loan?

Besides a wide variety of DVDs and books, national parks also loan out other items.  They have maps and compasses.  Or owl pellets and pelts.  Snowshoes, anyone?  The only way to know which items are available is to go to the "Parks as Classrooms" tab on the left margin and click on "Materials to Loan".  Check your parks often, as park educators are continually adding to their collection.

National Parks: Treasures for Teachers is a five part series.  We will explore the resources for teachers (most of which are free!). Read on and experience your America in a new way.

  1. Teacher Workshops
  2. Traveling Trunks and Materials on Loan
  3. Virtual Field Trips and other Online Opportunities
  4. Teacher-Ranger-Teacher
  5. Field Trips and Institutes

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