I’m proud as punch to announce that we have added a new lesson plan to our website: “Thinking Like a Historian: Using Digital Newspapers in the Classroom,” created by Billings school librarian Ruth Chandler Ferris. Easily adaptable for use in grades 4-8, the lesson asks students to exercise their historical imaginations while introducing them to the research process, the richness of historic newspapers, and the social history of gold-rush era Montana.
We have placed links to the lesson plan on our website's Educator Resources page and in the “For Educators” section of Chapter 6 (“Montana’s Gold and Silver Boom”) on the Montana: Stories of the Land Companion Website and Online Teachers Guide.
The lesson provides a good entrée to Chronicling America, an amazing website jointly sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress. At this site you can find digitized, searchable newspaper pages from across the nation—as of last October, 4.1 million searchable pages from 581 newspaper titles, published in 25 states and the District of Columbia between 1836 and 1922.
The site continues to grow, as libraries—including the Montana Historical Society—digitize their newspaper collections. The Society has received two National Digital Newspaper Program grants to digitize Montana titles. Currently online from our collection are
- (Virginia City) Montana Post, August 27, 1864-June 11, 1869:
- (Miles City) Daily Yellowstone Journal, October 18, 1882- December 31, 1890;
- Anaconda Standard, September 4, 1889-Dec. 4, 1897; and
- (Lewistown) Fergus County Argus, January 1, 1891-December 28, 1904.
More are coming! You can find out which other Montana titles and date ranges are scheduled to be digitized here.
While there is no doubt that Chronicling America is an amazing resource, it is also true that it can be daunting to first time users. That’s where this lesson plan comes in. Don’t have much time but want to tantalize your students with a taste of what life was like 150 years ago? Just use the scavenger hunt (p. 6). Want to introduce your students to primary source research through a study of the Montana gold rush? This is your plan.
As you can tell, I really like this lesson—but it’s really what YOU think that’s important—so check it out and let us know.