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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

DEADLINE EXTENDED UNTIL OCTOBER 14

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