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Take an old cardboard box, an idea, a lesson plan based on U.S. literacy standards, one eager room of children, and a teacher who enjoys sharing; put them all together and you have a Traveling Literacy Trunk.
The concept developed from work completed by teachers of a young writers' camp sponsored by the Oregon Writing Project in Salem, Oregon, USA. The Oregon Writing Project uses Atwell's text In the Middle (1998) as a resource for its summer institutes. Atwell's belief that "a context that invites and supports writing and reading" (p. 90) is necessary for students to act as writers was the theoretical basis for the creation of Traveling Literacy Trunks. Solving the need for time, materials, texts, space, and ways to monitor children's work as described by Atwell was the overriding goal for the trunks. Oregon is a large state with many small school districts scattered miles apart. Reaching the rural children and teachers with support for writing has become a major priority for the Oregon Writing Project. Rural districts in the state are often low on professional development funding, and teachers may not be able to travel to state-sponsored inservice meetings. The concept of Traveling Literacy Trunks was designed to reach all comers of the state with compelling, student-centered, developmentally appropriate writing activities that could be shared with teaching professionals.
Basing the trunks on a theme allowed for organization and structure that helped create communities of learners throughout the state (Fredericks, 1994). The thematic units became frameworks for organizing learning experiences around common elements that encourage active student participation and creativity. The writing experiences are cross-curricular and are student centered to provide meaning for the students (Routman, 1991).
Beginning the process