About Discovery Trunks

Discovery Trunks are traveling teaching trunks, containing objects, artifacts, books, DVDs, activities, and lesson plans, and are ideal for educators who want hands-on materials and lessons that fit core teaching goals about Iowa's cultural and natural history.  Trunks help develop student's scientific, cultural, and historical literacy.  The trunk program has been developed by the Pentacrest Museums (Old Capitol Museum and Museum of Natural History), Office of the State Archaeologist, and Paleontology Repository.  Current Discovery Trunk themes can be explored below.

Trunks are used by K-12 educators, homeschooling groups, parents working with local AEAs, libraries, nature centers, and other groups engaged in educational programming.  Trunks can be borrowed or their own, or combined with a visit from one of our educators. 


Each Discovery Trunk helps educators tell unique stories about Iowa's natural and cultural history, using scientific inquiry, archaeology, history, and oral traditions, with themes ranging from Iowa's Devonian Period to the present. Lessons and activities (aimed at 4th-8th grade learners, but adaptable for all ages) are designed to match state curriculum priorities, such as the Iowa Core and National Science Education Standards, making them ideal teaching tool boxes ready to integrate with classroom activities. 


Trunks contain many objects, including authentic archaeological artifacts, real fossils and other scientific specimens, and high quality replicas of especially rare or fragile items. Books and background references for all ages, videos, DVDs, and flash drives with digital content enhance the lessons. Each trunk has a particular theme and contains items specific to the time period/topic.


There is a $25 service fee for all trunks borrowed. This service fee covers staff time to maintain the traveling trunk program, including processing requests, preparing trunks for shipping, inventorying and replacing items, and making upgrades to trunk contents and lessons.



∙ Pick up or drop off the trunk at the University of Iowa campus. Trunks are stored at the Museum of Natural History, Old Capitol Museum, and Office of the State Archaeologist. 

∙ Trunks can be shipped to you free of charge!

∙ Trunks are shipped back are at the borrower's expense. We keep on top of shipping rates with the best-priced vendors, so ask for our input when you make your reservation or when you're returning your trunk. Current rates are around $20-30.

∙ Understanding Evolution

∙ Geo-2-Go: Devonian Period

∙ Geo-2-Go: Ice Age Iowa

∙ Geo-2-Go: Pennsylvanian Period

The development of our Discovery Trunks and curriculum guides has been funded through grants from the State Historical Society, Inc., the University of Iowa's Better Futures for Iowans program, and a general grant from Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area.