A Note on Links: When reading back posts, please be aware that links have a short half-life. You can find working links to all of the MHS resources on our Educator Resources Page.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Hands-on History Made Easy

I’m not sure why, but we’re getting fewer requests for our hands-on history footlockers than we have in years past. So if you want to reserve a footlocker, now’s the time. Footlockers are free to order, except for the cost of sending the trunk on to the next user. That cost depends on weight and distance but averages around $40.

All footlockers come with user guides that you can download even without ordering the trunk. The user guides contain lesson plans (many of which can be used without ordering the footlocker) and narratives written on a fourth grade level.

So why bring a footlocker into your classroom? These traveling trunks are chock-full of interesting replicas, photographs, and artifacts that help bring history alive. Students of all ages absolutely love them.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Coming to Montana: Immigrants from Around the World. This footlocker showcases the culture, countries, traditions, and foodways of Montana's immigrants through reproduction clothing, toys, and activities. Artifacts include a Hmong story cloth, Norwegian hardanger, Swedish rosette iron, Basque bones, a Hutterite dress, a Chinese Mahjong set, Catholic medallions, a German Protestant Bible and a Jewish Menorah, an Irish drum, and trowel of the type Croatian stone masons would have used, a Chinese hat, and more.

The Home Fires: Montana and World War II. This footlocker describes aspects of everyday life in Montana during the 1941-1945 war years. Illustrates little-known government projects such as the Fort Missoula Alien Detention Center and Civilian Public Service Camps. Artifacts include military uniforms, a set of dog tags, propaganda posters, historic photographs, shadow boxes that display metals, ration coupons, and materials issued to servicemen and women, and more.

Original Governor’s Mansion: Home to the Stewart Family in Turbulent Times, 1913-1921. This footlocker investigates life and politics, 1913-1921, as well as the history and architecture of a magnificent building. With historic games (old maid, Parcheesi, and pick up sticks), Victrola records and a small model Victrola, calling cards and a calling card tray, a fully stocked sewing basket with a darning egg, embroidery scissors and hoop, a small braided rug and rag ball, napkin rings and cloth napkins, historic photos, and many more items, this footlocker is perfect for teaching what life was like for kids at the turn of the last century.  

Montana State Symbols. A few weeks ago, I wrote a whole post on this footlocker, which provides students the opportunity to explore hands-on educational activities to gain a greater appreciation of our state's symbols and their meanings. My favorite objects are the cast of a grizzly bear paw print (I couldn’t believe how big a grizzly paw is), the sapphire exhibit, and the singing stuffed meadowlark.

Oral History in the Classroom Mini Footlocker. One of the few footlockers designed for older students, this trunk includes eight Sony IC Audio Recorders, batteries and chargers, useful reference material, and detailed lesson plans for creating a classroom-based oral history project.

You can view all of our footlockers, preview the user guides, and make reservations online. Still have questions? Contact Katie White at kwhite@mt.gov or 406-444-9553.

P.S. Thanksgiving is so early this year! If you are looking for teaching ideas, check out these two past posts. This one mostly focuses on having students answer the research question "What has Changed and What Has Remained the Same" while this guest post from OPI Indian Education Specialist Mike Jetty includes links to IEFA lessons around the holiday. 

Monday, November 5, 2018

More IEFA Resources

In response to my recent post, IEFA Resources for Your Classroom, Harlem teacher Wendy Maratita shared a link for large maps: www.tribalnationsmaps.com. She said, "These maps are wonderful and he gives a little discount for teachers. They are pricey but very nice." 

I also came across a few new resources for learning and teaching more about the Métis.

The first is The Métis of British Columbia: Culture, History, and the Contemporary Community. It's an online version of a DVD project created to help disseminate information on Métis history and culture that includes many short videos. There are two main sections: Culture, History, and Dance, and Music and Dance. Although it is from Canada the material is relevant to Montana as well. 

The second is from The Gabriel Dumont Institute's "Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture." This site has so much material that it is a bit daunting, but I particularly liked this lesson plan on finger weaving, which include instructional videos.   

Finally, the Métis Nation British Columbia created a cross curricular unit on the Métis for fourth grade. In addition to readings, links and lesson plans, it has a great list of picture books that librarians might want to consider for their libraries. 

If you have other IEFA resources you'd think people should know about, please let me know!

P.S. Don't forget to vote tomorrow if you haven't already cast your ballot. Democracy works best when we all participate.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Make Your Voice Heard

Guest Post by Colet Bartow

The research and review phase for Social Studies, Technology, Library Media, Career and Technical Education/Workplace Competencies, and Computer Science standards has begun and will continue through April 2019. 

Please follow the links below to review information on each of these content areas and then respond to the surveys you are interested in or have expertise with.  Please share this information with teachers, trustees, parents, or any stakeholder who can provide thoughtful feedback.

After reviewing the resources, each survey will take about 10-15 minutes of your time to complete.  Thank you in advance for providing feedback that ensures that Montana’s content standards reflect your priorities and best thinking in these content areas.

For questions or more information, contact Colet Bartow, Director of Content Standards and Instruction, cbartow@mt.gov.

Monday, October 29, 2018

New and Improved... the Symbols of Montana Footlocker

My colleague and partner in crime Deb Mitchell and I are slowly, ever so slowly revamping our Hands-on History footlockers, writing new lessons that align better to the Common Core and promote historical thinking skills, finding new objects with which to wow your students, digitizing images to make the material more usable for those who can't bring the actual trunk to their classrooms, and improving the teacher and student narratives and other material included in the footlocker user guides.

We are delighted to unveil the most recent footlocker we've revised: Montana State Symbols. In this case, we've changed almost everything, including the title (the old footlocker was called "Treasure Chest: A Look at the Montana State Symbols"). We've added lots of new objects, including tribal nations' flags, gemstones, grizzly bear fur, a mounted mourning cloak butterfly, and a sample of Scobey soil (our newest state symbol).

We've also included nine new lessons:
  • Lesson 1, "I Have, Who Has," offers an introduction to Montana's state symbols through a fast-paced game.
  • Lesson 2, "Tribal Seals and Flags," is based entirely on OPI's Indian Education Division's unit Crossing Boundaries through Art: Seals of Montana Tribal Nations.
  • Lesson 3, "State Seal and Flag," offers students an opportunity to redesign the state flag after learning about the principles of flag design.
  • Lesson 4, "Montana's State Songs," has students analyzing the state song, melody, and lullaby before writing their own songs celebrating Montana.
  • Lesson 5, "Montana's State Animal," has two parts. Part 1 teaches students to identify grizzly bears and be safe around all bears. Part 2 asks them to contrast Chief Plenty Coups' and Captain Meriwether Lewis's perspectives on grizzlies.  
  • Lesson 6, "Gift of the Bitterroot," uses a beautifully illustrated traditional story to learn about the importance of Montana's state flower to the Salish and Pend d'Oreille people. 
  • Lesson 7, "The Montana State Fossil," has students research, campaign, and then vote for a class fossil. In so doing they won't just learn about Montana's rich fossil finds, they'll also gain a thorough understanding of the election process. (Perfect for this November!)  
  • Lesson 8, "Learning about Montana Sapphires," shares information that will surprise and delight your class gem hounds
  • Lesson 9, "Creating a Museum of Montana Symbols," provides a step-by-step guide to creating a classroom exhibit on Montana's state symbols to share with parents or other classes. 
Here are some of the things I love best about the new lesson plans and footlocker:

1. It's reading and writing intensive. I took a class from reading specialist Tammy Elser two summers ago and we integrated many of the strategies I learned from her into these lesson plans, including "write your way in/write your way out," "hosting a tea party," and having students create picture summaries of complex passages.

2. The lesson plans are classroom tested and much improved from the feedback we received. My thanks to all who answered my call for guinea pigs and took the time to write such thoughtful evaluations.

3. You can do seven of the lesson plans without ordering the trunk. We know not everyone can order this footlocker who'd like to use it. Issues of schedule and budget get in the way (footlockers are free, except for shipping to the next venue, but that's still a cost.) That's why we put as many of the resources (including the PowerPoints and, of course, the lesson plans) online as we could--so that teachers who can't get the footlocker can still use the material.

4. The objects in the footlocker are so fabulous, you will want to order it anyway. This footlocker is object rich. The sapphire exhibit, donated to us by Fine Gems International, and the life-size grizzly bear paw cast are my favorite objects, but students will also love the stuffed animals (a trout and a meadowlark, whose sings its song when pressed), and the model of the Maiasaura nest.

Check out the User Guide and then submit your reservation. And let us know what you think of the new and (hopefully) improved product. We love hearing from you.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

IEFA Resources for Your Classroom

A few years ago, we created a story-based tour of our permanent exhibit Neither Empty nor Unknown: Montana at the Time of Lewis and Clark, using Crow and Blackfeet stories. At that time, we also pulled together a lesson plan with pre- and post-tour lessons and discussion questions. And we provided PowerPoints, so that classes too far away to visit us in Helena could still take the tour virtually. The material was fantastic but the organization was confusing. So we've fixed that. 
Since I'm featuring Neither Empty Nor Unknown, this seems like a good time to share some other interesting IEFA news and resources that have come across my desk.

Did you know? Montanatribes.org has updated activities and resources, and is now mobile friendly.

Every year, the University of Montana’s School of Journalism publishes Native News, an annual look into issues facing Montana’s tribes. The 2018 edition looks into the topic of self-governance and how the people are working to resolve issues surrounding self-governance. One article visits Rocky Boy High School’s Helping Hands Program, while another article visits the Dakota language program at Fort Peck Community College. 

I really liked this 6-minute video, "A Conversation With Native Americans on Race," which the New York Times editorial department broadcast on Op Docs, its "channel for short opinion documentaries, produced by independent filmmakers."

Native Land is a site trying to map indigenous territories in the U.S. and Canada. It is, as its creator explains, "a work in progress." (He's also eager for feedback.) There are some things I think won't ring true for Montana tribes (for example, the Salish and Kootenai don't have distinct territories on the map.) But it is a useful tool for sparking discussion and worth checking out. Type in the name of your town and see what comes up.

Here are some other intriguing articles I thought some of you might find useful, for your own edification or to use with your high school classes:
And finally, as you look forward to Thanksgiving, check out this article from Indian Country Today article, November 23, 2017: "What Really Happened at the First Thanksgiving? The Wampanoag Side of the Tale." 

P.S. Halloween is coming which makes this a good time to remind students of the #cultureNOTcostume movement. See for example this Teen Vogue video. Many other resources exist on the internet. 

P.P.S. Want more ideas for teaching about American Indians? Tune into the National Museum of the American Indian's free webcast, "Transforming Teaching and Learning about American Indians," on
Thursday, November 1, from noon-3:30 p.m. Mountain (2:00 p.m.–5:30 p.m. EDT). Learn more and find a link to view here

Monday, October 22, 2018


In 1918, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the Allies and the German Empire signed the armistice, which marked the end of the First World War.  

In observance of the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, Montana Historical Society is holding a symposium in Helena on November 9-10. Montana & the Great War: Looking Back 100 Years will include tours of MHS’s acclaimed WWI exhibit and the Original Governor’s Mansion, highlights of MHS’s archives collections relating to the war, and speakers Ken Robison, Rich Aarstad, Mary Murphy, and Todd Harwell. Educators can earn up to eight OPI Renewal Unit--and attendees can come to as many or as few sessions as interest them or for which they have time--so if you live within an easy drive of Helena, even if you can't miss school, consider coming down for the Saturday sessions. You can see the full schedule here.

This symposium is just the last in a series of initiatives to commemorate the centennial of the U.S. involvement in World War I. So if you are too far to make it to the symposium, never fear. We've got you covered. I hope you've already spent some time exploring Montana and the Great War, the website that we created to provide resources for teaching about this complicated period in history. Among the highlights of that site are 

  • the ArcGIS story maps, which include 70 anecdotes from across Montana that reflect the various ways the war changed the lives of Montanans both at home and while serving overseas--as well as ways the war's impact continued into the 1920s,
I've talked about most of these resources before, but the Council of Defense correspondence is new so I'm going to elaborate a little on this remarkable resource. As you likely know, the Montana Council of Defense was established during World War I to coordinate county war efforts. The Council first concerned itself with agricultural production and boosting enthusiasm for the war. The war propaganda campaign however gradually led to the suppression of all dissent. County councils investigated "disloyalty," leading to the arrest and imprisonment of seventy-nine Montanans.
Several high school teachers have used portions of these records with their students as they researched the affects of World War I on their local communities. We published some of their students' work here. Now research in these records is easier than every--not least because they are key-word searchable. Try it and see: Visit the collections page, and then type your town or county seat's name into the search box at the top of the page. (Or the name of your county--if it was established before 1917.)

I'd love to add a few more county projects to our World War I website by May 2020. Check out the lesson plan we created to guide teachers interested in taking their class on this learning expedition and email me for additional resources (I may even be able to get you copies of letters that residents of your county wrote to Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin about the war and their other concerns. Like most of the items in our archives, these have not yet been digitized.)
And if you are less enamored with World War I than I am, check out my other favorite Veterans Day Resource, designed for grades 8-12.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Field Trip Money Available

This just in from Montana State Parks!

Applications for $200 field trip travel grants will be accepted October 6-22, 2018. The grants can be used for field trips to federal and state public lands taking place between January 2 and August 30, 2019. The grant money is aimed at covering transportation-related costs with an emphasis on assisting Montana elementary students who are underserved in their access to public lands for outdoor recreation. For 2019, there will be 40 grants available.

If over 50% of your students are eligible for free and reduced lunch and they wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity for outdoor education on public lands, this grant is for you. I looked at the application and it looked quick and easy.

Click here for more information and to apply.

The grants are made possible through a partnership between Montana State ParksGlacier National Park
, and the Montana Environmental Education Association (MEEA), whose funding emanates from the National Park Foundation’s Open OutDoors for Kids
 program. This program complements the federal Every Kid in a Park (EKIP) initiative targeted toward fourth grade students. Last year, there were 43 grantees from 38 different schools and programs. Collectively they visited 23 different places, including a wide range of national and state parks, national forests, historical sites, and recreation areas. Over 72% of grant recipients noted that this funding helped to provide their only opportunity for outdoor education on public lands.

The $200 grant award can only be used to cover transportation costs. The field trips must be for Montana elementary-aged children, and there will be a preference for fourth grade students as part of the selection process. Applicants will be ranked with higher scores going to classrooms that are underserved. There will also be a preference for groups and schools that have not previously received an award. Selections will be made with an eye toward broad geographic dispersion across the state in terms of schools and groups represented, and trip destinations.

Awardees will be notified of their grant in November 2018 and funds will be distributed by the end of the calendar year for use in 2019.