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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Civil War Traveling Trunk Inspires Learning

Traveling Trunk from Civil War Trust
There's nothing quite like engaging students in a lesson by building suspense. When our secretary came into the classroom wheeling behind her a 3' by 2' by 2' heavy plastic trunk you could hear a pin drop.  Immediately the questions started flying.  "What's in there?" "Where did it come from?" "Who sent it?"   "Is a blanket inside?" "Is it an animal?" "Are you going to open it now?"

Honestly, I wasn't sure where it was from or what was in the trunk either!   Checking out the label showed it was from the Civil War Trust.  I then remembered signing up during the summertime to receive the "Traveling Trunk"!

Opening the trunk with the students was so much fun!  The kids all gathered around as I popped it open.  The item sitting right on top was a replica uniform jacket made of wool with a matching hat.  Other items included a woman's apron and bonnet, a Union belt buckle, a container of real cotton, hardtack, replica bullets, confederate money, united states money, flags, a rag doll, and many other interesting items.
Dressing in Period Clothing

The most exciting and talked about artifact was the soldier's haversack.  Inside this antique backpack were replicas of contents carried by soldiers.  These included a comb, a wooden toothbrush, a prayerbook, a deck of cards, a tin cup & a fork, knife, spoon combined utensil.  There was a sewing kit, canteen and bowl as well as some coffee and sugar/salt.

Tin Cup & Salt from the Haversack
The Traveling Trunk also supplied a spiral bound curriculum for elementary, middle school and high school levels.  Included in the curriculum are objectives, lesson plans & worksheets.  Accompanying Powerpoints can be accessed from the Civil War Trust  (download here).  The elementary program is comprehensive and geared more for upper elementary. There are 9 lessons which are meant to be taught in 40-50 minute increments.  My class was able to get to about 3 of the lessons while the trunk was in our possession.  Fortunately, we can access the rest of them through the Trust at the above link.  

Haversack Replica

Using the contents of this trunk, my students have a greater understanding of the Civil War.  Hoping to sign up again next year (this time I'll know to allot more time for lessons!).

Thank you to the Civil War Trust for providing this fantastic resource!

 Pictures edited at


  1. Read this blog as soon as I saw it. I remember growing up and anything Civil War was interesting. There was a movie made close to here (Saline, Michigan)about the Civil War and I didn't know about it till they were done. I was disappointed I didn't get to go and look. When I see articles of reenactments it always catches my eye. I think that this was a great idea. How did you learn about it? Thanks!

    1. Hi,
      I love reenactments too because you really get the feeling what it would like to be 'there' during that time. The Civil War is definitely fascinating to learn about. When I was younger, I collected all sorts of books about it. Teaching it to my students, I realize how much I didn't know!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  2. It always amazes me that you find these cool and fun ways to learn. I can only imagine the anticipation as the trunk was being wheeled in. Once again, great job. I really think it is interesting to hear how the kids are learning these days. Thanks.

    1. Hi Cal,
      Anything that the kids can get their hands on makes learning more fun! I was so happy to have stumbled upon the link this summer. You can bet that I'll be signing up for it again next year!! (I'll know to get a jump start on the 'teaching' part of it as well.

      As always, I appreciate your comments.

  3. I agree with Carol-Ann - you always DO find fun ways to teach. The timning of your article is interesting because we were just watching American Pickers the other night and they were focusing on finding civil war articles for a museum. It was really cool to watch.

    Once again, you are just amazing!!!


    1. Those American Pickers know so much about EVERYTHING! Wouldn't I love to get THEM to come into the classroom. I know the kids would be digging around their basements looking for treasures!!!

      Thanks for the compliments!


    2. That would be fun having the "Pickers" come to the classroom. The kids would love it!

  4. I think that The Traveling Trunk is a great way to get your studnets excited about learning about the Civil War. It makes it more interesting then just reading about it.

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  6. I think that the traveling trank is the funniest way of teaching.As u mention in this blog the article help students to get more information about Civil War.

  7. I remember growing up and anything Civil War was interesting rome attractions


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