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, November 29, 2012

NEH Summer Workshops Announced--Including "The Richest Hills"

Next summer, the Montana Historical Society is once again offering an NEH  Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops for School Teachers workshop: The Richest Hills: Mining in the Far West, 1862-1920.

Teachers (scholars, in NEH parlance) will travel to Montana  from across the country to spend a week visiting Bannack, Virginia City, Butte, and Helena to learn about  the mining West and ways to better teach with historic places and primary sources.  Instruction and materials are free and NEH provides a $1,200 stipend to help pay travel expenses, including hotel rooms, meals during the week, and travel to and from Helena.

“The Richest Hills” offered an amazing week of learning last time around (you can see the lesson plans scholars created from the experience here). We expect that this summer’s workshops will be even better.

We encourage applications from Montana teachers—but you should know that the application process is very competitive (we had 300 applicants for 80 slots last time). Additionally, NEH requires that equal access be given to applicants coming from out of state and encourages projects to consider geographic diversity as part of their selection process. The good news is that there are LOTS of really cool, free offerings this summer in addition to “The Richest Hills.”

Through various NEH summer programs for teachers, you can spend a week in Jackson, Mississippi, studying the Civil Rights movement, four weeks in Berlin, Germany, and Prague, Czech Republic, studying the 1989 peaceful revolutions, five weeks in Siena, Italy, studying Dante, three weeks in Monterey, California, studying John Steinbeck, or two weeks in Hamilton, New York, studying abolitionism and the underground railroad, among many other options. A full list of summer 2013 courses is available here.

Please help us spread the word about “The Richest Hills” and take a look at all the other NEH workshops available.

Applications are due March 4.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Primary Source Nexus

Primary Source Nexus is a blog that focuses on teaching with primary sources—especially resources from the Library of Congress’s American Memory Project.

For the most part, it is probably most useful for folks teaching American history (rather than local history/Montana history). Its website has three main sections:
  • Primary Source Picks.  Recent “picks” have included antislavery and women rights activist Sojourner Truth, actress Lillian Russell, and the Civil War Battle of Chattanooga.
  • Tech Tips & Tutorials.  This section is my favorite: it includes entries as varied as tips on oral history tips for students and Civil War era photographic techniques, including how photographers faked photos long before photoshop.
  • Teaching and Learning. This section offers sample project ideas and connected primary sources. I confess that most of these did not excite me—I’d be really interested to hear about it if you find one that works well in your classroom since I’m always looking for good models to copy.
One entry under Teaching and Learning I did find of particular interest was “Connecting to the Common Core: Analyzing Primary Source Images.” This post looks at how “the skills required to extract information from visual content are similar to those required to extract information from text.” It also argues that  “practicing these skills using primary source images provides students with a great scaffolded learning opportunity.” My favorite part is the table that “shows how the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Reading Anchor Standards map to primary source image analysis skills.”

As an aside, I wonder a little if I’ve become too Common Core obsessed.  (Please do let me know if you find the information I’m providing on Common Core useful and relevant or if you’d rather I write about something else for a while.) I think the reason I’m so interested is because these standards do seem to get at much of what we really want students to be doing—especially when they work with primary sources, be they text or images. For example:
  • Determining what the text/image says explicitly and making logical inferences from it
  • Citing specific evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text/image.
  • Assessing how point of view or purpose shapes content and style
  • Analyzing how two or more texts/images address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches creators take.
More detail on this at Primary Source Nexus—and much else besides. Happy hunting.

P.S. Interested in reading even more on teaching with primary sources? Check out one of these earlier posts: “Teaching with Primary Sources,” “More on Teaching with Primary Sources,” or “National Archives Resources for Teaching with Primary Sources.” Or scroll down the blog until you see the heading “Labels” on the right hand side of the page, and click on the label “teaching with primary sources” for a list of all the relevant posted articles. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Historical Fiction

I’m headed out of town for Thanksgiving, so I’m going to let Teachinghistory.org do the heavy lifting for me today on the listserv. Here’s a post from their page, which talks about how to find historical fiction to complement your history curriculum.

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone—and if you are traveling, travel safely.

p.s. Here’s a link to a short post I wrote last year at about this time with interesting links to resources for teaching about Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

New resources for Teaching about/with Ledger Art and Winter Counts

We’re proud as punch of our new curriculum: “The Art of Storytelling: Plains Indian Perspectives.” It is based on the museum exhibit of the same name, which features the Montana Historical Society’s rich collection of Indian art. (That exhibit closes the Saturday after Thanksgiving. If you are in Helena in the next week, it is a must-see.)

In cooperation with the Indian Education Division of the Montana Office of Public Instruction, and art educators Marina Weatherly and Jon Bercier, MHS created curriculum packets, which include
  • Prints of selected images from the exhibit
  • PowerPoints and scripts
  • Standards-based lessons designed for K-3, 4-6, and 7-12
  • Sample pages from actual ledger books, to copy and use as canvases
  • Background information for teachers.
And the folder containing all this great material can be unfolded to become a poster for display.
These packets were sent to all Montana public school libraries in October 2012, so check your library. Not only did we send this curriculum to Montana public schools, but we’ve posted it online.
Here’s what I especially love about this curriculum:
  • It includes lessons geared toward all grades, including K-3 (sometimes our elementary teachers get left out)
  • It is keyed to the Art Standards as well as to the Essential Understandings
  • The art lessons include history and reading as well as art
  • The lessons are both detailed and flexible—and, especially the K-6 lessons, provide multiple options for teachers
  • The PowerPoints can stand alone as their own 50-minute lesson (to be used in social studies classes)—or to complement the larger art curriculum
  • The images are stunning.
Please check out the website and the hard copy in your library and let us know what you think. Any feedback would be very welcome (especially after you’ve used it in the classroom). We will apply your advice to our next endeavor. 
P.S. While supplies last, you can request your personal packet by emailing dmitchell@mt.gov.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Chronicling America, Read All About It

It’s been a while since I’ve talked up one of my all-time favorite sites: Chronicling AmericaChronicling America is a national, ever-expanding newspaper digitization project spearheaded by the Library of Congress and National Endowment for the Humanities.  According to “Edsitement,” the NEH’s teaching portal:
Chronicling America is a boon for teaching primary source research skills such as gathering and evaluating information, analysis, comparison and contrast, critical thinking, and the use of technology.
Through Chronicling America you can view newspaper pages from 1836 to 1922 from Arizona, the District of Columbia, California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia. As the project is ongoing, the greatest concentration of material that is currently available online is from 1900-1922, but Chronicling America is continuously expanding the date range and states of the newspapers in its collection.
As one of the participating states, Montana had a committee of historians help prioritize which papers and date ranges to digitize. You can find the list here.
The digitization project is great in itself. Even better is the outpouring of lesson plans for using the resource. Edsitement has descriptions and links to featured lesson plans, which include looks at women’s suffrage, immigration, the 1918 flu epidemic, famous authors like Walt Whitman and Jack London, and much more.
Montana’s contribution to Chronicling America lesson plans includes “Thinking  like a Historian: Using Digital Newspapers in the Classroom,” which asks students to explore daily life in Virginia City during the gold rush before the coming of the railroad, using the following essential questions: “How has life changed and how has it remained the same? How does transportation affect daily life? What would it have been like to live in Vir¬ginia City during the gold rush?”

If you don’t have time for a big project, consider printing out a few pages from one of the digitized newspapers that matches your larger unit (make sure to include pages with advertisements). Then have students explore the paper by playing a game of “Newspaper Bingo,” or going on a newspaper scavenger hunt. Follow the game with a discussion about what surprised, intrigued, or confused students about the newspapers themselves—and what questions they raised about life in the past. (Sample bingo cards and instructions are available through the “Thinking Like a Historian” lesson plan.

Three additional Chronicling America lesson plans are included in the new study guide for Girl from the Gulches: The Story of Mary Ronan. Two of them can be adapted to use without reading the anchor text and can easily be adapted to other time periods. “What Can You Buy? What Could Mary Buy?” has students looking at advertisements today and in the 1860s, and choosing presents for themselves and their family. The second, “Found Poetry,” asks students to create a found poem, based on an article from the Montana Post.

p.s. For those of you who have students participating in National History Day, NEH is offering a prize this year “for students who incorporate research using Chronicling America.”  (More on NHD here.) Chronicling America’s list of recommended topics (fascinating reading in itself) would be a great place to browse for National History Day topics, or research projects more generally.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Resources for studying the Homestead Act, including American Indian Perspectives, and a Plug for National History Day

I’ve been thinking a lot about homesteading lately, because we had a great meeting last week with teachers participating in this year’s Big Read reading My Antonia—a homesteading classic.
Julie Saylor, over at the Indian Education Division of the Office of Public Instruction, just shared with me an informational bulletin they put together: 150TH ANNIVERSARY OF HOMESTEAD ACT - AMERICAN INDIAN PERSPECTIVES. It lists some good resources for incorporating Indian perspectives into your study of homesteading.

Other resources for studying  (and teaching) homesteading can be found on the Montana: Stories of the Land Companion Website, particularly on the student and educator resources pages for Chapter 13.

We also created a couple of bibliographies for student research projects—one on homesteading and one on allotment and the opening of Indian land to homesteaders. We created them for National History Day students, but they are good for anyone doing a research project.

Speaking of National History Day—it is NOT too late to join the fun. See this post from a few weeks ago for more information and then contact Tom Rust (trust@msubillings.edu for assistance).

NHD is contest based—though you can use the curriculum without sending students to any contests. This year, regional contests will be held in Lolo and Billings and the state contest will be held in Billings—and Humanities Montana said that it would look favorably on requests from schools to help pay costs associated with getting students to these contests. (More on information visit http://www.humanitiesmontana.org/grants/apply/index.php --then click on Grant Guidelines, and then look for the instructions for Opportunity Grants, which is the type of grant for which you’ll want to apply.) 

At the Montana Historical Society, we think the best NHD topics are local topics.
  • Local and state topics offer unique opportunities for original research.
  • Students researching local and state topics sometimes make genuine contributions to history through their work (because they break new ground).
  • It is often easier to find primary sources for local and state topics.
  • Local topics can offer the opportunity to learn more about things that matter deeply to a student’s own life or community.
That’s why we created our Montana history bibliographies, with wide-ranging topics, including Montana women’s suffrage, the free speech movement, the creation of the Rocky Boy Reservation, and the construction of Libby Dam. Of course, there are many other Montana history topics that relate to this year’s theme, “Turning Points: People, Places, Events.” And, as an incentive for students to choose a Montana history topic, we will once again offer a prize for the best entry on a Montana History topic in both the junior and senior divisions at the state contest.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The November 1 Billings Gazette published an article on this year’s wild fires, stating that they were the worst since 1910. We came out of the fire season relatively unscathed in Helena—but I’m sure many of you are still dealing with the fallout. My thoughts are with your communities.

The Billings Gazette article brought to mind a post I wrote awhile back about using disasters as a way to engage students in larger questions.
It also made me wonder if last year’s fire season offers a “teachable moment.” If so, here are some resources for teaching about fire and fire history. Most are taken from the Montana: Stories of the Land Teachers Guide and Companion Website, Chapter 12.
  • Tales of the 1910 Fire is an exhibit, including a first-hand account of the fires by a forest ranger, created by Archives & Special Collections, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library.
  • The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes' "Fire of the Land" website is a great resource in itself and includes links to many additional resources.
  • The US Forest Service has gathered information on the history of smoke jumping.
  • The Great 1910 Fire is a website that has transcribed newspaper articles, lists of fire victims and photographs.
Interested in changes how fire policy has changed since 1910? We created this bibliography for National History Day students, but it’s a good starting point for any researcher.  Other interesting sources include:
As I’m sure you know—probably better than I—one of the reasons fire-fighting is so expensive today is the “Wildland Urban Interface” (in other words, people have increasingly built homes in the woods.) When homes are threatened, the state and federal government pull out the stops to protect them. What should the government’s approach toward fire protection be in the Wildland-Urban Interface? This has been a hot button issue in past years, and will likely continue to be debated.  Consider asking students to research and then write (and/or present) policy briefs to your local legislator and/or county commissioners. (Former middle school teacher Jim Schulz said having students present decision-makers with their research—and proposed solutions—to current problems was the all-time best activity he ever did with his students.)
Looking for sources? There are some links on the topic in the Chapter 12 End-of-Chapter Material Answer Key for Montana: Stories of the Land. (By the way, these answer keys are a gold mine of information on a large number of topics since, whenever we suggested a research project, we provided research leads in the answer keys. You’ll need a user name and password to access them (request the username and password here). Even though it was written in 2008, a good starting point for research is “Home Development on Fire-prone Lands West-wide Summary.”  A Google search for “Wildland Urban interface fire” uncovers many other sources.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Speakers in the Schools

Interested in bringing knowledgeable guest speakers into your classroom at no cost to your school?

Humanities Montana's Speakers in the Schools offers over 70 programs on topics like history, Native American culture, literature, and civics. Humanities Montana speakers are scholars and recognized experts in their fields.

You can apply for a program funded by Humanities Montana using their easy online application.
How To Apply
  1. First, browse the catalog to find a speaker of interest.
  2. Contact the speaker directly to see if he or she is available. You should do this at least four weeks in advance of the proposed date.
  3. Fill out the online application. Humanities Montana youth programs are free.
  4. Keep a record of the names, hours, and value of volunteer time. This information is required in the online final report due two weeks after your program occurs.
  5. Wait for Humanities Montana's acknowledgement of support, usually about a week after we receive your application. Funding is limited and not all requests are approved.
I don’t know all of their speakers, but I can vouch for ones I’ve heard, including my office mate Ellen Baumler (Chinese in Montana: Our Forgotten Pioneers, How We Miss Them: Ghostly Gatherings from the Treasure State, and Profiles of African American Montanans) and  storyteller Tom Satterly (Butte, the Cosmopolitan City of Montana!) There are lots of other exciting looking offerings as well. So check out the catalog.