Discovery Trunks

This is the label we created to put on the exterior of our Discovery Trunks. It contains the trunk name, such as Skulls, and includes the Hefner Museum and Ohio Environmental Education Fund names.

Museum graphic artist, Carla Blackmar Rice, designed our new Discovery Trunk labels that tell the educational topic and funding source, OEEF.

Many Thanks to the
Ohio Environmental Education Fund

Discovery Trunks bring science alive for anyone interested in learning more about nature! Carry a Discovery Trunk into your classroom or home and intrigue your learners with hands-on materials and inquiry-based lessons. Each trunk contains quality museum authentic and replica specimens and a teacher's guide that includes background information and relevant inquiry activities aligned to Ohio Department of Education standards. Also included are science-related children's books, natural histories of specimens and additional supplies to carry out the inquiries.

We send a big shout-out to the Ohio Environmental Education Fund (OEEF) for their financial support of the grant, Sowing SEEDS (Science, Environmental Education, Discovery and Synthesis). OEEF provided funding for several much needed Museum and class tasks:

  • the creation of new Discovery Trunks. 
    • Sowing SEEDS provides funding to purchase and create natural world objects and teacher guides for the Trunks.
  • the introduction of our newest certification class, BIO 320 Middle Childhood Environmental Educator Certification specifically offered to undergraduates with a desire to work with children ages 9-14.
    • The undergraduates in this class create the Discovery Trunks for our outreach. 
    • Middle Childhood Enviromental Educator Certification joins our pre-existing certifications, Early Childhood Enviornmental Educator Certification and the Environmental Education Council of Environmental Educator. 
  • Outdoor Area Kits (OAKs) for the undergraduates who earn the certification to start environmental education with children ages 9-14 in any educational setting.early-childhood-oaksSample of an Early Childhood Environmental Educator's OAK previously funded by OEEF 
    • OAKs provide emerging educational professionals with science resources at their fingertips, including a plant press, window nest box, thermometers, measuring tapes, magnifying glasses, educational activities and a science library.
  • a face-lift to our popular discovery center, the Imaginarium.
    • The Imaginarium remodel will include new exhibits and an invertebrate vivarium to connect people of all ages to the nature around them.

Discovery Trunks are available for loan to the community and to educators, whether in a formal or educational setting, in the Ohio-Indiana-Kentucky area.

Discovery Trunks may be borrowed for one week and must be picked up and returned to the Hefner Museum. Parking is available at the North Campus Parking Garage for a nominal fee. The museum is open from 9:00 am-4:00 pm weekdays (year-round). Contact Julia Robinson, to secure a Discovery Trunk.

Use of a Discovery Trunk is free. In return, we ask that you take the time to complete the evaluation form as your feedback helps us to create better educational products for our community.

Discovery Trunks for loan

The following Discovery Trunks are currently available for loan:

Deciduous Forest

Unlock the remarkable phenomena of the Deciduous Forest with inquiry activities for early childhood students. Discover the seasonal behaviors of animals and plants of the deciduous forest. Who migrates, who stays, and who hibernates?  Finally, capture the imagination of a child with hands-on inquiry activities, authentic objects, and literature books that spark a trek of life-long learning. Authentic and replica specimens include Redbud tree leaf, seeds, pods, tree wafer, branches, Ohio buckeye seed pods, White pine seeds, needles, cones, log, Pawpaw leaf, seeds, tree wafer, log, chicken feathers, White-tailed deer antler and bear scat.

Food Chains (Vernal Pool or Forest/Meadow)

In this exploration, students represent a plant or animal and together they create food chains. Trunk includes laminated photos of producers and consumers used to create food chains or webs. The animals and plants included are beechnuts, Northern short-tailed shrew, spicebush berries, Great horned owl, Sswallowtail caterpillars,  Black rat snake,  Blue jays, Coopers hawk, Flying squirrels, Red fox and White-footed mice.


This kit contains fifteen sets of Ordovician fossils, each with 50 small specimens including brachiopods, bryozoans, gastropods, cephalopods, crinoid stems, petrified wood, and leaves. 

Freshwater Mussels

Students explore freshwater mussel shells that are native to Ohio’s rivers and lakes. Each lesson is designed to introduce students to a freshwater mussel's life cycle, conservation issues, and body structure. The trunk includes seven mussel shells, button-drilled mussel shells, shell buttons and a class set of dichotomous keys to identify the mussels.

Model Eggs

Camouflage and adaptations take center stage in this trunk offering wooden model bird eggs representing 10 species ranging from small to large eggs. Activities range include matching bird to egg and building a habitat-specific nest for the different species of birds represented. Model eggs offer a replica representation for eggs not readily accessible or that can be replaced easily if damaged.


Six sets of gastropod and bivalve shells, mollusk anatomy diagram, identification keys, animal natural histories

Mystery Mammals

Twelve mammal boxes contain five clues to the identity of an animal located in the Tri-State region.  How are these clues similar to sign tracking? One clue at a time, students document their observations and ask questions to determine the animal’s identity.  Twelve mammal sets include eastern fox squirrel, red fox, opossum, whitetail deer, raccoon, meadow vole, short-tailed shrew, big brown bat, striped skunk, eastern cottontail rabbit, groundhog, and deer mouse. Each set includes some or all of the following items: track replica, scat replica, skull, fur sample, habitat photo, and food photo.

Pond Life Pond Life Discovery Trunk

Pond Life Discovery Trunk

The Pond life Discovery Trunk inquiries are designed to connect children to our local natural areas. Learn about and identify the relationships intel pond that connect even the smallest animals or plants to the larger ecosystem beyond the pond.  How do animals survive in the pond throughout the seasons of the year?North American beaver, Spotted salamander, Mallard duck, raccoon, Great horned owl and Red-eared slider are just a few specimens included in this trunk.

Real Eggs

Explorations using real bird eggs from puffins, geese, ducks and penguins are included in this kit. 
Eggs from the following birds are included: Patagonia crested duck, Mandarin duck, Wood Duck,
Hooded merganser, Gentoo penguin, Chinstrap penguin, North American ruddy, Atlantic puffin, Tufted puffin, Hawaiian goose, Rockhopper penguin, King penguin and Common murre.


Students explore the exciting world of skulls. They tackle questions related to feeding patterns, trophic levels, and predator-prey relationships. Students and teachers alike will find out how to make skulls and scientific findings an ally in uncovering the mysteries in the natural world. Included with the teacher guide are fourteen mammal skulls, class set of dichotomous keys and diagrams showing parts of a skull.

The Call of the Wild

This is one of the original trunks funded by the Big Read. The trunk includes eleven canid skulls: gray wolf, red wolf, coyote, African hunting dog, black-backed jackal, hole, arctic fox, gray fox, red fox, St. Bernard, and Siberian husky. Also included are class sets of dichotomous keys, The Call of the Wild cd by Jack London and purchased activities funded by the grant. 

Tropical Cloud ForestTropical Cloud Forest Discovery Trunk includes the books and specimens located in the educational kit.

Tropical Cloud Forest Discovery Trunk

Animals over three thousand miles away in the tropical cloud forest share many of the same survival tactics as the animals of Ohio.  Learn how camouflage and mimicry protect the animals of the tropical cloud forest and the animals in Ohio, even those in your own backyard. Finally, discover the water cycle, an immensely important factor of the Cloud forest. 

Turtle Shells

Activities reflect interactions between an organism and its environment. Shells or shell fragments represent Blanding’s turtle, Red-eared slider, Common snapping turtle, Eastern box and Ornate turtle

Materials for loan

The following materials are also available for loan:

Museum Specimens—specimens of preserved fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals

Plastic Lizards—for sorting (includes dichotomous key and lesson plan)

Plastic Insects—for sorting (includes dichotomous key and lesson plan)

Survival: African Savanna Game—set of large game tiles and photographs (includes lesson plan)

Puppets—Includes puppets for a rabbit, box turtle, sea turtle, skunk, black bear, brown bear, beaver, raccoon, squirrel, and fox (2). Four plays starring Tiny Turtle are included.  Coming soon—anti-bias plays starring our nature friends.

Beetle Bark—elm bark with evidence of elm bark beetle infestation

Oranges in Various States of Decomposition