.








Monday, October 16, 2017

Meet our Newest Footlocker: Oral History in the Classroom

I'm delighted to announce the debut of a new mini-footlocker, "Oral History in the Classroom." Unlike most of our footlockers, which are designed for fourth grade—but used successfully at all grade levels with some adapation—this footlocker is designed with upper grades in mind. 

Most of our footlockers include replica artifacts and focus on particular topics (immigrationthe early reservation period, or World War II, for example.) Oral History in the Classroom is more of a DYI kit, designed to get students working as oral historians, recording the history of their own communities. The footlocker includes eight Sony IC Audio Recorders, batteries and chargers, useful reference material, and detailed lesson plans for creating a classroom-based oral history project. 

As with all of our footlockers, educators are welcome to download the user guide whether or not you order the footlocker. The user guide includes detailed lesson plans, most of which can be done without ordering the footlocker, assuming you have access to digital recorders. (Students can even use a digital recorder app on their cell phones, but the audio quality won't be as good.)  

The lesson plans include information on WHY and HOW to conduct classroom oral history projectscovering methodological questions (what does oral history offer that other types of research don't) and offering practical suggestions (how to recruit good narrators and teach students to ask open-ended questions.) It also contains useful formssample release forms, interview summary worksheets, as well as a rubric for grading student projects and suggestions for project topics. 

As with our other footlockers, Oral History in the Classroom can be reserved for a two-week period (and if you think you'll need the footlocker for longer than two weeks, you can reserve it for two consecutive reservation periods). The only cost to the school of ordering a footlocker is the cost of shipping it to the next user or back to the Montana Historical Society. 

I'm pretty tickled with how the footlocker turned out. I hope you'll check it outliterally, by using our online reservation form, or figuratively, by downloading and reviewing the user guide. Then let me know what you think! I sure hope it's useful.

P.S. We'll be bringing this footlocker and lots of other resources to MEA-MFT. Come by our booth and check it out. And, if you have time, join us Thursday evening (5:15 p.m.-) for an informal meet-up at the Montgomery Distillery, 129 West Front Street. (The distillery serves both alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails.)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

World War I and Other Veterans Day Resources


Veterans Day is less than a month away. This year we are in the midst of commemorating the 100th anniversary of World War I, which led to the holiday's creation, so I wanted to share both some general resources and WWI specific resources for you to consider using in your classes this year.

Montana and the Great War is a website that we created to provide resources for teaching about this complicated period in history.

The website includes 
  • Story Mapsinteractive maps featuring images and events from across the state, exploring different ways the war—and its aftermath—affected Montanans. (The Story Maps are divided into three main sections: Over Here, Over There, and Home Again. Each section includes an introduction and at least one map featuring specific stories. Also available are a demographic map--in the Over Here section--and a map showing county enlistment numbers--in the Over There section.)
  • Books and Articles: a list of published works that explore Montana during World War I—including links to full text of many of those resources.
  • Voices: short oral history clips featuring Montanans’ memories of life during World War I—overseas and at home.
  • Information on Archival Material and Digitized Newspapers available for students conducting more in-depth research projects.  
  • And, of course, teaching resources.
What are those teaching resources, you ask? 

Montana and the Great War Scavenger Hunt offers a fun way to engage students in an exploration of the Montana and the Great War Story Maps.   
Montana and the "Great War" Lesson Plan (Designed for 5-8, but adaptable to high school). After exploring the Story Maps to learn more about individuals' experiences during World War I, students will write a short piece of historical fiction (a letter or journal entry) from the perspective of a Montanan--on the home front or serving in the armed forces--during the period.
Local Experiences of World War I Lesson Plan (High school). Students will conduct and share original research on ways the war impacted the people of their own county. The Montana Historical Society will include a link to their project on its Montana and the Great War website. 
I'm excited about all of these lesson plans, but particularly excited about the more in-depth high school lesson that engages students in community study for an authentic audience. (Longtime readers will know this is a passion of mine. See, for example, this article from March 2012, this one from March 2014, this one from April 2015, and this one from March 2016.) 
Several teachers have taken up the challenge of examining their county's WWI history and Phil Leonardi, who helped create and test the lesson plan, had his class complete the assignment last spring. You can see their work here. 

There are SO MANY national resources that have been created for the centennial, that I'll just mention a few: 

The National Archives has launched a WWI Research Portal as has the Library of Congress. My favorite LOC collection is the WWI sheet music collection, both because the cover art is incredible (and sometimes disturbing) and because Billings school librarian Ruth Ferris told me about a Sheet Music Scanner app, which lets you hear historic sheet music. And, of course, you can also listen to some of original recordings on the National Jukebox. (Here, for example, is Nora Bayes' recording of "Over There.")

Other Veterans Day Resources Beyond World War I, among my MHS favorite lesson plans is "Readers Theater: Letters from Home." Learn more about it here and watch Helena High theater teacher Rob Holter's students perform it here. (In what hardly ever happens, students responded to the lesson exactly as I hoped they would. According to Rob, when he introduced the lesson, many of the students asked: "why anyone would save old letters by ordinary Montanans"? During the Q and A, after their performance, many of these same students vowed to write letters in order to provide personal reflections to posterity. And they were saying things like, "ordinary people make history." In addition, Rob told me that one of his struggling students responded to the letters with dawning recognition: "people just like me can make a difference in this world!" In my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined any lesson we produced would have such an impact.)

Monday, October 9, 2017

It's Amazing What's Out There

Colleagues have shared many interested resources lately, I decided it was time for a link roundup:

Mike Jetty at the Indian Education Division of the Office of Public Instruction introduced me to “Introducing the First Nations of Montana to the World,” a short eight-minute video created by the Montana Office of Tourism. This is exactly what you need to reintroduce your students to Montana’s tribes. 

“From Superstar to Superfund: The History of a Northwest Montana Aluminum Smelter” is a labor of love and a tremendous resource on the history, politics, and economics of the Columbia Falls Aluminum smelter. 

“The Acoustic Atlas of Yellowstone National Park is curated by the Montana State University Library and includes more than 2500 recordings of species and environments from throughout the Western United States.   

Elementary school teacher Justin Czarka, who I met when we hosted the NEH Landmarks Workshop “Richest Hills: Mining in the Far West,” shared with me a project he conducted with his elementary students to commemorate the lives of slaves that lived in Hunts Point (a neighborhood in the Bronx, NY) and to definitively locate the Hunts Point Slave Burial Grounds—an unmarked burial ground near their school. The project suggests the potentially transformative power of local history.

I’m a longtime fan of the Stanford History Education Group, so was pleased to learn that they have many new or revamped lesson plans for U.S. and world history. 

Finally, I'm very much enjoying listening to the recordings of talks I missed at the Montana History Conference (darn concurrent sessions)! We put them all on SoundCloud, but I've also gathered the playlist and video presentations on our Montana and The Great War website, where you'll find videos of other presentations as well.

Do you have a favorite website or online resource? Send me the link (bonus points for including a note saying what you like about it.) 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

MEA-MFT Is Only a Few Weeks Away

Will I see you at the MEA-MFT Educators Conference in Missoula on Thursday, October 19-20?

I’ll be participating in two sessions on Thursday:
  • Montana and the Great War: Bringing It Home, 10:00 AM - 10:50 AM
  • Montana History Reborn (a panel discussion organized by Ken Egan), 3:00 PM - 4:50 PM

My colleague Deb Mitchell and I will also be staffing our booth in the exhibit hall, so stop by and say hello and check out our new resources! And if anyone wants to convene for cocktails and conversation, I propose we arrange a meet-up Thursday evening at 5:15 p.m. Anyone know a good place in Missoula to gather for convivial conversation? Email me. 

But back to more formal learning opportunities: I've been perusing the program, and there are a LOT of other sessions I’m interested in attending. Here are a few that caught my eye.

On Thursday

9:00 AM - 9:50 AM, Blackfeet Language and Stories: Maato'ommstatto'osi tells old stories that have been passed down generation to generation by the Piikunnii. Audiences get a taste of how Piikunnii lives once were, how their spirituality and empathy were important, and the joys of humor. He teaches people about Blackfeet people while making the audience feel respected.

10:00 AM - 10:50 AM: Montana's Legal System--What Teachers and Students Should Know: Have you ever wanted to teach your students about Montana's legal system but were afraid to go there? Come learn about legal resources, including free guides, from attorneys and members of the state bar's law-related education committee. Teach students what they should know legal-wise before they turn 18!

12:00 PM - 12:50 PM, A Visit with an 1879 American Fur Company Trader: Portrayal of James Willard Schultz (Apikuni) who wrote extensively regarding his life with the Blackfoot Nation. Schultz would live to see and experience the end of the buffalo days. His stories climax with a visionary gift to be shared with school kids - suggesting positive hope for our future.

1:00 PM - 1:50 PM, Before the Horse: Northern Rockies Lifestyles: Indian people of the Northern Rockies are most often considered part of the American Indian Horse Culture, yet the people existed long before the horse appeared 280 years ago. In those centuries before the horse, when the extensive use of dogs was most prevalent. Listeners will re-think ancient cultures' impact.

1:00 PM - 1:50 PM, Igniting Students' Civic Involvement Through Montana Politics and Government: This session will explore strategies to engage students in civics through conversations about local and state government, politics, and service learning. Siri Smillie, Education Policy Advisor to Gov. Steve Bullock and her former teacher Eileen Sheehy will lead teachers in this interactive session.

1:00 PM - 2:50 PM, The Digital Storywork Partnership: Community Engagement and Social Studies Education: The Digital Storywork Partnership connects youth with community members to conduct research and produce documentary films. The Partnership applies community-centered and culturally revitalizing pedagogy using a framework collaboratively developed with partners. This session will introduce participants to the DSP as a model for youth-led inquiry to enhance social studies education.

2:00 PM - 2:50 PM, Storytelling: Cultural Survival, Indigenous Cultures, and the Importance of Story: Storytelling is integral to education and cultural survival. How does story define community? How does it keep cultures intact? What functions does story serve in shaping our understanding of the world? Sharing stories with a focus on Indigenous American stories and perspectives, we learn our history.

2:00 PM - 3:50 PM, Project-based Learning with Montana National History Day: This section will discuss how to implement Montana National History Day in your classroom by using the project-based learning method and what programs MTNHD can offer you and your students. This is geared for teachers 4-12, deals with Common Core, IEFA and technology education.

4:00 PM - 4:50 PM, Resources to Reach Reluctant Writers from NHD (National History Day): This session is for educators in grades 6-12 to share resources from National History Day to help teachers improve reading and writing in their classrooms.

4:00 PM - 4:50 PM, Find the Clues, Unlock the Learning: Do you enjoy challenges? Breakout Edu is an activity that promotes collaboration, teamwork, problem-solving, higher level thinking skills and more. You will use primary sources, documents and photos to help solve the clues. Come explore a new way to engage your students. Electronic devices encouraged.

On Friday

8:00 AM - 8:50 AM, New Resource for Geography Education: The Giant Map of Montana: The National Geographic State Giant Traveling Map of Montana is a 15x20 foot floor map promotes an interactive geography learning experience for elementary and middle school students. Educators will have the opportunity to engage in lessons using the giant map and learn how to bring the map to their classrooms.

9:00 AM - 9:50 AM, Mapping Censorship: the Montana Banned Books Project: Join us as we share the new interactive online map detailing the history of book challenges in Montana! We’ll share some of the more interesting challenges as well as broader intellectual freedom implications. Participants will learn about the software used and discuss how it could be applied in their classrooms.

9:00 AM - 9:50 AM, Geographic Pedagogy: Droughts, Floods, Resilience, Science and Community Development: This session explores important contemporary dynamics in geographic education and pedagogy, including issues such as drought and flooding in Montana, ecological and human resilience to climate change, and the role of science in community development.

10:00 AM - 10:50 AM, Highways, Treaties, and Poems: Through maps, poems, treaties, and seasonal rounds, teachers will work interactively to discover how the cultural landscape changed in Montana after the Fort Laramie and Hell Gate treaties were established. Suitable for K-12, all subjects, background knowledge building, and integration ideas.

12:00 PM - 12:50 PM, Reaching Reluctant Writers Through Social Studies: Reluctant writers lurk in every classroom. This interactive session will give teachers strategies to help improve student writing in Social Studies classrooms. Gain specific tools to use historical content to improve historical thinking and writing skills.

1:00 PM - 1:50 PM, Teaching Montana Indian History with Primary Sources: This section presents innovative ways of incorporating archival, primary sources into lessons on Montana’s Native American history. Drawing primarily on documents held in the Montana Historical Society archives, I will demonstrate how these primary sources can inform how we teach Montana Indian history topics such as treaties, trade, and sovereignty.


3:00 PM - 3:50 PM, Teaching about Tribal Sovereignty and Federal Indian Policy: This interactive session will provide ideas, resources and strategies for teaching about contemporary American Indian issues. Relevant resources and where to access them will also be shared with participants.

Hope to see you soon!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Montana Authors Project Invites High School Collaborators

Humanities Montana invites schools to participate in our Montana Authors Project, a part of our Montana Center for the Book program. Using images, quotes, and interpretation, literary maps bring favorite novels, stories, poems and personal histories of regional and national importance to life. Each literary map can be used as a virtual tour of an author’s imagination, as well as an actual road map of a literary setting.

Park High students in Livingston recently read Shann Ray’s American Copper, searching for place-based passages and images that might accompany them. After they finished, Humanities Montana staff populated our map with six sites from American Copper using student images and passages.

Students were able to see their hard work come to life in our online literary map and to engage with the text in new ways, connecting it to the real world, imagining it in real space, and learning valuable research and analysis skills as they selected the most relevant passages.

If you are interested in participating in our MAPs project, contact info@humanitiesmontana.org. Staff will visit your classroom for a guest lesson on the MAPs project, stay in communication with you as you work the project into your syllabus, and bring your students’ hard work to life on our Humanities Montana website.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

More on Fire

Last week I wrote about finding a teachable moment in this year's awful forest fires.  Some readers responded with suggestions: 

Dalene Normand, of Frenchtown, suggested these fire resources: 


  • The Forest Service Fire Lab in Missoula has a Fire Works trunk that educators can use to teach about forest fires    
  • Also, there is an IEFA lesson plan: Fire on the Land for middle school age that deals with Native use of fire for land management.  

Suzanne Thomason recommended Boy Wonder and the Big Burns by Chris Petersen.  He is a photographer and relates his experience with his autistic son and the Glacier fires of 2001.  Lots of pictures, a quick read, mostly about the fires with just enough information about autism spectrum disorders tucked in.  Excellent potential for teacher meetings.

Brenda Johnston, who teaches high school English in Browning, described the project her students are doing: "My students have been working on this very thing.  They read an article from the New York Times, which included vocabulary work and literacy skills, ending by writing a summary.  JoAnne Grandstaff then came in and talked with all of the students about fire.  She is a Kickapoo tribal member, and they are the keepers of fire, so she talked about how we show respect for fire.  The kids then read about the Great Hinckley Fire of 1894, again practicing comprehension skills. Today I am reading "The Fire Keeper" from Joseph Bruchac's Keepers of the Earth.  We will wrap it up next week with a writing assignment.

Finally, Karen Reinhart, from the Yellowstone Gateway Museum in Livingston invited teachers to bring their students to see their fire exhibit: "On Fire: Structural and Wildland Fire." "The exhibit includes stories of early day firefighting and firefighters, and also the 1988 fires in Yellowstone and the more recent, 2012 Pine Creek Fire. Safety tips, too." For those far from Livingston, she suggested that there may be other museums with resources worth tapping into, "like the smokejumper museum/visitor center in Missoula."


Monday, September 25, 2017

Teaching with Maps and Other Primary Sources

I had an amazing time about a week ago at the workshop "Teaching with Primary Sources: Understanding How Our Past Paints our Future" in Great Falls. 

The good news for you is that presenters Kathy Hoyt and Ruth Ferris will be reprising the workshop October 6-7 at Miles Community College in Miles City, so you too have an opportunity to participate! 

Here were a few of my highlights: 

1. Putting together "map puzzles." Kathy printed some historic maps, including this 1879 map of Montana Territory. She cut them into puzzle pieces and laminated them. Assembling the maps required us to slow down and LOOK--which in turn raised lots of questions.

2. Kathy then gave us clear overheads and had us trace today's reservations from the regular Montana highway map. We put those on top of the 1879 reservations for a hands-on look at the shrinking reservations. 

3. We had time to explore Library of Congress resources. I found this amazing 1851 map, created by Father De Smet, of the Upper Great Plains and Rocky Mountains showing Indian territories as he understood them.

4. I learned a new trick for navigating the Library of Congress's gargantuan collections. Use Google! Search using the key words plus "Library of Congress" to get relevant hits.

5. I was introduced to a new primary source graphic organizer: C.L.U.E., which asks students to "Check it over" (especially looking for author, date, and type of source), "Look at the historical setting (context)," Understand the author's message" (tone and purpose), and Examine closely. (I wish the graphic organizer asked about audience--but otherwise I thought it could be very useful.) 

6. I learned more about Breakout Games. We were faced with a box locked with several locks (a directional lock, a letter lock, a three number lock, and a 4 number lock) and were given a number of clues (including primary sources) relating to homesteading and the novel Hattie Big Sky. We had a great time finding the information we needed to unlock our box. There are online Breakout games too: I haven't seen any on Montana history, but I really enjoyed doing this one on Langston Hughes. One of the creators, Tom Mullaney, designed a template for teachers interested in making their own digital breakouts. If anyone creates a Montana history related digital breakout, let me know! I'd love to check it out.

7. I learned several other simple and effective ways to integrate primary sources--especially in elementary classrooms. Playing "I Spy" for example.

I'll be digesting the two days and working to integrate some of these new practices into future lesson plans. If you can make it to Miles City, I highly recommend signing up for the October workshop. It was well worth the time. Otherwise, try some of the ideas above and let me know how they work with your students.