Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Who's Been Working on the Railroad?

"Trunks Through Time" sounds like a fascinating way for students from kindergarten through eighth grade to explore the railway history of our country. While currently on display at the Buchanan Center for the Arts in Monmouth, Illinois, these four trunks will be made available for teachers to bring into their classrooms in the near future.

The premise is that students are workers at the Lost and Found department of a large railway station. The station manager hopes to return the trunks to their owners and asks the students to go through the trunks' contents to learn more about the rightful owners.

Inside each trunk are photos, replicated artifacts and actual antiques that represent specific groups of people who make up America's railway history: the Chinese immigrants who built the rail lines, "Harvey Girls" who worked in railroad restaurants, African-American Pullman Porters, and Latino "boxcar children" who lived in surplus rail cars with their families.

Sponsored by a grant from the Galesburg Community Foundation and designed by BRC Imagination Arts, Knox College students and faculty worked together to put assemble the trunk contents and write the accompanying lesson plans.

Galesburg is a big railroad town with a Railroad Museum and a two-day festival called Railroad Days in June, so it's no surprise that Knox College would embrace a project like this. Kate well remembers the wails of train horns at all hours of the day and night when she was studying for her creative writing degree there!
"Trunks Through Time" should provide a wonderful hands-on and rich experience for children to learn history. Lucky kids!

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