Image you are in fourth grade. Over several weeks, your teacher has read a book about a nineteenth-century boy, the same age as you that grew up in a town just down the road. You learned what games he played, what chores he had to do, and what sights, smells, and noises he experienced. Your teacher has a big, wooden trunk from which they pulled the very items you read about in the book–coal! a conch shell horn! a straw hat! Jacob’s ladder! You are even chosen to dress up like the main character!
With the kick off of the D&L’s Traveling Trunks program, hundreds of elementary school students will enjoy this same experience. The pilot program is off to a great start with trunks in a handful of classrooms across five different counties and more to come.
Local History Comes to Life
Outreach Coordinator Dennis Scholl developed the Traveling Trunks program to bring the rich history of nineteenth-century canal life to elementary school students across the Lehigh Valley. The trunks, constructed by students in a woodworking class at Moravian Academy, are authentic canvas and wood replicas of those used by canal boat captains and their families. Each trunk contains a variety of items, from old-fashioned games and toys to arrows heads, a mule feed bag, and a DVD of rare canal footage. The items complement a full-length book: Tales of the Towpath.
The book, authored by Scholl, follows the life of Finn Gorman, a fictional Irish man from Freemansburg, who reflects back on his time as a ten-year old boy living along the Lehigh Canal. As teachers and students work their way though the book, they will learn about the items contained in the trunks. Because Tales of the Towpath is set in the Lehigh Valley and is based on Scholl’s historical research, students will also learn about the often-forgotten history of their hometowns.
The trunks are not just fun and games. The Traveling Trunks curriculum is aligned with the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s academic standards, and the training course offered to participating teachers has received Act 48 accreditation. Scholl worked closely with the D&L’s twenty-member Educational Advisory Team, composed of educators and historians, to develop a program that would appeal not only to students but to teachers as well. Recognizing that educators are increasingly hard pressed for time to incorporate outside materials, the Trunks curriculum is clearly related to subjects already taught in the classroom. “We’re trying to offer teachers all types of options for education and then allow them to pick and choose which ones suit their needs,” said Scholl. “There are opportunities to teach language, arts, math, science, geography, social studies, art, music, and even family and consumer science.”
Looking forward to the full launch
Currently, Traveling Trunks is in the pilot stage. During the spring, Scholl hopes to gather feedback from teachers and finalize the trunks’ content and curriculum. “We want these pilot teachers to help us decide what works and what doesn’t,” said Scholl. With the full program launch in fall 2009, additional trunks will be added to the program and rotate between classrooms and schools.
For more information on the Traveling Trunks program or Tales of the Towpath, please contact Dennis Scholl at [email protected] or 610-923-3548 (ext. 225).
Funding for Traveling Trunks comes from the Keystone Nazareth Charitable Foundation, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, through Senator Robert Wonderling, PA DCNR, Luzerne Foundation, Sovereign Bankcorp, Sovereign Securities, Embassy Bank, Capital BlueCross, and the D&L.