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.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Putting Montana History on the Map

Every spring I ask teachers to share their favorite lessons and every fall I share what folks send in three posts, one for elementary classrooms, one for middle school and one for high school. These always top the most read list and are my favorites too. At the end of each of these posts I include a plea: "it's not too late! Send me your favorite lesson to share with the group," but teachers are busy and I don't usually get any responses. That's why I was so pleased to get an email from Deb McLaughlin (Belgrade High School), who wrote: "Every once in a while we stumble on to a project or idea that exceeds our wildest expectations. This project is one of those. I called it 'Putting Montana History on the Map.' ... My students loved it and it made Montana History so alive and personal."

Here are Deb's instructions: 

1.Go to http://mtplacenames.org/
Using the pull down arrow under “place names” go through the list spend enough time to familiarize yourself with the map.
2. Pick a place.
3. Locate it on your Montana map.
4. Cut and paste the history information from the web site into a Google Doc.
5. Decide what part of the town’s history you want to explore and then EXPLORE.
6. Find at least three websites that focus on some aspect of the town history, and save your research.
7. Summarize your findings in a paragraph.
8. Add the historical information from http://mtplacenames.org/, your own research (summary) and a picture that supports your summary on the map poster.
9. Label the top of the poster with your town, or place and indicate your place on the map.
10. Participate in a Gallery Walk around Montana.

Here's her rubric:

Map identification of place and labeled

History of place from website cut/paste

Saved Research

Three quality web sites

20,15, 10

Historically supported picture
10, 5

Gallery Walk (3)

Neat and organized
10, 5

P.S. It's not too late! If you have a lesson you think other teachers should know about, for any grade, drop me a line!

Monday, October 14, 2019

Museum School Partnerships

Two weeks ago, I plugged the MFPE Educator Conference in Belgrade (the largest educator conference in the state), highlighted some sessions, and invited attendees to visit us at our booth in the exhibit hall.

Sandra Oldendorf, who organized the Montana Council for Social Studies excellent track at this year's Educator Conference in Belgrade, asked me to mention a special Wednesday night session at the Gallatin Gateway Museum at 317 W. Main Street that I had overlooked. Called "When a Jail Becomes a Museum," the session will be held from 6:00 p.m.-7:50 p.m. Curator Kelly Hartman will tell some interesting stories about the jail and Sandra and Kelly will lead a discussion on how to use museums and local history in the classroom. The session includes free refreshments, a cash bar for beer and wine, and an opportunity to visit with the National Council for Social Studies president Tina Heafner.

I'm really excited about this session because I love, love, love museum school partnerships and local history projects. If you aren't attending the Educator Conference, you can read more ideas for working with local museums, including ideas for field trips across the state and best practices for making field trips meaningful, in the links above. If you ARE coming to the educator workshop, perhaps I'll see you at the Gallatin Gateway Museum on Wednesday evening or in the exhibit hall or one of my sessions on Thursday or Friday.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Resources for teaching about Métis culture and history

The Métis--a distinct cultural group indigenous to the Americas--gets short shrift in Montana history.

These descendants of European (often French, Irish and Scottish) fur traders and American Indian (often Ojibwe, Chippewa, and Cree) women have a complex history that crosses the U.S.-Canada border. The Métis as one of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada; in the United States, they are not recognized as a separate nation. In Montana, many Métis are members of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana, which has state recognition but (as of September 2019) remains in a battle for federal recognition.

Want to include the Métis in your curriculum but don't know where to start? Check out these resources.


MHS Program Specialist Deb Mitchell recently created a short (30-50 minute) PowerPoint-based lesson plan to introduce the Métis to students grades three through six: "Who Are the Métis?"

In looking to include information about the Métis on the Lewis and Clark Expedition as part of our footlocker revamp, we discovered a great book called The Flower Beadwork Peoplewritten and illustrated by Sherry Farrell Racette and published by the Gabriel Dumont Institute. Elementary librarians: I highly recommend this book for your collection.

You can find coloring sheets and other downloadable resources from the website of the Métis Nation British Columbia.

Upper Grades

The Métis of British Columbia: Culture, History, and the Contemporary Community is an online version of a DVD project created to help disseminate information on Métis history and culture. It includes many short videos, including ones on music and dance and other aspects of culture. There are two main sections: Culture, History, and Hunting, and Music and Dance. Although it is from Canada, the material is relevant to Montana as well. I highly recommend the 17-minute introductory video and can imagine this would make a great site for a web quest or some sort of group research project.

"Sun Dance in Silver Bow: Urban Indian Poverty in the Shadow of the Richest Hill on Earth" is a PowerPoint-based lesson plan that explores the complexity underpinning the change-over (or reconfiguration) of the West (and particularly Montana) from Aboriginal lands into Euro-American hands at the end of the nineteenth century. This PowerPoint was created by the late Nicholas Vrooman for an educator workshop--you'll need to review and modify it to work in your classroom.

"Montana's Landless Indians and the Assimilation Era of Federal Indian Policy: A Case of Contradiction" is a week-long primary-source based unit designed to introduce students to the history of the landless Métis, Cree, and Chippewa Indians in Montana between 1889 and 1916, while giving them an opportunity to do their own guided analysis of historical and primary source materials. Students wrestle with issues of perspective, power, ideology, and prejudice and closely examine the role Montana newspapers played in shaping public opinion toward the tribes’ attempts to maintain economic independence and gain a land base and political recognition. The material is difficult and works best with eleventh or twelfth graders--or college students.

The Gabriel Dumont Institute has an abundance of resources--so many that I find the site a bit daunting. For those interested in incorporating Métis history into art, there is a great tutorial on finger-weaving, along with the history of the Métis sash.

Do you teach Métis history and culture? What resources do you use? Email me and I'll share them out.


Thursday, October 3, 2019

October Educator Conference

Deb and I are getting excited about going to the upcoming MFPE Educator conference in Belgrade! Are you considering going? As always, we'll have a table in the exhibit hall, so I hope you'll stop by and say hello.

I'm also giving two sessions, one on the 2020 Women's Suffrage Centennial (can you believe it's only been 100 years!?) on Thursday, October 17, from 1:00-1:50, and one on tools for teaching Montana geography on Friday, October 18, also 1:00-1:50.

Sessions by MHS Teacher Leaders 

I'm really excited that MHS will be sponsoring sessions by four master teachers, who are part of the MHS Teacher Leaders in Montana History program. Schedule permitting, they, and other of our Teacher Leaders are also willing to provide PD at your school! Learn more here.   

In Belgrade they are offering a range of great sessions. Ron Buck, of Shelby will be presenting "The Art of Storytelling: A Plains Indians Perspective," in which he'll show how he's adapted our pictographic art packets for use in his fifth grade classroom. (We'll be giving away copies of those packets at our booth--so more reason to stop and say hi.)

Michael Herdina, Conrad, doubles not only as an MHS Teacher Leader but also the statewide coordinator of National History Day so naturally he's talking on "Project Based Learning with Montana National History Day." (It's a TERRIFIC program for grades 6-12).

Billings middle school librarian will be providing an introduction to our resources with "Treasure within Montana Historical Society: MHS 101."

Ruth Ferris, elementary school librarian from Billings, will be presenting two sessions. The first is "Step into the Picture," one of the lessons from our newly revised Lewis and Clark Hands-on History footlocker. The second is "Why Does History Matter?" which looks at having students conduct primary source research, especially for National History Day projects.

Other Sessions of Interest

There are so many other good sessions, it's going to be hard to choose. If I could only recommend one it would be "Digital Treasures for Primary Sources: MMP, Montana Newspapers, and DPLA," presented by Jennifer Birnel of the Montana State Library. MMP (Montana Memory Project) and Montana Newspapers are both amazing resources that I think are underused.

For a full schedule, visit MFPE's "Session Search" page. To register to attend the conference, go here.

Here are a few other sessions that caught my eye:

  • "A Frontier Photographer and a Naturalist, Evelyn and Ewen Cameron," presented by Lorna Milne.
  • "Teaching Montana History Using Artifacts," presented by Sandra Oldendorf and Peggy Kimmet
  • "A Day at the OTO Ranch: A Writing Marathon," presented by: Tamara Dalling
  • "Do Treaties Matter?" presented by Mike Jetty (Come for the jokes, stay for the knowledge.) Mike did an version of this talk for us and it was mind-blowing. It's also available to watch as part of our Montana History in 9 MORE Easy Lessons series, for which you can earn renewal units from the comfort of your own home.
  • "Humanties Montana: Bring Speakers to your Classroom," presented by  Ken Egan. I LOVE the Humanities Montana Speakers in the Schools program.
  • Living History: A Visit With An 1879 Fur Co. Trader, presented by Greg Smith. Did you know you can bring him to your classroom through the Speakers in the Schools program?
  • "Project Archaeology: Investigating Rock Art at Medicine Rocks State Park," presented by: Sabre Moore
  • "Resources and Ideas for Implementing Indian Education for All," presented by: Mike Jetty, Zach Hawkins, and Stephen Morsette
  • "Russell for Learning-Art and Literacy Based Learning," presented by Melissa Werber
  • "Contemporary American Indian Art, IEFA, and the Missoula Art Museum," presented by Kay Grissom-Kiely
  • "Lewis and Clark Amongst the Grizzlies," presented by Duane Buchi (and if this topic interests you, check out Lesson 5 from our Montana State Symbols footlocker, which compares the way Lewis wrote about grizzlies with the way Plenty Coups described them.
  • "Before the Horse: Northern Rockies Lifestyle," presented by Kae Cheatham
  • "Placing the Writer: Teaching with the Ivan Doig Archive," presented by Allison Wynhoff Olsen and Jan Zauha
  • "Before the Park: 11,000 Years of Native Americans in Yellowstone," presented by Douglas MacDonald and Sandra Oldendorf 
  • "History Lessons: Learned and Shared, presented by Bruce Wendt, a chance to share your best lessons and steal from your colleagues!
  • "Other People's Stories," presented by Anne Thulson, a lecture/workshop that unpacks the history of harmful, multicultural art curriculum and presents ideas and practices from contemporary Native American art as a doorway to a more respectful and effective multicultural art curriculum.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Best of, Elementary Edition, 2019

Every spring, I ask folks to share their favorite Montana history of IEFA lesson, the one they would absolutely do again. Go here for the high school teachers' responses and here for the middle school teachers' responses. Read on for the responses from elementary school teachers with some notes from me, in brackets.

Mary Ellen Igo, K-2, Belgrade, wrote: "I read Brave Wolf and the Thunderbird [by Joe Medicine Crow] to my students. We discussed the story, and especially the artwork in the book. I reminded them of all the beautiful colors and detail in the illustrations, and how they might have made those colored paints from things found in nature.  Then they drew a picture and we made a class book.  I have class books from almost ten years now, and they are beautiful to look at!"

Many of you wrote in praise of our hands-on history footlockers. Some commented on the whole program: "I love how all of the trunk materials are available online, it helps me find applicable lesson plans even when I don't have the trunk." Others gave shout-outs to particular footlockers, for example, "Montana State Symbols."  Kimberly Winkowitsch, who teaches K-8 at Hidden Lake Elementary, wrote "I ordered two footlockers from the Montana Historical Society. One was on Lewis and Clark, and one was on Native Americans. I love these footlockers and will definitely do it again next year.

A K-12 art teacher wrote: "In art, we did a life-size paper mache grizzly bear. Next year we hope to make a life-size colt or bison calf in paper mache."

Ron Buck, who teaches 5-6 grades in Shelby, wrote: “My best IEFA lesson is the Art of Storytelling. ... It captivates my students and allows them to understand the importance of expressing themselves and their heritage through storytelling.”

One teacher does a Blackfeet Research Project: "students choose from a list of topics (Blackfeet Tribe) then find 12-18 facts about that topic and put it on a poster board, citing information and finding a picture to represent that topic. Then displayed.  The students love learning about about their surroundings and are intrigued by what they learn and the topics their peers have chosen." 

Another makes sure that all students can find Montana's 7 reservations on a map (and list the tribes associated with those reservations). [I think every fourth grader should be able to do this. Montanatribes.org has online activities to help students learn this.]

It's not too late! If you have a lesson you think other teachers should know about, for any grade, drop me a line!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Best of, Middle School Edition 2019

Every spring, I ask folks to share their favorite Montana history of IEFA lesson, the one they would absolutely do again. Go here for the high school teachers' responses. Stay tuned for elementary school teachers' responses. Read on for the responses from middle school teachers with some notes from me, in brackets.

Jennifer Graham, of Philipsburg, who teaches Montana history in 7th grade, wrote, "Mapping Montana, A-Z, THAT WAS THE BEST!  First time I did that this year and it was great.  The students loved it. " [Other teachers--who responded anonymously also listed this as their favorite lesson.] 

Teachers recommended Making an Atlatl [I was excited to see that someone not only used this new lesson of ours but that it was a favorite], Blood on the Marias: Understanding Different Points of View Related to the Baker Massacre of 1870 [one of my favorite lessons too], and Code Talker - A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two.
Another teacher shows Montana Mosaic episodes Chapter 6 on Federal Indian Policy, which focuses on the Relocation policy of the 1950s] and Chapter 4 Dislocation/Relocation, which focuses on the Boarding School experience. [Note each episode is less than 20 minutes. The accompanying user guides provide synopses, vocabulary definitions, and post-viewing questions. MHS donated the Montana Mosaic DVD to all public Montana school libraries. The episodes are also available on YouTube]] 

Playing for the World: The 1904 Fort Shaw Indian Boarding School Girls Basketball Team Model Teaching Unit [OPI donated the DVD that accompanies this teaching unit to all public Montana school libraries. The video is also available on YouTube]

Jennifer Hall, 7-8 Eureka, loves our Montana's Charlie Russell PowerPoints and lesson plans. 

Cindy Hatten, Colstrip, 6-8, wrote, "My favorite is the Governor’s Mansion footlocker [Original Governor’s Mansion: Home to the Stewart Family in Turbulent Times, 1913-1921]. I always use it around Christmas and involve the lives of the governors children and what they had done as far as games, presents and Christmas goodies." [Learn more about how to order this or other footlockers on our Hands-on History page.]  

April Wuelfing, Sheridan, 7 grade, wrote: "we used the [Montana: Stories of the Land] textbook's defensible space worksheet [the worksheet accompanies Chapter 12: Logging in the High Lonesome]. After that, I presented the class with more information (largely from California's legislation) on defensible space. This took an entire class period, to which the kids took some notes. The next day, I split the class in two and we had a friendly debate on whether or not home owners should be required to create defensible space around their homes. The kids loved it and did an excellent job presenting arguments for both!

Wendy Davis, Marion School, 6-8, wrote:  "Copper Kings--after learning about the 3 each student draws names of the 3 out of a hat and designs a wordle poster to display on the wall. Students have to go back to the biographies, textbook, handout, and notes to select specific details they want to stress.  We emphasize  descriptive adjectives and significant details in the displays. Not only do the students enjoy designing them, but they also remember the significant differences between the three men." [Wordle, "a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide" is so cool. I love the idea of incorporating it into a lesson.] 

Kathy Harvey, Vaughn School, grades 5-8, also taught about about the Copper Kings. [I hope she used material from Montana: Stories of the Land Chapter 10, "Politics and the Copper Kings," including the point of view worksheet we created with an excerpt from one of my favorite satirical pamphlets, "Helena's Social Supremacy," which is now available to download in its entirety from the Montana Memory Project!] 

Lauren McDonald, 6-8 Whitehall, wrote: "I use the 'Picturing the Past' lesson plan from Montana: Stories of the Land Chapter 11, 'The Early Reservation Years.' It's a great way for students to see the changes that occurred during the early reservation years. Students are so visual these days and movement always helps in a middle school setting.  I'm not sure it would be as effective if students weren't required to move around and observe different aspects.  I teach Montana History to 7th grade students and they're incredibly insightful with their observations as well as the following discussion.  I believe this is in part to the visual nature of this lesson as well as the guiding questions provided for students.  Many students struggle with how to perform a correct observation in this setting, but the lesson has provided a sheet of questions for the students to think about when observing each photograph." [The lesson, subtitled "Understanding Cultural Change and Continuity among Montana's Indians through Historic Photographs," can also be taught as a stand alone lesson--though I think it's even better to teach it in the context of the chapter.]  

Jim Martin, Missoula, 6-8, wrote:  "Not one particular lesson, but, connecting our American Indian culture and timeline as we work through the curriculum of ancient world history." I was curious to learn more so I contacted him for details. he explained that the "6th grade curriculum covers the civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, China, Greece, and Rome.  It is a tough subject for kids to connect to, and sometimes kids think it moves chronologically through time.  For example, they think that, when learning about Egypt, India hadn't been settled since we haven't covered it yet. ... So, I have a big timeline in the front of the classroom. It's made of yarn, and each civilization has its own line that runs parallel to the rest. This creates a visual to show that, 'while the pyramids are being built in Egypt ... meanwhile in India...' and shows kids that human development occurred simultaneously across the world achieving many of the same milestones; use of iron tools, developing complex religion, etc." The curriculum does not cover either North or South America and Jim wants to make sure that students understand that the people living here in ancient times had rich cultures of their own. He struggles with finding dates and details about what was going on before 1492. Although he recognizes that "each tribe is complex with its own history," his main goal is to make sure students understand the Americas as a whole was home to civilizations, so he includes events across the Americas on his timeline (rather than trying to be tribally specific.) "So, there are events from the Anasazi creating pottery, to Mississippian culture building mounds in the Ohio River valley, to petroglyphs being created in the Pryor Mountains, to the tribes settling the Mexico Valley.  The point is to show students that events and the efforts of human ingenuity occurred all over the globe, not just in these five pockets of the world."

It's not too late! If you have a lesson you think other teachers should know about, for any grade, drop me a line!

Monday, September 16, 2019

Learn In Person ... Or Online

The Montana History Conference is fast approaching, September 26-28, in Helena. If you are within an easy drive, I encourage you to register for the Thursday educator workshop or the entire three-day conference. The educator workshop will feature elementary resources in the morning, including our new resources for teaching Montana geography, one of the new Lewis and Clark lesson plans, and the Montana State Symbols footlocker. In the afternoon, we'll be learning how to find primary source resources on Montana Memory, the Digital Public Library of America, and Montana Newspapers. (These are all extraordinary sites, and training in how to search them will reduce your frustration and up your likelihood of success a thousand fold.) We'll also be sharing some new upper-grade Indian Education resources. Come join us!

The Western Montana Professional Learning Collaborative is offering a new online moodle course, Current Events in Indian Country: An inquiry-based Approach, September 30, 2019-December 15, 2019. Participants will learn inquiry-based teaching and learning strategies to use in their classrooms. Each participant will apply these strategies to explore a contemporary American Indian issue as part of a class-wide inquiry, and an additional American Indian issue of his or her choosing for the free-inquiry portion. This course requires participants to be self-directed and highly motivated, a background in inquiry or American Indian issues is not necessary.
  • Registration fee: $335
  • Credit: 45 OPI Renewal Units or 3 Semester Credits pending for an additional fee of $155. 
They are also offering a self-paced online course, IEFA Special Topics, composed of five distinct units, each the equivalent of 1 University credit or 15 OPI renewal units. Upon registration, participants select which units/how many credits they wish to take. See website for pricing.
The five units included in Course One are:
1) Who Will Tell My Brother?: The Indian Mascot Controversy
2) Honoring Native Women’s Voices
3) American Indian Short Stories
4) American Indian Poetry
5) Biographies of Native Americans: Contemporary and Historic