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.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Nominate Your Favorite Teacher

On the assumption that everyone is much too busy this time of year to read blogs, this will be my last missive until the New Year.

But perhaps the holiday is a good time to think of the great history teachers you know and to consider nominating one of them for the Gilder Lehrman Institute's National History Teacher of the Year Award. Montana is filled with worthy candidates and the application process (at least for the nominator) is quick and easy.

You can find more here: www.gilderlehrman.org/nhtoy.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Blogs I Like, Episode 1

I recently subscribed to the Extreme History Project Blog—(motto: “History isn’t pretty.”)

They’ve had some good (and short!) posts—including these three:

Their blog also led me to “This is Anthropology,” a presentation developed in response to a Florida governor’s  statement criticizing spending education funding on majors like anthropology—but which is actually a really good answer to the “what do you do with an anthropology degree” and could get students thinking about careers they never considered.

What blogs/listservs do you subscribe to that you think I (or other educators) would find worthwhile? Let me know and I’ll compile a list.

Monday, December 5, 2011

NEH Summer Institutes/Workshops

Winter finally hit Helena with below 0 temperatures. I don't ski--so the only thing left to do is ... start thinking about summer.

I recently received an announcement for an NEH Summer 2012 Institute for School Teachers—“American Frontiers in Global Perspective.”    

This is just one of many opportunities for stipended professional development offered through NEH. NEH has two primary programs for school teachers:

The topics addressed in these programs range from a five-week seminar on four classics of Native American literature (including the Surrounded and Winter in the Blood) to a weeklong seminar, "Inventing America: Lowell and the Industrial Revolution."

The Montana Historical Society offered a weeklong Landmarks program last year, during which we shared Montana's mining history with amazing teachers from across the United States. Those who participated came away energized--in part by Montana, and the history we presented--but even more so through sharing ideas with dedicated, committed fellow teachers.

Information on the many programs offered and more details about stipends, etc., can be found here:

Institutes and Seminars.  

Application deadline for both programs is March 1.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Montana History Bibliographies

Want your students to write research papers based on both primary and secondary source research? Want them to focus on topics that they can’t buy papers for?

Do I have a deal for you….

As you may know, the Montana Historical Society is a proud cosponsor of National History Day in Montana.

To encourage students to engage with Montana history for their history day projects, our staff created bibliographies for Montana history topics related to the history day theme (which this year is “Revolution, Reaction, and Reform.”) Topics range from Montana’s World War II conscientious objector camps (reaction to war) to the Chinese experience in Montana (reaction against Chinese immigration and reaction by the Chinese to discrimination), Indian boarding schools (a failed reform), and fire policy (revolutionized in reaction to the 1910 fires). As you can see—almost anything can fit under the “Revolution, Reaction, Reform” mantle, so basically staff created bibliographies for a few of their favorite Montana history topics.

Find the bibliographies here.

We think these bibliographies will be great for National History Day projects—but we also think they would be great for any class in which students are required to conduct research projects (Montana history, Language Arts, American history….)

Each bibliography includes secondary and primary sources. Some of these sources are only available at the historical society; many others have been digitized and are available online.

Of course, we hope you’ll consider participating in National History Day (including the state competition to be held in Helena, April 21). You can find more information about Montana’s National History Day program here, here, or here, or by contacting Montana NHD Coordinator Tom Rust

But whether or not your students participate in National History Day, we hope to these bibliographies provide useful starting points for research projects.

If you do have students use our bibliographies, please let us know. If you have a topic you’d like to see us create a bibliography for, let us know that too. (No promises, but we’ll try.)

And if you WILL have students participating in NHD, please drop Tom Rust a note so he can plan.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Song for the Horse Nation and Other Cool Online Exhibits

The National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., has a new exhibit: A Song for the Horse Nation: Horses in Native American Cultures. Can’t travel to D.C.? They have also put the exhibit online.

We’ve added a link to it under “Interesting Links” in Chapter 3 of the Montana: Stories of the Land Companion Website. 

I’ve come across several other cool online exhibits lately.

The National Library of Medicine created this exhibit: Native voices: native peoples’ concepts of health and illness.

They include:
By the way: According to its creators, Omeka—the program that UM Special Collections staff used to create their online exhibits—is “a free, flexible, and open source web-publishing platform for the display of library, museum, archives, and scholarly collections and exhibitions.” They claim that “Its ‘five-minute setup’ makes launching an online exhibition as easy as launching a blog.” Given this—might the UM exhibits provide a useful model for classroom projects for the more tech-saavy among you?

Monday, November 21, 2011

National History Day in Montana, 2011-12

The Montana Historical Society is very pleased to be a cosponsor of National History Day (NHD) in Montana.

Spearheaded by our friends at MSU-Billings, NHD is a competition open to students grades 6-12. Students are challenged to research a historical topic of their choice related to an annual theme (this year’s theme is “Revolution, Reaction, Reform in History”). They use their research to produce a documentary, exhibit, paper, performance or website.

Students then present their projects at competitions at the school, regional, state and national levels. In Montana, students may compete at the state competition without competing in a regional or classroom competition first, but participating in a classroom or regional competition—or both—is highly recommended, so students have a chance to revise their projects based on feedback from the judges before coming to state.

Across the country, over half a million students participate in NHD annually, and the program is excellent tool for helping students develop research skills, the ability to analyze, and a deeper understanding of the importance of history. Montana schools’ participation in National History Day has grown markedly over the last few years due to the determined efforts of Tom Rust (state coordinator) and Michael Scarlett (assistant state coordinator).

This year, there will be two regional competitions—one in Billings (likely March 17, but exact date to be confirmed) and one at Travelers Rest State Park in Lolo (March 31)—as well as many school and classroom competitions. The Montana Historical Society will be hosting the statewide competition in Helena on April 21, 2012. Winners of the statewide competition will be eligible to participate in the national competition in Washington, D.C.


More information on National History Day is available through the Society’s website. This page provides links to state and national NHD pages as well as ideas for Montana topics that fit this year’s team, from “Chief Plenty Coups of the Crow” to the “Missoula Free Speech Fight of 1909.” In addition to suggesting topics, historians at the Society have provided preliminary bibliographies to get students started on their research.

In addition, Tom Rust, Michael Scarlett, and their staff are happy to lend personal assistance to teachers looking for help integrating National History Day into their curriculum, who have questions about how to set up a classroom competition, or just want more information about the program. You can find their contact information here.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


The Montana Office of Public Instruction Indian Education division has gathered resources to teach about Thanksgiving in a way that includes and honors native perspectives. Other Thanksgiving resources and lessons—many of the primary source based—can be found at the National History Education Clearinghouse's website, Teachinghistory.org

6th Annual IEFA Best Practices Conferences, Call for Proposals

The Indian Education office at OPI is looking for presenters for the 6TH ANNUAL BEST PRACTICES CONFERENCE, to be held Feb. 27-28, in Billings at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

The conference theme is Understanding our Differences, Valuing our Connections – Building and Maintaining Culturally Responsive Relationships
If you have knowledge or experience relating to this topic that you would be willing to share, consider submitting a conference presentation proposal. The deadline to submit is December 30. More information here

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mining Remains Dangerous Work

Pat Nelson, a Missouri teacher with Montana connections who attended “The Richest Hills” workshop last summer, alerted me to the recent tragic death of a miner at the Stillwater Mine. We tend to think of mining disasters as a thing of the past (notably the Smith Mine disaster in Bearcreek, 1943, and the Speculator Mine disaster in Butte, 1917.

But as Pat noted, “the tragedies continue today…lest we forget.”

In my quest to find out more about this recent deadly accident, I found this article in the Billings Gazette.

Even more moving was a comment I found in the comment section of an earlier Billings Gazette article: “There are around a thousand people employed by Stillwater. Add spouses, children, parents, siblings and you have a huge community who are grieving and stricken. We were all by our phones last night watching the clock, wondering why our men hadn’t come home yet...the news leaked out in trickles with co-workers calling each other, wives calling each other, off duty families consoling wives of guys who were on shift... With every doorbell ring of a trick or treater, we held our breaths to see the sheriff at the door.
Our sighs of relief when our men came home are replaced by tears and prayers for Madsen's family. We’re with you, you’re in our hearts, God Bless.”

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Happy Veterans Day

In honor of Veteran’s Day, the Society’s Archives staff selected letters from soldiers in the Society’s collection. They transcribed excerpts, which they shared at a public program last week as reader’s theater. [Update: You can hear Archives staff read some of these letters here.]

They also put together a booklet of these letters—an early draft of which you can download here.   

The earliest letter was written by Archibald Simons to his sister Nellie, on July 18, 1863, while he was serving in the Union Army in Tennessee. (Simons later became an Indian agent at Fort Belknap, which is why the letter ended up in the Society’s collection.

The most recent letter is an email from Capt. Cory Swanson of Helena, May 3, 2005, from Iraq.

Scans of the originals of John Harrison’s letters, transcribed in this booklet, can be found  in the Society’s digital footlocker, The Home Fires: Montana in World War II. Down the road, the Society may also scan more of these letters and place them on the Montana Memory Project. [Update: Mr. Harrison died on November 11, 2011--Veteran's Day--at age 98. His obituary paints a picture of an amazing man].

Additional resources and interesting links relating to Montanans during World War I and World War II can be found in the Montana: Stories of the Land Companion Website and Teachers Guide Chapter 16 (World War I) Chapter 19 (World War II), including artwork by Billings area Baatan Death March survivor Ben Steele.

The Library of Congress Veterans History Project includes links to oral histories and detailed instructions on how to conduct a veterans history project in your own classroom.

As I was composing this, Kathy Francisco from Project Archaeology sent me a link to this list of Indian warriors who fought against the 7th Cavalry at the Little Bighorn.  She learned about it at a presentation given by MSU grad student Veronica Maday on native women warriors, past and present.

Lots of angles, lots to read, lots of research possibilities….

Friday, November 4, 2011

Montana Tribal Histories: Educators Resource Guide and Companion DVD

I’m absolutely loving Julie Cajune’s “Montana Tribal Histories: Educators Resource Guide and Companion DVD”—produced by OPI’s Indian Education Office, which also sent copies to all Montana public school libraries. The guide is also available online

I’m especially loving the tribal history timelines she created...

And the primary sources she collected on the DVD....

And her use of specifics: Did you know that when the Flathead Indian Reservation was allotted, tribal members received only 245,000 acres of the 1,245,000 acre reservation?...

And the bite-sized chapters. A busy person might be intimidated by a 200-page resource guide—but you don’t have to read all 200 pages. Just turn to a chapter that aligns with other material you are teaching, or that seems particularly interesting to you, and you’ll get something that stands alone.

Does this resource have a strong point of view? You bet—which makes it a perfect vehicle for addressing Essential Understanding 6: “History is a story most often related through the subjective experience of the teller. With the inclusion of more and varied voices, histories are being rediscovered and revised. History told from an Indian perspective frequently conflicts with the stories mainstream historians tell.”

“Montana Tribal Histories: Educators Resource Guide” will make it dramatically easier to incorporate Indian perspectives and tribal history topics into Montana and American history curriculums. If you haven’t already explored it, I recommend taking a close look.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Your Favorite Richest Hills Lesson Plans

Last post I asked you to send me the name of your favorite lesson plan from among those created as part of The Richest Hills Workshop. And, to encourage participation, I offered a prize to the fourth person to respond.

I was thrilled at the response. Here are the lessons your colleagues found particularly noteworthy:

Jean Murphy of Havre wrote: “I’d say the most intriguing lesson plan to me was the one by Derek Frieling, St. Joseph, Missouri, 'Miners’ Messages' (Grades 11 & 4).  Letter writing is almost obsolete.  This is a wonderful idea.”
  • The lesson pairs a high school and grade school class. High school students take on the role of miners traveling to the West. Using an online forum, they will write home describing their experiences. Fourth-grade students will write letters of reply, taking on the role of family members of the miners that remained in the East.

Carol Flint of Frenchtown wrote, “My favorite is 'The Poor City on the Richest Hill' by Marla Unruh, Helena, MT.”
  • The Grades 4-5 lesson has students creating a 3-D model representing life in Butte at the turn of the twentieth century as a way to understand how wealth and poverty existed side by side; how the few used their power and what they did with their treasure; and how the many lived in poverty.

Gary Carmichael of Whitefish liked Eric Katz, New Rochelle, New York, 'Linking the West and East in U.S. Industrial Growth' (Grade 11). He said, “It had some political cartoons I had not seen before that I could incorporate into the lesson.”
  • The lesson has students analyze primary and secondary sources to consider connections between westward expansion and natural resource extraction in the West and the economic growth and industrial development of the eastern United States. 

Karin Flint of Missoula (the winner of the Charlie Russell Journal) found three lessons she’s thinking of using:

Pat Nelson, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, “The Role of the ‘Newsies’: New York, Butte, and St. Louis ” (designed for Grade 5—but Karin’s planning to use it with 7th graders)
  • Students will research child labor, the role of newsboys in history, and how children organized to make an impact and improve their own futures. 
Mark Johnson, Shanghai, China, “The Chinese Experience in the American West” (Grades 11-12) Resources (this is the murder mystery lesson plan featured in Monday’s post)

Patrice Schwenk, Missoula, Montana, “Sacred Art: Creating a Frontier Fresco” (Grades 9-12)

  • Students will understand how murals are used to communicate a community’s cultural traditions by examining the frescoed murals painted by Brother Joseph Carignano, S.J., in St. Francis Xavier Church, Missoula.

Ruth Ferris of Billings liked Linda Oesterle, Orchard Park, New York, “Long Ago and Today” (Kindergarten—described in Monday’s post) and Michelle B. Major, Rome, Georgia, “Perspectives from the Gulches” (Grade 8)
  • Students will evaluate primary source material (photos, newspapers, census, maps, court records, reminiscences, etc.) and use them to write a journal detailing life in a typical boom-and-bust mining town of the 1860s.

Betty Whiting, not a teacher but a historical fiction writer, was impressed with both “Long Ago and Today” and Mary Zbegner, Factoryville, Pennsylvania, “Using Primary Documents from the History of Montana to Inspire Historical Fiction Writing” (Grades 11-12)
  • Students will examine primary sources about Montana mining communities, 1865-1920, to become familiar with the process of writing historical fiction and to learn how research can lend authenticity to a piece of writing set in a specific age with a different life style.

Erin Oreilly from, I think Missoula, wrote “I find the murder mystery investigation [Mark Johnson, Shanghai, China, “The Chinese Experience in the American West” (Grades 11-12)] the most interesting. It is an idea outside of the box and would be interesting to many students.”

To find these lessons—and more—go directly to this link.

Too hard to remember? You can always go to the Montana Historical Society’s webpage. Then find the “Educator Resources page” in the “Outreach and Interpretation” dropdown menu. This is where we keep the goods. Scroll down Educator Resources until you find the link to “The Richest Hills” along with lots of other resources.

Thanks to all who took the time to comment!


p.s. If you actually end up teaching any of these lessons, I’d love to hear how it goes.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Lesson Plans on Mining and Primary Sources

Last summer we hosted an NEH Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshop for School Teachers. We called it “The Richest Hills, Mining in the Far West, 1865-1920.

During the workshop we brought 80 teachers (forty during the first week and forty during the second) from across the country to Montana. We took them to Virginia City, Butte and Helena, where they went on walking tours, engaged in hands-on activities (analyzing photographs, historic structures, immigration records), and listened to experts talk about mining and its impact on Montana. At the end of the week, the teachers who attended the workshop created lesson plans inspired by their experiences.
These lesson plans are now online: http://www.archiva.net/richesthills/richesthills_11_projects.html 

Most of them deal with some aspect of Montana’s mining history—but not all of them do. (The assignment was to create something you would actually use in your class, using some of the strategies or information you gained during the week.)

They include lesson plans for Kindergarten through Grade 12—and were written by elementary, history, language arts, technology, and science teachers. Some are 50 minute lessons, others are multi-week units. Many include links to primary sources, some of which were digitized specifically for the lessons. (Newspapers reporting on the Speculator Mine Disaster, anyone?)

Here are a few examples:

Linda Oesterle, Orchard Park, New York , “Long Ago and Today” (Kindergarten): Students will examine photographs of the past and present to determine the subjects and to determine the differences/similarities between today and long ago.

Michelle B. Major, Rome, Georgia, “Perspectives from the Gulches” (Grade 8): Students will evaluate primary source material (photos, newspapers, census, maps, court records, reminiscences, etc.) and use them to write a journal detailing life in a typical boom-and-bust mining town of the 1860s.

Mark Johnson, Shanghai, China, “The Chinese Experience in the American West” (Grades 11-12): Students will investigate a 1870s murder mystery by analyzing primary and secondary sources. In so doing, they will gain research and analysis skills while deepening their understanding of American immigration policies, the gold rush, the transcontinental railroad, American foreign policy, and the Chinese experience in the West. (Digitized resources for this lesson are here: Resources.)

I didn’t get to issue a prize for the last contest (favorite tech tool) because I didn’t get seven responses. Undaunted, I’m going to try again, hoping it will encourage some of you to explore these lesson plans: http://www.archiva.net/richesthills/richesthills_11_projects.html

So—for the prize: Which of these lessons do you find most intriguing (or which are you most likely to use)? Prize (a Charlie Russell Journal) goes to the FOURTH person to email me an answer at mkohl@mt.gov.

Happy hunting.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Three Cheers for Digitization

Archivist friends frequently remind me that you can’t find EVERYTHING online—and they also point out that looking at a digitized primary source is never as satisfying as examining the real thing, in person. I agree wholeheartedly and cheer every time I hear about students conducting research at their county historical society, or here in Helena. And yet—I’m amazed at how much primary source material is being digitized. What a great boon that is for researchers (students and otherwise.)

Here are two recently completed digitization projects of potential interest to Montana students and teachers:

The Minnesota Historical Society has just digitized an entire series regarding Glacier National Park in the Louis W. Hill manuscript collection, including visitor statistics, park brochures, hotel blueprints, and park maps. The bulk of the content digitized is dated between 1910 and 1930.

Liberty County Library has added more than 5,000 Liberty County obituaries from 1905 to 2010 to the Montana Memory Project.  Just search the index—the first item in the collection—for a surname and you’ll be directed to the “binder” containing that obituary.

And here’s an ongoing digitization project worth noting:

The Library of Congress’s digital newspaper site Chronicling America now includes the following Montana newspapers:
•      Over 1,000 issues of the daily Anaconda Standard (1889 to September 1892)
•       The complete run of the weekly Virginia City, Mont., Montana Post (1864-69)
•       Over 2,000 issues of the Miles City, Mont., Daily Yellowstone Journal (1884-90)

In total, the site now hosts more than 18,000 pages from historical Montana papers, with 32,000 more expected by December 2011. The text of every page is searchable. Just type in a word or phrase and instantly retrieve all newspaper pages on which it appears.

Happy researching.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tech Tools for Teachers

September and October have seemed a little like one long conference/workshop (Montana History Conference, Montana Festival of the Book, Mountain Plains Museum Association, MEA-MFT Educators Conference). I’m just now unpacking and rediscovering some of the exciting resources I was introduced to during the last whirlwind months.

At the Montana History Conference, collaborators from Teaching with Primary Sources helped us present a one-day workshop on, well, teaching with primary sources. They also pulled together a fabulous list of technology tools that work well with teaching with primary sources

What makes the list fabulous? First—all the tools listed are web-based and free for educators to use. Second, for each tool, the list includes the following:
  • a description of the tool
  • basic instructions for use
  • suggested ways to integrate the tool with:
    • inquiry learning
    • 21st century skills
    • literacy tools
  • an example of how the tool could be used to teach with primary sources
  • a list of similar tools 
I tend to be a little skittish about learning new technology—but I know that if I can get past my initial fear, I’ll love many of these free programs. So—I’m committing to learning how to use one of these tools before December 31. Which of them do you use? How and why? Which do you recommend I try first?

Happy (Belated) Archaeology Day

Archaeology Day was officially Saturday, October 22. A belated happy archaeology day to all of you—and a link to a New York Times article on the amazing work being done at the Crow Agency site at Absorkee. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Elouise Cobell, Modern Warrior

Elouise Cobell made history. Below are links to a few articles and tributes, celebrating her life and mourning her passing. She will be missed

“Elouise Cobell was a hero and she will be missed,” Great Falls Tribune; Oct. 18, 2011, http://www.greatfallstribune.com/article/20111018/OPINION/110180313/Cobell-downplayed-hero-status-hero-she-was 

“Plaintiff for the Past,” New York Times, October 17, 2011:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/18/opinion/plaintiff-for-the-past.html?_r=1&src=tp&smid=fb-share
“Cobell v. Salazar Settlement Website,” http://www.indiantrust.com/

Elouise Cobell obituary and guest book (Washington Post): http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/washingtonpost/obituary.aspx?n=elouise-cobell&pid=154184931
“Elouise Cobell — Died Oct. 16, 2011: A warrior woman will be laid to rest,” Buffalo’s Fire, http://buffalosfire.com/?p=3266

Monday, October 17, 2011

More to Do at MEA

Some good friends have directed my attention to other sessions at the MEA-MFT Educator's Conference (October 20-21, 2011, in Missoula) that may be of interest to you all:

Decoding the Documents, Friday 9:00AM - 9:50AM, SHS 175 Shawn Orr & Anna Baldwin
In this interactive session, an elementary Indian Studies teacher and a high school English teacher demonstrate how to incorporate primary sources from Indian studies to enhance students’ literacy and reflection skills through the use of Best Practice pedagogy focusing on synthesis, written/oral response, effective group work, and a powerful Socratic circle. (I actually attended this last year at MIEA and was blown away. Fifth graders, reading and understanding the Hellgate Treaty? Way cool.)

Interacting with the Past: Classroom Archaeology, Thursday,  8:00AM -  8:50AM, SHS 236 Montana Archaeological Society
Join us and learn how to bring archaeology into your classroom using interactive, hands-on lessons. These lessons use culturally relevant material to bring social studies, math, and literacy into the classroom through guided inquiry. Take these lessons home and start using them immediately in your classroom!

Imposing Boundaries: Crow Indian Agencies, Thursday, 11:00AM -  11:50AM, SHS 176 Project Archaeology
Join us for a trip back in time to learn about the reservation period through the lens of archaeology. You will have the opportunity to learn the history of the Crow Indian Agencies and take home the unit, Changing Land; Changing Life: Archaeology in the Apsaalooke Homeland.

Lots of good stuff to choose from!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

See you in Missoula?

If you are going to be in Missoula next week for MEA, make sure to stop by our booth to say hello.

You may also to attend one of the following sessions:

Primary Sources in 4-12 Social Studies, Friday, 8:00AM - 9:50AM, SHS 252
MHS Reference Historian Zoe Ann Stoltz will share ways to introduce students to the power of using Primary Documents in their research. You’ll have the opportunity to practice analyzing original maps, letters, artwork, photos, and newspapers and see how working with these sources can improve media literacy while making history real and personal.

Primary Sources 2.0: Technology Meets the LOC, Thursday, 2:00PM - 3:50PM, or Friday, 8:00AM -  9:50AM, SHS 171 (PC Lab)
Colorado Teacher of the Year Michelle Pearson will lead teachers in an exploration of Library of Congress resources and how they fit with Montana state standards through the use of inquiry activities for multiple levels and skill sets. Web 2.0 tools will be shared/used as a means to discuss 21st Century skills and primary sources for students.

NEH: Landmarks of Montana History Do Matter, Thursday, 10:00AM - 10:50AM, SHS 240
Want to learn about Pearl Harbor in Pearl Harbor, the Aztecs in Mexico, or Emily Dickinson in Amherst? Or—closer to home, how about a weeklong intensive study of western mining history on site in Virginia City, Helena, and Butte? Sentinel High School Teacher Cheryl Hughes and Colorado Teacher of the Year Michelle Pearson will introduce educators to the amazing opportunities for stipended summer learning as well as to the diverse resources created by the teachers who participated in The Richest Hills: Landmarks of American History workshop sponsored by the Montana Historical Society and the National Endowment for the Humanities during the summer of 2011.

National History Day, Friday, 10:00AM-11:50AM, SHS 236
MHS Historical Specialist Martha Kohl will discuss the hows and whys of the National History Day program—a great program for encouraging students become historians. for those already participating, gain tools to maximize its potential for authentic student learning. Over half a million students across the nation participate in this highly regarded academic program for students grades 6-12. Learn how you can use National History Day to incorporate inquiry learning, primary source research, and analytical thinking while engaging students through exciting competitions and project-based instruction.

IEFA: The Benefits of School/Museum Partnerships, Thursday, 9:00AM -  9:50AM, SHS 175
Casey Olsen, the Montana Writing Project and Columbus High School, will discuss the success his school has found in fulfilling Indian Education for All (IEFA) by working closely with its local county museum. Images, student writing samples, and strategies will be shared. Any school in Montana can find their entry point into IEFA by starting where they are.

Place-Based Ed, Fort Parker: Crossroads of Culture, Thursday, 1:00PM -  1:50PM, SHS 215
Merrilee Bryan and other teachers from Livingston’s East Side School will discuss their students’ participation in the “Best Practices in Museum Education: Museums and Schools as Co-Educators,” a joint collaboration between the Montana Historical Society and the Office of Public Instruction. Livingston fifth graders participated in a historical unit and field day at Fort Parker, the first Crow Agency. The IEFA place-based project fostered a sense of community, sowed the seeds of stewardship, and immersed students in the local history.

These are all of the workshops MHS has had a hand in, either directly or tangentially—but I found other several workshops on Montana history and/or primary sources and/or archaeology that looked well worth attending too.

Can’t get to MEA but need renewal units? Try one of our online modules.

p.s. MHS is also hosting the Mountain Plains Museum Association meeting next week in Helena. Lots of interesting learning opportunities there, too.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Montana Conversations: Speakers in Schools Now Available

Humanities Montana has created a new Speakers in the Schools program. This FREE program provides over 70 presentations on a variety of topics appropriate for middle and high school students. Find more information here:

Or contact Kim Anderson (kim.anderson@humanitiesmontana.org) for more information about bringing conversation leaders to a classroom near you.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

My (Current) Top 5

After sharing all of the responses we received from classroom teachers re favorite resources/lesson plans, I couldn’t resist adding my two cents. For what it’s worth, here is a list of my current favorite resources/lessons the Montana Historical Society has online (always subject to change, of course).

The powerpoint/lesson plan "Railroads Transform Montana" emphasizes how trains affected the social, economic, and physical landscape of Montana. This complements Chapter 9 of Montana: Stories of the Land, but can also stand alone.

Mapping Montana, A to Z, Lesson Plan. Using the state highway map, the students map a route across the state, use the city index to locate specific places and the map key to determine distance, town size, road type, and more. Then, using Montana Place Names, Alzada to Zortman (available both in book form and online) they’ll learn more about the places along their route.

"Mining Sacred Ground: Environment, Culture, and Economic Development on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation" is a learning activity designed to familiarize students with an important and contentious issue now facing Montana's native peoples: whether or not to develop their reservations’ coal and coal-bed methane resources. The lesson challenges students to better appreciate the complexities of promoting resource-based economic development when such action conflicts with traditional cultural values.

I’ve always been a fan of the Learning from Historical Documents lessons that accompany most of the textbook chapters. (We chose a few primary source documents to complement almost every chapter of the textbook; we then posted copies of the original documents, typed excerpts for easy reading, and added a paragraph of context and a link to a document analysis worksheet.) My favorite of all the documents we posted is the letter from Chief Victor to Territorial Governor Sidney Edgerton (chapter 7).

Once more to the textbook: Montana: Stories of the Land’s end-of-chapter review pages are rich with ideas for discussion and engaging projects. The answer keys (which I suspect are an underutilized source) don’t provide grading rubrics—instead they provide the background information you need to be able to lead a discussion on some of the more complicated topics (Indian Reorganization Act, anyone?), ideas for implementing projects, and links to resources.  My idiosyncratic favorite is Chapter 22 Critical Thinking Question #5: Create a list of the five things you think have had the greatest impact on life in Montana throughout human history. Explain your choices.

I like the question because, after immersing yourself in the details of Montana’s rich history,  it makes you step back and ask yourself—what are the big ideas/big events that shaped this place? I also like it because there is no one right answer. The question can be used as a culminating project/lesson even if your Montana class doesn’t cover the entire range of Montana history (students will simply pick events from the eras they studied). Students could make timelines (individually or as a class) focusing on the events they choose, write paragraphs defending their choices, debate the merits of their choices, or hold a vote to determine a class Top 5 list from the events on students’ individual lists.

We’ve heard a lot of great things about the Place Names lesson from teachers—but much less about my other favorites. If you’ve taught/teach any of these, I’d love to hear from you. Would you use them again? How, if at all, we can make these (or any of our) lessons better? It’s one thing to have favorites from the vantage of my desk in the historical society, but the real test is whether they work in the classroom—and only you can tell us that.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Deadline Extended to Pilot a Model Lesson Plan for IEFA


For the past six years, the Indian Education Division has been engaged in the development of curriculum materials to support Indian Education for All.  For 2011-2012 it will provide an opportunity for teachers to use the resources that have been developed to structure their own professional development around that effort.  The pilot program will allow teachers to choose a model lesson to teach, collaborate with a colleague to arrange for classroom observation, and provide feedback on the lesson/unit.  Awards will be paid directly to the teacher and observer for preparation time and time for providing feedback to OPI.  The pilot will be funded at various levels, ranging from $90-$700, depending on the amount of preparation time, length of the unit and time for feedback.

Questions? Contact Mike Jetty – 444-0720, mjetty@mt.gov
Please see the OPI Indian Education website for application form and further details. http://opi.mt.gov/Programs/IndianEd/Index.html

Friday, September 30, 2011

Favorite Resources/Lessons Part 4

Here’s the final installment of teachers' answers to the question: “Describe (in brief) the best Montana history or IEFA lesson/project resource your taught this year--the one you will make time for next year no matter what.”

I Can't Have Bannock But the Beaver Has a Dam by Bernelda Wheeler ISBN: 0-895411-48-3. —Ruth Ferris, Washington School Billings, MT

A unit on Indian Boarding Schools. Using the DVD - Into the West  in conjunction with the textbook and primary sources.  Students were very interested.
Two teachers found significance in powwows. One wrote: “In my school I have 2 high school students that take part in powwows as Traditional and Grass Dancers.  My most successful lessons--as expected--center around their teaching me about their culture.” The other wrote: “I taught a powwow lesson that included the dances and regalia. We learned protocol and courtesies. We ended encouraging students to attend the local powwow.”

I cannot say that there is a best project--we enhance our literature readings with learning more about local and US history. I tell all of my classes that we cannot understand literature until we fully understand the history behind it. We use the following novels in my six English classes to learn more about history: The Big Burn (fires of 1910; the development of the Forest Service); The Jungle (immigration; life in 1910); O Pioneers! (homesteading); Indian Creek Chronicles (Selway Bitterroot wilderness and study of place; finding place in our own lives); This House of Sky (study of place; researching local records and newspaper archives); Winter Wheat (region, school history); Letters from Yellowstone (regional place and history—narratives); Speaking Ill of the Dead (researching and interviewing); Vantha's Whisper & The Greatest Generation (Veterans and War); The Coffin Quilt (boundaries, feuds, history and importance of quilts through time); Grapes of Wrath and To Kill a Mockingbird (Depression-era both at a local and national level). I am happy to share ideas or resources I have used--many of these are already posted on our school's website. —Darlene Beck, Townsend High School

I made a match of the reservations and a map on the smart board and slowly added population and other cool facts for the kids to work with.  I also liked the Thanksgiving resources. [Note: I’m not sure which Thanksgiving resources this teacher is referring to—perhaps http://www.opi.mt.gov/PDF/IndianEd/HotTopics/ModelLesson_1621.pdf]

Monday, September 26, 2011

Indian Education for All Resources and Opportunities

Our friends at the Indian Education Division of the Office of Public Instruction are offering some exciting new resources and opportunities.

1. Sent to all public schools in Montana, and also available as a downloadable PDF: Montana Tribal Histories: Educators Resource Guide and Companion DVD, Developed by award-winning Salish educator Julie Cajune, http://opi.mt.gov/pdf/IndianEd/Resources/11TribalHistoriesRG.pdf

This resource guide provides brief Montana Tribal Histories Narratives, beginning with traditional life and aboriginal homelands. Chronologically following federal policy periods through their impact on tribes, it incorporates extensive endnotes and refers to material created by Montana’s tribal colleges as part of the Montana Tribal History Project.

While not a comprehensive history, the narrative is intended to provide a basic foundation of the historic storyline of tribes for core content guidance. The section labeled Content Topics and Classroom Activities, following each Narrative chapter, includes a variety of significant topics throughout history that have been identified, along with suggestions for their application in classroom activities. Next in order in each chapter are Model Lesson Plans (ranging from elementary to high school, with many being adaptable to several grade levels). The Teaching Tools section includes a “Source Analysis Form” that could be used with many lessons, as well as “Word Map” and “Story Board” forms and other helpful templates. The guide concludes with a Resource List of sources cited and other reference support. Finally, the resource includes a Companion DVD that includes: Montana Tribal History Timelines, listed in alphabetical order by reservation; Primary and Secondary Source Documents, which are utilized in some of the lessons, but not all; Film Interviews: Anna Whiting Sorrell and Dan Decker; and, a Slide Show of archival photos of children in traditional settings and in Indian Boarding School settings.

2. Sent to all public schools serving grades 3 – 6: Teacher’s Guide and DVD – Montana Skies: Blackfeet Astronomy and Teacher’s Guide and DVD – Montana Skies: Crow Astronomy (Also found on the OPI Indian Education website with Curriculum Resources: http://opi.mt.gov/Programs/IndianEd/curricsearch.html—search astronomy in title field.)

I saw a presentation on these two resources at the Montana Indian Education Association meeting last spring and was blown away. The DVDs and lesson plans Integrate  traditional oral star stories, told by elders and students, with ethno-astronomy and contemporary astronomy concepts. The DVDs and Teacher’s Guides provide suggested activities, lessons and resources linked to the Essential Understandings Regarding Montana Indians and Montana Content Standards in Science, Social Studies, and the Arts.

Funding is available for IEFA projects to “ bring history and contemporary issues alive, collaborate with tribal and non-tribal experts, and experience transformative student learning.” Public school districts or consortiums of public schools that have not previously received Indian Education for All grants are invited to apply. Grant awards are available in a range of approximately $1,000 to $10,000 for each project.  Applications are due October 24. http://opi.mt.gov/Programs/IndianEd/Update_Listings/NewsStories/2011-09-15_104705.html

For the past six years, the Indian Education Division has been engaged in the development of curriculum materials to support Indian Education for All. For 2011-2012 they will provide an opportunity for teachers to use the resources that have been developed to structure their own professional development around that effort. The pilot program will allow teachers to choose a model lesson to teach, collaborate with a colleague to arrange for classroom observation, and provide feedback on the lesson/unit. Awards will be paid directly to the teacher and observer for preparation time and time for providing feedback to OPI. The pilot will be funded at various levels, ranging from $90-$700, depending on the amount of preparation time, length of the unit and time for feedback. http://opi.mt.gov/Programs/IndianEd/Update_Listings/NewsStories/2011-09-08_115342.html

Teaching with Primary Sources

I just returned from Missoula for the Thirty-eighth Annual Montana History Conference, including a Thursday workshop on Teaching with Primary Sources, cosponsored by the Library of Congress, Teaching with Primary Sources-Western Region. Thus, it felt fitting to find this post on “Top Ten Tips for Facilitating an Effective Primary Source Analysis”: http://blogs.loc.gov/teachers/2011/09/top-ten-tips-for-facilitating-an-effective-primary-source-analysis/

Those who weren't able to attend the conference, but would like to learn more about integrating primary sources in your classrooms—while earning renewal units—might be interested in taking some of the six online modules put together by Library of Congress. Each module takes about an hour and addresses one of the following topics:
            Introduction to the Library of Congress
            Supporting Inquiry with Primary Sources
            Copyright and Primary Sources
            Analyzing Primary Sources: Photographs and Prints
            Analyzing Primary Sources: Maps
            Finding Primary Sources

We have links to these modules (along with brief quizzes, which you can take to earn OPI Renewal units). Click here for more information: http://mhs.mt.gov/Education/OnlineProDevelop.aspx

In addition, our friends at TPS-Western Region put together a “wiki” with resources for those attending the Educator workshop—but those who can’t make it might enjoy these links too: https://montana2011mhs.pbworks.com/w/page/44589456/Montana%20History%20Conference

Happy learning.


p.s. A note on the last post re favorite resources: One teacher recommended Joseph Bruchac’s Code Talker.  I just found out that the Indian Education Division of OPI has a middle school-level Model Unit Plan for the book. Link here:  http://www.opi.mt.gov/pdf/IndianEd/Search/Language%20Arts/Middle_Code%20Talker%20A%20Novel%20About%20the%20Navajo%20Marines%20of%20WWII.pdf.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Favorite Lessons/Resource Part 3

Here’s the third installment of your fellow teachers’ answers to the question: “Describe (in brief) the best Montana history or IEFA lesson/project resource your taught this year--the one you will make time for next year no matter what.”

Montana Place Names lesson plan (http://mhs.mt.gov/Portals/11/education/docs/PlaceNamesLessonPlans.pdf)

In Montana History (sophomores) we did gold panning. It was so extremely fun and the kids really got into it. I just picked up a bunch of sand at the home store and bought different size fishing weights and nuts. Each size had a different value when the "miners" brought their finds into the "assayer's" office. We learned the proper technique of placer mining and also learned the pitfalls and wins of gambling. We tried to make it a realistic mining town, hence, the entertainment offered was a little game of chance with the dice. One group won big, but the other 5 lost pretty much everything. Most of them learned that they would rather just work away at their claims rather than take the risk. We also learned it takes a long time to make a living, depending on the claim you have and how many other people have been there before you. 

Code Talkers, by Joseph Bruchac (New York : Dial Books, 2005)

US History Students (gr10) choose one of MT's tribes to research, write a paper, and present a display board. They cover aspects of culture, spiritual, geography, government, legends, leaders, men's roles & women's roles, enemies.... Another great IEFA project was the Reader's Theater. "The Great Peace Council of 1855," prepared by Sally Thompson, Kim Lugthart, Margaret Scott.--Sheryl Burnham, Saco High School

Montana Mosaic DVD (http://mhs.mt.gov/Education/MontanaMosaic.aspx).

I'm in the resource business - so didn't actually 'teach" any lessons - but our library was very active in helping teachers and students locate resources.  We had several events here over the years with IEFA - mostly lunch & learns that the library initiated that were supported by classroom teachers and well attended by students - We had Henry Real Bird, MT Poet Laureate here reading poetry and talking to kids, Crow tribal members showing students bead work and talking about beading (which resulted in a beading "crew" who now sew on graduation caps of graduating Seniors if they want...), we had a lunch & learn with panels from the Western Heritage Center that showed current Northern Cheyenne and Crow tribal members and had two of those members come and present.

I found that the Glacier/100 year celebration was a great learning experience, not only for the vast state history but also for the relationship to Montana Native Americans. [Editorial note: Those interesting in this may want to check out the Montana Historical Society’s hands-on history footlocker: http://mhs.mt.gov/Portals/11/education/docs/footlocker/GlacierFtLkrR5.pdf]  

More favorites yet to come….

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Resources for Teaching Archaeology and the Pre-Contact Period

It is the beginning of the school year, so I bet at least some of you are teaching Montana’s earliest history.

If so, you might enjoy this blog entry on the importance of context to interpreting artifacts. It does a good job explaining how archaeology is different than an Indian Jones style treasure hunt.

Want a quick primer on the Bering Strait controversy? Click here

Montana Ancient Teachings, a curriculum aimed at fourth grade, offers a great look at how archaeologists work and what that science suggests about the lives of Montana’s first peoples.

 The Montana Historical Society has created a 50 minute lesson plan, "What They Left Behind," to accompany this PowerPoint presentation on the various types of archaeological sites found in Montana.

Many people don’t realize how important trade was to the earliest Montanans—and how far goods traveled by boat and with dog travois. "Native American Trade Routes and the Barter Economy" includes two learning activities designed for use in grades seven through nine. Activity One, "Resources and Routes," focuses primarily on mapping pre-contact trade routes, with a special emphasis on Montana. Activity Two, "Trading Times," asks students to simulate the process through which various products from different regional tribes were bartered and disseminated to gain a better understanding of pre-contact barter economy and how it compares with the modern-day cash economy.

Links to all of these resources (except the blog post on the importance of context) can be found on the “For Educators” page of the Chapter 2, “People of the Dog Days” section of the Montana: Stories of the Land Companion Website and Online Teacher’s Guide.

Finally, starting October 3, our friends at Project Archaeology are offering an online professional development course, “Investigating Shelter.” Contact Crystal Alegria at (406) 994-6925 or calegria@montana.edu.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Favorite Lessons/Resources Part 2

As promised, here are more of responses from your fellow teachers to the question: “Describe (in brief) the best Montana history or IEFA lesson/project resource your taught this year--the one you will make time for next year no matter what.”

Native American Biography Book Project: Students pick a current Native American and go through the process of writing a "book" about their person. They learn all the parts of a book and how to organize the information about their famous Native American. Computer skills are learned as well as most write their book on the computer and learn how to save and insert pictures etc.

I use a Blackfeet creation story from a George Grinnell book to teach some Blackfeet vocabulary. We find specific words in the story and illustrate them and write their names in Blackfeet and English on the drawings. These are posted the rest of the year. We also fill in a Venn diagram to compare and contrast the Blackfeet creation story to the land bridge theory in our social studies textbook.

Two teachers talked about technology projects they do around Lewis and Clark. Jim Holland, (7th grade history, Townsend), breaks the Corps travel through Montana into 8-10 chapters and the students work in groups to use the online Moulton edited journals at the University of Nebraska to find out about flora, fauna, landmarks, and events during the days they are responsible for.  Each group creates a PowerPoint. Then they run the PowerPoints in chronological order to tell the whole story.  It takes about 3 weeks of researching and prep and 3 weeks in a computer lab to complete the project.

Cindy Mapson has her third and fourth graders in Denton also do a Technology project on the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  “My students learned research skills, PowerPoint, flip cameras, digital cameras, and then made a CPS unit review and quiz.  They each researched their Corps member and did a PowerPoint on the person.  From their PP they produced a first person dialog about themselves as the Corps member. We did 1st person interviews on the Flip video cameras as my students were dressed as one of the Corps members each.  We then made a movie about the Corps members.  We took a fieldtrip to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and read a novel book in our reading class about the Expedition.  Students took pictures while we were at the L&C Center that they thought they would use in the final book we made together as a class.” 

Stay tuned for future installments.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Favorite Lessons/Resources, Part 1

Last spring (before the listserv went on hiatus) I sent out a survey that included this question:

“Describe (in brief) the best Montana history or IEFA lesson, project, or resource your taught this year--the one you will make time for next year no matter what.”

Thanks to all who responded! Listservers shared a lot of good ideas, which I will divide up into a couple of posts. So, without further ado, some of your fellow teachers’ favorite lessons/resources (part 1):

Montana History--Reading Hattie Big Sky and using the Montana Mosaic videos regarding Homesteading; Indian Education for All--new Montana History textbook; video clips from "Dreamkeeper" depicting tribal stories from different Plains Indian tribes; resources from Project Archaeology.–Marla Bray, Sleeping Giant Middle School, Livingston, Montana, Grade 7 Montana History

Unit on Playing for the World - published by OPI (http://opi.mt.gov/Programs/IndianEd/curricsearch.html)
I think my junior high students enjoyed putting on a trial for Henry Plummer. They definitely enjoyed playing different people that might have been part of a trial had there been one.  It was also fun to see them get involved in researching the different people and the time period.   

My World Cultures class used the curriculum from Project Archaeology to examine Crow tipis including a field trip to tipi rings along the Madison River and the Buffalo Jump.  I used that unit to transition into their own homes and what they can tell about their family's culture based on their homes and lives. (Several other teachers gave Project Archaeology rave reviews as well. You can order their curriculum for $45 from Crystal Alegria at 406.994.6925 or calegria@montana.edu, or get it as part of your registration fee if you attend one of their workshops. Next workshop is Sept. 17 at Pictograph Cave State Park.)

Google Earth. My kids were fascinated. We used it to compare reservations, towns, and counties.—Susan Schemmel, Dodson MT

I had my 7th graders conduct a local history project - researching local buildings and their histories. They had a fun time doing it and were able to make use of our local Daniels County Museum, a first for all of them regarding the archives. We used the Architecture Trunk from MHS as a lead-in to our research.-- Bryan Pechtl, Scobey Schools, Social Studies, Grades 7,8,10,11,12

There’s still time to share. What’s the one lesson you are going to make sure to do this year?