What it’s like Exploring a Trunk?

There is a sense of ritual for opening a Red Trunk. After the students watch the Introductory Video, they gather in a circle around the trunk. Their teacher explains the value of what’s inside the trunk. That the trunk contains the very lives and culture of the children seen in the video. That everything in the trunk must be respected and cared for, just like they would want other children to take care of their belongings if they were sent thousands of miles away. The teacher also reminds the children that they might be in touch with the children in the video. Which lends the process more of an air of ‘respectful borrowing.’

Once the teacher is assured that the students are in a suitable respectful-but-excited mood, the trunk is opened. The inside of the trunk is layered and compartmented so the experience unfolds in a series of revelations. Some of the artifacts are passed around the circle, so the students have the chance to hold each, trying to figure out what each one is. As the objects are passed the teacher lists some of the activities and support materials attached to each.

Students in a classroom labeling countries on a map

The Oaxaca Red Trunks are organized into a 7-unit lesson plan. Every object in the trunks is attached to at least one of the units. The lesson plan is geared to be completed in 2 weeks.


The custom-built trunks are framed with Russian birch wood, equipped with no-slam hinges and built-in wheels.

The trunks for each location will have a unique interior design, guided by the size, shape, and number of artifacts. Most will likely utilize a tray to separate the trunk into sections. The tray itself will have sections and slots for holding smaller items.

The lower portion(s) of the trunk are divided into die-cut foam slots to hold artifacts, with all of the larger and heavier artifacts on the bottom level. Every item in the trunk has its own place, clearly mapped and labeled, for both shipping and storing.

A master list showing where everything is in a binder in the trunk. This binder will also contain instructions on how to repack the trunk. The instructions are simple and clear, so the students themselves can do the repacking. (The teacher will make the judgment call on whether or not this is wise.)


For public schools, the Trunks are available for 2-week rentals per classroom. Private schools will have options for longer rental periods. There will be an option for a trunk to be shared by two classrooms, at a slightly discounted price.

Schools can order the Trunks on this website, in the SCHOOL SIGN UP section.


Trunks will be delivered via FedEx from our shipping center in Rochester, NY. The built-in wheels will make it easy to roll the trunks to and from classrooms.
After the rental period has expired, teachers print the shipping label that came as an email attachment. The trunk is shipped back to Rochester, refurbished, then sent to the next location.


Red Trunk Project hopes to partner with AmeriCorps, or a similar organization, to expand the reach of Red Trunk, with a concentration on alleviating the stigma of poverty by broadening horizons and opportunities. AmeriCorps volunteers will deliver trunks to schools that don’t have the means to rent them. Students will have a chance to explore Trunks as an after school or weekend activity, over a weekend, as part of a Festival or Fair, or at a YMCA or other youth center


Everything in the trunks will be translated, dubbed and relabeled in to the destination language. In locations that are secure, the trunks will be shipped via FedEx.

Schools in at-risk locations will have trunks delivered by a teams of Facilitators. The Facilitators will act as both chaperones and chauffeurs for the Trunks, as well as educators, helping to lead exploration of the Trunks’ contents. At least one of the Facilitators will be a local hire.


A jeep in a remote locationRed Trunk Project hopes to partner with Peace Corps, or a similar organization, so volunteers from all over the world can help transport and act as Facilitators with the Trunks.

Peace cannot exists without justice, justice cannot exist without fairness, fairness cannot exist without development, development cannot exist with democracy, democracy cannot exist without respect for the identity and worth of cultures and peoples.

– Rigoberta Menchú Tum

Guatemalan Indigenous Rights Activist, 1992 Nobel Peace Prize Winner.