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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Testing, Testing...

Deb Mitchell and I have been working hard, revamping the footlocker "Treasure Chest: A Look at the Montana State Symbols" and are looking for fourth-grade teachers to test the new lessons we've written. 

If you are interested, let me know by email which lesson you are interested in testing. Below are brief descriptions of the lessons and estimates of how long they will take. (Note: timing is one of the things we won't know until after these lessons are classroom-tested--so take the estimates with a grain or two of salt.)

"Treasure Chest" is just one of twenty-two different hands-on history footlockers we send to schools. Our footlockers are among our most popular educational resources. Designed for fourth grade—but used successfully in both lower elementary, middle school, and high school classrooms—these thematic "traveling trunks" focus on a wide variety of topics, ranging from the fur-trading and mining industries, to Indian life during the reservation period and today. The only cost associated with using this resource is the cost of shipping the footlocker on to the next school. (This varies by weight and distance but usually averages around $30.) Learn more about the footlocker program here. 

Teachers think our footlockers are an incredibly valuable resource, but that doesn't mean that they couldn't be updated and made even more valuable. Which brings us back to Treasure Chest! Here are the new lessons that need to be tested. If you teach fourth grade and would like to test one of these in your classroom during the spring semester, please let me know.

Lesson 1: I Have, Who Has… (30 minutes)*
Students will gain a quick introduction to Montana’s state symbols by playing “I have, who has.”
Lesson 3: State Seal and Flag (two 50-minute class periods)*
Students will learn about Montana’s state seal and flag by reading an article. They will learn about principles of flag design. They will think about how they would symbolize the essence of Montana by designing their own versions of the flag and writing about their process.
Lesson 4: Montana’s State Songs (two 50-minute class periods)*
Students will learn to sing the state song, listen to the state lullaby and state ballad and then write their own song celebrating Montana.
Lesson 5: Montana’s State Animal (two to three 50-minute class periods)*

Students will learn to identify grizzly bears and how to be safe around all bears. They will learn how the grizzly became our state symbol. They also read short pieces that reveal two historical figures’ attitudes toward grizzlies: Chief Plenty Coups and Captain Meriwether Lewis and, after reading, contrast their perspectives. Finally, they write informally about whether they agree that grizzlies are the best state animal for Montana. 
Lesson 7: Gift of the Bitterroot (one to two 50-minute class periods)*
Students will listen to a traditional story, learn about the importance of bitterroot to the Salish and Pend d’Oreille people historically and today and create a Venn diagram comparing past and present.
Lesson 8: The Montana State Fossil (one to two 50-minute class periods).**
Students will learn what life was like for some of the Montana dinosaurs that lived 80 million years ago and 65 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous period, by listening to the book Maia: A Dinosaur Grows Up. They will learn about comparative morphology by comparing their own bodies to the body of a Maiasaura. 
Lesson 9: Learning about Sapphires (one 50-minute class period)***
Students will read and share information about Montana sapphires with their classmates, complete a KWL chart on sapphires, and learn more about sapphires through a PowerPoint and the sapphire exhibit included in the footlocker.
Lesson 10: Creating a Museum of Montana Symbols (three-five 50-minute class periods)***

Students will use the artifacts images from the footlocker to create a classroom museum. They will write interpretive labels and then invite other classes and/or parents and community members to view their displays.
*These lessons are ready to test anytime after January 3.
**This lesson is ready to test anytime after January 3, but you must have access to the book Maia: A Dinosaur Grows Up. (Check your library.)
***This lesson needs to be tested by a class in Helena or within a short drive. It will be ready to test in March (fingers crossed.)

Monday, December 11, 2017

Is it too early to start dreaming of summer?


National Geographic has launched a new interactive geography education program: The Geo-Inquiry Process. Last school year, Montana Geographic Alliance (MGA) sent two of our alliance members – James Sigl and Jon Milligan – to the National Geographic Headquarters in Washington, D.C. to learn how to implement the Geo-Inquiry process in their classrooms. To learn more about the Geo-Inquiry process, click here.

During this upcoming summer 2018, MGA will offer a Geo-Inquiry Institute to Montana middle school teachers. MGA is partnering with UM’s Flathead Lake Biological Station at Yellow Bay to implement the institute from June 20-22, 2018 at the BioStation. MGA will cover the costs of lodging, food, and travel stipends, as well as unique interactive and engaging science-based activities. Teachers can earn OPI renewal units through their participation in this institute. We will also take teachers on a scenic boat ride on Flathead Lake.
MGA is actively recruiting teachers to participate in this institute. To participate, you must meet the following guidelines: (1) Apply as a pair of middle school teachers from the same school; (2) One teacher must be a media/technology educator, and; (3) One science/social studies educator.
If you are part of a teacher pair that is interested in attending this institute, please fill out this form.

I am not typically jealous of middle-school teachers because, frankly, I'm a bit intimidated by middle-school students, but today I am. Just for today, I wish I were a middle-school classroom teacher so I could attend this institute!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

IEFA Online Book Club Course

I spent Tuesday previewing the responses to our survey on how Montana history is taught in your district. The information is extremely helpful and will shape what we do. If you haven't yet contributed your thoughts, I hope you will find a moment to do so now. 

In answer to the question "what trainings would you find useful," many of you expressed a desire for more IEFA trainings; others of you requested more courses for which you could earn graduate credit. 

"Montana Tribal Histories," the online Moodle book club course, offered by WMPLC/RESA Region V, meets both these needs. The course will explore the Montana Tribal Histories Educators' Resource Guide developed by Julie Cajune and The Framework: A Practical Guide for Montana Teachers and Administrators Implementing Indian Education for All by Tammy Elser.  Here are the details:
  •  Registration fee: $155
  • Dates: January 8-March 4, 2018
  • Format: The course is divided into weekly modules, and participants will have a week to complete each consecutive module. The course will also include weekly live chat sessions.
  • Credit: 30 OPI Renewal Units or 2 Semester Credits (semester credit is offered through the University of Montana and is an additional fee of $155. The course instructor will provide a separate registration form and instructions for submitting payment)
For more information, visit https://www.wmplc.org/iefa-montana-tribal-histories-1818.htmlTo register, click https://goo.gl/forms/l1wBlRrASiRUbslR2


Another great opportunity to learn more about IEFA is OPI's IEFA Best Practices Conference, which will be held March 4-6, 2018, at Carroll College in Helena. (No graduate credits for this one, though).

Monday, December 4, 2017

Do You Know an IEFA Champion?

Do you know an educator who has gone above and beyond in promoting and supporting Indian Education for All? Consider nominating him or her for 7th Advocacy Award for Excellence in Indian Education for All.

Begin the nomination process by opening the  ADVOCACY AWARD NOMINATION by clicking here

All nominations INCLUDING supporting documentation must be received by WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 3, 2018 at NOON.

Here's a little more information: 

The Indian Education Division at the Office of Public Instruction is soliciting nominations for an important opportunity – the 7th Advocacy Award for Excellence in Indian Education for All, in honor of one of Montana’s finest educators, Teresa Veltkamp. Teresa was a classroom teacher and Indian Education Specialist at the Office of Public Instruction who was passionate and inspirational in her efforts to ensure and support the highest levels of implementation of Indian Education for All in Montana.

Please give consideration to this opportunity to acknowledge and honor an outstanding educator’s efforts in the promotion of and steadfast support for Indian Education for All. The nominee should be an exceptionally skillful, dedicated teacher who has earned the respect of students and colleagues.

The award will be presented during the 12th Annual Indian Education for All Best Practices Conference Welcoming, Monday, March 5, 2018, at Carroll College, Helena.

By the way: registration for the IEFA Best Practices Conference is now open. I always learn a tremendous amount at this conference. The conference will be held March 4-6, 2018, at Carroll College in Helena. The cost is $20 for Sunday Mini-Institutes only, $40 for Monday and Tuesday conference only, or $60 for all three days. You can register here. Contact Jennifer Stadum at (406) 444-0725 or Joan Franke at (406) 444-3694 if you have any questions.

P.S. If you haven't yet completed our survey on how Montana history is being taught in your district, I hope you'll donate a few minutes to the cause and do so now. 


Thursday, November 30, 2017

More Reasons to Love the Stanford History Education Group: Civic Reasoning

I'm a bit of a Stanford History Education Group groupie, so you can imagine how delighted I was to learn that they have now added a series of lessons and assessments designed to help students get better at critically evaluating online information. Their new site, "Civic Reasoning Online," provides a series of assessments that measure students' "ability to judge the credibility of the information that floods young people’s smartphones, tablets, and computer screens.... These assessments show students online content—a webpage, a conversation on Facebook, or the comment section of a news article—and ask them to reason about that content." It tests what it calls Civic Online Reasoning's Core Competencies, which involve being able to evaluate the validity of information based on the following three questions: "who's behind the information?" "what's the evidence?" and "what do other sources say?"  It includes exercises in evaluating Wikipedia, claims on YourTube, Twitter and forms of social media, as well as evaluating website reliability.

You have to register to access the information, but registration is free, and they don't bombard you with emails.

The site joins their other excellent offerings: 


  • Beyond the Bubble, 80 "easy-to-use assessments that measure students' historical thinking rather than recall of facts." 

  • the Reading Like a Historian curriculum, which "engages students in historical inquiry" with lessons that revolve "around a central historical question" and incorporate primary sources. It "teaches students how to investigate historical questions by employing reading strategies such as sourcing, contextualizing, corroborating, and close reading. Instead of memorizing historical facts, students evaluate the trustworthiness of multiple perspectives on historical issues and learn to make historical claims backed by documentary evidence."


Reading Like a Historian has 91 U.S. History and 41 World History units. If there's a topic they don't cover, you might consider using the SHEG model to create your own. Glenn Wiebe breaks down how.

P.S. If you haven't yet completed our survey on how Montana history is being taught in your district, I hope you'll donate a few minutes to the cause and do so now. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

Native Knowledge 360

Have you heard about Native Knowledge 360? It's the "National Museum of American Indian's national initiative to inspire and promote improvement of teaching and learning about American Indians."

Montanans: Be proud! They looked at our IEFA and Essential Understandings regarding Montana Indians as a model as they sought to create a national project. Instead of seven Essential Understandings, they have ten, based on the National Council for Social Studies ten themes:

  1. American Indian Cultures: "Culture is a result of human socialization. People acquire knowledge and values by interacting with other people through common language, place, and community. In the Americas, there is vast cultural diversity among more than 2,000 tribal groups."
  2. Time, continuity and change: "...To understand the history and cultures of the Americas requires understanding American Indian history from Indian perspectives."
  3. People, places, and environments: "For thousands of years, indigenous people have studied, managed, honored, and thrived in their homelands. These foundations continue to influence American Indian relationships and interactions with the land today."
  4. Individual development and identity: "American Indian individual development and identity is tied to culture and the forces that have influenced and changed culture over time."
  5. Individuals, groups, and institutions: "American Indians have always operated and interacted within self-defined social structures that include institutions, societies, and organizations, each with specific functions. These social structures have shaped the lives and histories of American Indians through the present day."
  6. Power, authority, and governance: "American Indians devised and have always lived under a variety of complex systems of government. ... Tribes today still govern their own affairs and maintain a government-to-government relationship with the United States and other governments."
  7. Production, distribution, and consumption: "American Indians developed a variety of economic systems that reflected their cultures and managed their relationships with others. ... Today, American Indian tribes and individuals are active in economic enterprises that involve production and distribution.
  8. Science, technology, and society: "American Indian knowledge resides in languages, cultural practices, and teaching that spans many generations. This knowledge is based on long-term observation, experimentation, and experience with the living earth. ... When applied to contemporary global challenges, Native knowledge contributes to dynamic and innovative solutions.
  9. Global connections: "American Indians have always engaged in the world beyond the immediacy of their own communities. For millennia, indigenous people of North America exchanged and traded ideas, goods, technologies, and arts ... American Indian foods, technologies, wealth, and labor contributed to the development of the modern world."
  10. Civic ideals and practices: "Ideals, principles, and practices of citizenship have always been part of American Indian societies. ... American Indians today may be citizens of their tribal nations, the states they live in, and the United States."
The site also has lesson plans and other teaching materials. And you can search keyword or filter by subject, nation, grade level, language (English and Spanish), region, and format (digital lesson, teacher guide, teaching poster, website, videos).


For example, I searched for fourth grade material and found 10 results, including a teaching poster ("A Life in Beads: The Stories a Plains Dress Can Tell,") a website ("Living Maya Time"),  and a teacher's guide ("Smithsonian in Your Classroom: Native American Dolls").

I did a second search by region (Plains and Plateau) and came up with 4 results: 

  • a website for grades 6-12--"Native Words/Native Warriors," which "tells the stories of American Indian WWI and WWII 'code talkers. (This would be great to use with the novel Code-Talker)
  • a website for grades 4-5--"Culture Quest," which 'helps students explore 25 masterworks of art from the Infinity of Nations exhibition"
  • a teaching poster for grades 4-8--"Lone Dog's Winter Count," which helps students "learn about the history-keeping methods of the Nakota people of the Northern Plains," and again 
  • "A Life in Beads."

I encourage you to explore the website, or read more about it in this "Teaching Tolerance" article.

P.S. If you haven't yet completed our survey on how Montana history is being taught in your district, I hope you'll donate a few minutes to the cause and do so now. 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

100 Years: One Woman's Fight for Justice

The documentary film, 100 Years, tells "the story of Elouise Cobell and her thirty-year fight for justice for over 300,000 Native Americans whose mineral-rich lands were grossly mismanaged by the US Government for over a century."

Elouise Cobell's story is a Montana story (Cobell is Blackfeet and was tribal treasurer when she began investigating the Department of Interior's history of fraud and corruption. But Cobell's story is more than a Montana story--it is an American story--the story of a woman who sued the federal government and won the largest settlement in U.S. history.

100 Years is a remarkable documentary. I'm not a huge fan of showing movies in class--but this 75-minute film is worth the time: in US history classes and especially in government classes (I know it has been shown with great success in a world cultures class as well.)

The Montana Office of Public Instruction's Indian Education Division has created a 3-5 day model teaching unit to use with the film. It breaks the film into ten different chapters (approximately 10 minutes each) and provides comprehension and higher level thinking questions for each as well as background information and writing prompts to use as summative assessments. That model teaching unit is available online. OPI also donated copies of the teaching unit and a DVD of the film to every public high school library in the state. The film is also available for purchase.   

You can find more lesson plans about allotment and trust lands, as well as many other topics relating to Indian lands, on Lessons of Our Land,  a website created by the Indian Land Tenure Foundation.