The Red Trunk Project: A Small, Good Thing That Could Become a Huge, Life-Changing One

Hey, teachers and parents out there in the rudiverse:

You're tired of hate and lies of our leaders, especially about people from other countries. You need just a little something to grasp onto, something that is innately good, that only the most churlish and ignorant would have a problem with. So how about something for your kids that'll make 'em grow up to think of themselves as citizens of the world?

When my pal Kevin first told me about his idea for the Red Trunk Project nearly two years ago, it sounded awesome. It's one of those things that's so simple but gives you that profound sense of rightness almost immediately.

Here's how it goes: School kids in another country, like, say, Hanoi, Vietnam, working with a team of educators and researchers and videographers, fill a red trunk, you know, like the kind people used to use to travel on ships and stagecoaches, with all kinds of stuff that represents the kids' daily lives and their culture. While on the site where the kids are filling the trunk, the team from the organization is making videos, creating a book, and interviewing those involved. All of that becomes part of what goes into the trunk.

Now, here's the cool part: The trunk is brought back and the materials are translated into a bunch of different languages. This just ain't for American kids. The idea here is that children in a class in another country, say, in Argentina, get the trunk from Vietnam. And kids in Vietnam might get one from the United States. And kids in the United States might get one from Ethiopia. And on and on it goes.

So kids get to hold and work with the actual material items that children across the globe encounter or use on a regular basis. I mean, c'mon, if you were 8 years old and you opened up a trunk filled with stuff from the Australian outback, your little mind would explode. There's a huge difference between looking at something on a screen and holding it in your hands.

The creators of the Red Trunk Project have come up with lesson plans and ideas for how to integrate this into classrooms. In fact, they've got a pretty comprehensive approach to using the trunks, including things like Skyping with the kids who put the trunk together.

Check out the videos (that sexy Jon Hamm is even in one of 'em). Check out the website. And donate to help it grow (tax-deductible, people).

There's your little piece of hope in a seemingly hopeless time. If a whole bunch of children in our schools learn that children around the world play and go to school and have families and are real people and not abstract images on the news, then maybe there's a chance to knock down a wall or two. We gotta start somewhere.

And, besides, as I told Kevin when my little kid brain took over, "It just sounds like a blast."