The National Archives and Presidential Libraries have several trunk- or object-based learning programs available! Today’s post comes from Carina Morgan, education specialist at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library’s education team has developed Titanic traveling trunks for schools to reserve. The trunks aim to teach students how to examine artifacts, and to compare the past to the present. A few of the items included in the trunks are a kerosene lamp, a second-class dinner menu, a pocket watch, and sheet music.
The Titanic at the Reagan is a special exhibit at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, that will run through January 7, 2018. The exhibit is a fascinating look at the Titanic, combining real artifacts with the real stories of the people on board the ill-fated ship. The 10,000 square foot exhibition reunites hundreds of Titanic artifacts that have not been together since the ship’s fateful night in 1912 with material and artifacts from the 1984–1985 discovery of the Titanic, as well as with items from the 1997 movie.
The Titanic was found in 1985 during President Reagan’s administration, and quickly became a dive site for companies and explorers trying to get a piece of history. To protect the site and preserve it for generations, Reagan issued the R.M.S. Titanic Memorial Act of 1986 to designate the wreck as an international maritime memorial.
Though none of the artifacts displayed in the exhibit were salvaged from the Titanic wreck itself, the Titanic trunks allow a class to imagine that it has found a floating trunk from the Titanic and must evaluate the contents. They are popular with teachers as an educational tool, giving students the chance to learn about artifacts and how documents are handled. Schools can rent the trunks for one or several classes.
The idea for the program came from wanting to take the Titanic exhibit into the classroom. The trunk primarily uses documents and activities pulled from DocsTeach (the online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives), National Archives social media channels, and the holdings of the National Archives at New York City. Additionally, teachers who rent a trunk receive a lesson on using the National Archives Catalog to create mini-trunks and lessons of their own.
Responses to the program have been overwhelmingly positive. “This was an excellent, well-organized program,” wrote one teacher. “My students were very engaged and loved the items in the trunk. It brought it all to life for my students.”
While the Titanic trunks include plenty of information about the disaster itself, the goal of the program is not to teach about the Titanic, but how to compare the past to the present, and how to examine artifacts for information.
The motto of the Reagan Library education team is to “Engage, Excite, Educate.” What can you learn by looking at something – like an oil lamp, a pocket watch, or wooden toothbrush? How do you analyze and read documents? The goal isn’t necessarily to become experts on the Titanic, but to test theories and learn more.
Are you interested in participating in a National Archives trunk program? National Archives locations with trunk- or object-based learning programs include:
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library: Examine the source! The National Archives traveling trunk program about the Titanic is for K – 6 educators. Trunks include a complete curriculum for grades K-6 based on the new CA HSS Framework. Educators may reserve a trunk for their classroom, school or district. Trunks are available for one week for $25, two weeks ($50), or four weeks ($100). This curriculum is available by reservation, please email ReaganEducation@nara.gov for more information.
William J. Clinton Presidential Library: Object-based onsite learning programs (in Little Rock, AR) create an educational atmosphere in which artifacts become central to the lesson. Each program includes classroom activities, as well as a tour of the exhibits, and lasts one hour and 15 minutes. Special objects are available, providing multiple ways to connect students’ thoughts with the subject matter. Email Clinton.Library@nara.gov for more information.
George W. Bush Library: Two available traveling trunks – Saving Our Seas! The President and Mrs. Bush Marine Conservation Resource trunk (recommended for K-12) and Raiding the Attic: Exploring History with Nana’s trunk (recommended for K-3) – were built on the concept of engaging students in primary sources. The trunks can supplement textbooks in new and exciting ways to interest students. While each trunk focuses on using primary sources in the classroom, they can be used outside of the social studies classroom and in cross-curricular instruction. For trunk availability or more information, contact Bush43Education@nara.gov.
National Archives at New York City: The Titanic trunk at the National Archives at New York City is used in special onsite activities and programming in the learning center.