Travelin’ Trunks

Travelin’ Trunks and K-12 Curriculum

GCA’s Travelin’ Trunks program serves to transport elementary and secondary students and teachers to one of the world’s premier learning destinations without actually leaving the classroom. Trunks contain lesson plans, primary and secondary sources, maps, brochures, posters, videos, music, and artifacts to teach a variety of subjects: ecology, geology, human history and the explorer John Wesley Powell. For this project, we updated the human history trunk for elementary students and created an entirely new human history trunk for secondary students. To view a PowerPoint that showcases our process and creation of the travelin’ trunks, including some of the thinking and objectives behind the curriculum, click here.

The K-12 curriculum offers a variety of lessons that focus on Grand Canyon places, peoples, and events. Many lessons teach the importance of the canyon in art, literature, environmental understandings, government policies, relationships between peoples, recreation, science, and the tourism industry.

The overall goal of this curriculum is to help students learn American history through the history of the Grand Canyon and conversely to help students understand how this natural terrain and habitat has influenced the imagination and popular culture. But that is not all. While focusing on actual events, people, and places, these lessons are designed to help engage students in “doing history.” Activities require students to learn by doing, to read and analyze primary documents, offer interpretations, and explore patterns of change and continuity at the canyon over time. Hence, this curriculum invites students to think about how history is made, to critically analyze historical interpretations of the past as well as construct meaning from primary documents and artifacts. In fact, the secondary trunk’s mini-archive of primary documents has been specifically designed to help students put on archival gloves, dig through files, and do the work of historians. The trunk is actually an archival box. Inside it are archival gloves, primary sources in document folders, and a few audio and visual resources.

Educators are welcome to borrow the Travelin’ Trunks for a two-week period to help their students learn about the Grand Canyon. For more information on ordering a Travelin’ Trunk for use in your classroom, visit the Grand Canyon Association’s website at