Red Trunk Program Enhances Global Understanding at Vernon
James H. Vernon School third-grade students in Ms. Jillian Duval’s class examined a host of artifacts from Oaxaca, Mexico that were delivered to their classroom through the Red Trunk Project, a cultural initiative that helps students gain a better global understanding of others. RED is an acronym for Respect Every Difference and aims to create a more inclusive environment for all children.
Students unpacked more than 60 artifacts from the State of Oaxaca, which makes up the largest indigenous population in Mexico. The items represented the culture, customs, and traditions as well as the social and religious aspects of the region. As students explored the artifacts, they were encouraged to ponder the overarching question: Are the children of Oaxaca, Mexico like me?
Students examined items such as Mexican money, musical instruments and traditional clothing, as well as symbols such as a brightly painted ceramic skull that signifies life after death. As they explored the artifacts, they completed an inquiry booklet to help them think more deeply about the Oaxacan culture.
In addition to the artifacts, the trunk also included 16 short videos that helped introduce elements of the Oaxaca culture, from celebrations and music to food and art. There were also three Google Cardboard headsets so that students can view five short movies about different aspects of life in Oaxaca, such as school and home life.
According to Ms. Duval, students were intrigued by their holidays, such as the Day of the Dead, (Día de los Muertos) a three-day celebration from Oct. 31-Nov.2, during which the people of Oaxaca believe the spirits of their loved ones travel from the world of the dead to visit the living. During this time, graveyards are filled with marigolds and candles, ceramic skulls and pictures of loved ones, and foods consisting of their loved ones’ favorite dishes are prepared.
Students offered comments on the experience, such as, “The Red Trunk is cool. We experienced other things that the people of Oaxaca do. It was surprising!” and “We can learn from difference.”
The Red Trunk experience supports the third-grade social studies curriculum of studying other communities and cultures around the world.
“The Red Trunk program enriches the curriculum by bringing a colorful and spirited slice of life from across the world into the hands of our students,” said Social Studies Supervisor Mr. Joseph Pesqueira. “That tactile quality, supported by videos, makes for a wonderful and memorable experience for our students.”