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Monday, May 7, 2012

Interested in Participating in the Big Read Next Year?

Heads up!  The Montana Historical Society has applied for a Big Read grant. 

Assuming funding comes through, this may be a project you want to participate in if you
  • teach in a rural Montana high school,
  • are interested in combining the study of literature and history, and 
  • believe in having students engage in projects that connect them to their community.
Intrigued? Read on.

The Big Read—funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services—is designed to restore reading to the center of American culture and bring the transformative power of literature into the lives of all citizens. Learn more about The Big Read here.

The Montana Historical Society's Big Read program is designed to put students squarely at its center, giving them an essential role to play. Our experience with other place-based education initiatives has shown that students can engage adults and community members in ways others cannot. Thus, focusing on students has the potential of making this literary and cultural expedition more meaningful to the entire community. And—by giving the students an opportunity to play a significant and meaningful role in their town—it will empower and connect them back to older community members and to the community itself. Should you choose to participate in this program, your investment in the classroom will strengthen community connections and bring the power of literature alive—for both students and their elders.

If we receive funding, we will be looking to partner with five rural high schools across the state (see below for more information). We will be pairing Willa Cather’s My Antonia with Ellen Baumler’s Girl from the Gulches: The Story of Mary Ronan. Programming would start next November and need to be concluded by May 31, 2013. Participating teachers would need to commit to attending a training session in November, commit to teaching both My Antonia and Girl from the Gulches (we will provide books), and commit to having students engage in a project (or projects) that will encourage community members to read one or both books.

We will receive official notice of our grant status in July. After that, we will solicit applications, and from those applications, choose five.  If you think you might be interested in participating please email Kirby Lambert at Klambert@mt.gov with summer contact information so we can be sure to keep you in the loop when (fingers crossed) we receive the grant.  

If the we receive our Big Read grant, here’s what you need to know.

Schedule:
  • Applications due September 28, 2012
  • Awards announced by October 5, 2012
  • Training seminar November 2012 (exact dates TBA)
  • Teachers will pick up materials when they’re at the November training seminar 
  • All projects must be completed and money spent before May 31, 2013
Commitment:

At least two teachers from each selected high school must commit to the project (ideally this will include a team comprised of an English teacher and a social studies teacher, but this is negotiable).

Participants must:
  • Agree to credit the Big Read and MHS as required.
  • Be interested in heritage education and using primary resources in the classroom.
  • Be willing to have their students read My Antonia and share it with the community in some way as described in the project narrative below.
  • Be willing to have their students read and complete projects related to Girl from the Gulches: The Story of Mary Ronan as described in the project narrative below.
  • Be willing to attend a training seminar in Helena (this will require an absence of two days from the classroom)
  • Promote interaction, via social media, between participating students in the different communities. 
  • Report required information—dates and locations of project events, attendance figures, etc—to MHS in a timely fashion.
  • Submit a short, final project report no later than May 31, 2013.
Benefits:
  • It will be fun and educational.
  • We will provide one copy of My Antonia to each participating student and instructor and classroom sets of Girl from the Gulches: The Story of Mary Ronan 
  • We will provide copies of My Antonia to share with your community.
  • We will send a Cather scholar to present a public program for your community
  • We will send MHS Interpretive Historian Ellen Baumler to instruct students on local history research and conduct public programs on Mary Ronan and related themes.
  • You will gain access to Big Read resources (curriculum resources, sample press releases, etc.) 
  • You will gain access to MHS resources relating heritage education 
  • Travel scholarships will cover or defray costs association with the training seminar.
  • We will provide training in teaching with primary sources and in heritage education techniques. 
  • You will be eligible for OPI renewal units and continuing education credits.
Project narrative (taken from the Big Read grant application):

The Montana Historical Society Library and Education programs (hereafter MHS) will introduce a new generation of Montanans to the joys of literature and the writing of Willa Cather by working 5 small, rural high schools around the state. We have completed two Big Read projects (THE GRAPES OF WRATH, 2008/2009 and the poems and stories of Edgar Allen Poe, 2009/2010); this project is designed to replicate the overwhelming success of these earlier efforts. We will reach out to high school students attending small schools in 5 underserved, rural and reservation communities to excite them about reading and, in turn, enlist their enthusiasm to encourage others in their communities to reengage with the written word. In a departure from earlier projects, we are also adding one urban high school (Sentinel in Missoula) to the mix to broaden perspectives and promote interaction, via social media, between participating students in the different communities. For all schools we will provide: (1) copies of MY ANTONIA; (2) copies of a correlated  publication, GIRL FROM THE GULCHES: THE STORY OF MARY RONAN; (3) copies of those two books for students to share with community members; (4) a visiting educator with extensive experience in teaching the works of Cather; (5) a visiting scholar who is highly regarded historian especially skilled in conveying the relevance of their own local history to high-school-age students; and (6) assistance and guidance with in-school programming and public outreach activities for those 6 schools and their communities. In total, there will be 37 programs across the state: a teacher training seminar in Helena—and at least 6 events in each of the 6 communities, including (1) a classroom unit on Willa Cather; (2) a classroom unit on GIRL FROM THE GULCHES; (3) a public presentation by Professor Alan Weltzien on Cather and her role in American literature; (4) a public presentation by historian Ellen Baumler on GIRL FROM THE GULCHES; (5) a public presentation of the students’ research efforts; and (6) one (or more) book discussion groups on Cather’s work.

Again--interested educators should email Kirby Lambert at Klambert@mt.gov with summer contact information.

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