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, December 27, 2012

Top Ten Survey Results, Part 1

Thanks to all of you who took the time to take my “Top Ten Events in Montana History Survey.” I’ll report on the survey results in a future post, but thought I’d begin by sharing some of the comments I received, which were as interesting (I thought) as the survey results themselves.

Several people had suggestions for events that should have been on the survey, but weren’t.

The most common suggestion was Jeannette Rankin’s election to Congress/her vote against the wars/ and/or women’s suffrage. One commenter even scolded, “oh please, but you didn't put Jeanette Rankin in the top ten list???? No mention of when Women got "The Vote"? Who put the list together? I know you have Women working at the Historical Society.”

Others lobbied for the addition of these events: the creation of the federal forest system, creation of Glacier National Park; the transition from territory to state, anti-government events like the Freemen and the Unabomber, the arrival of people in what is now Montana (according to archaeological evidence this happened roughly 12, 000 years ago), the Mandate of Indian Ed for All, 1972. More than one person mentioned earthquakes, particularly the one that created Hebgen Lake.
Some thought the large forces of immigration, industrialization, and urbanization should have received more play:
  • “While it could be counted under ‘development of the copper industry,’ I'd add ‘mass immigration from all over the world,’ wrote one participant. 
  • Another wrote: “Industrialization and urbanization - admittedly a process not an event. Wasn't Montana and the West generally "urban" before it became "rural"? I rely on the work of Richard White and others as a warrant for that proposition. However, I find that, in the classroom, Montana and Western history generally is still taught within a progressive Turnerian framework: first, the Indians, then the trappers, then the miners, then the settlers, then the cities, then the industries etc., etc.”

Others wanted the survey to have been even more specific:
  • “I was thinking of an "event" as a single moment in time; these are more epochs or eras, covering a broader period of time. For example, the 1855 Hellgate Treaty is an "event" of great significance within the context of Indian wars and treaty-making, which is much broader. Fun, though!”
  • “I would have added the many ways Montana was involved in World War II - Hamilton, the Manhattan Project - the balloon bombs. As well as the role of Fort Harrison as the initial home of the Special Forces.”
One person argued for focusing more on ways Montanans have helped one another:  
  • “I wish there was more recognition (time for) toward Indian Agents who took time to assist those they were responsible for who were accepted into their roles – the Ronans for example. The influenza outbreak in 1918 and the pastors, doctors and neighbors who helped save members of their communities. The central theme I have always felt about Montana is that neighbors watch out for one another. Examples from our history are needed to help instill this in our future. I have more ideas but you asked for a simple answer so I will stop there.”

And some thought we should look at other large themes:
  • Native issues couched not in wars but in the transition from a nomadic life to boundaries - promises made, intent of governments
  • How a frontier state meshes with a highly industrial nation
  • How money comes into the state - what stays here, what leaves 
  • Electorally how a session every two years enables citizen government.

People who responded on our Facebook page tended to be more specific and/or more focused on the twentieth century than those who responded to the survey itself:
  • Flight of the Nez Perce through the Bitterroot Valley
  • Closing down the Anaconda Company
  • Electricity deregulation
  • Jeannette Rankin, first woman elected to Congress
  • The constitutional amendment that corporations are not people: Once again, Montana leads and with luck the rest of the nation will follow. 

Finally—lots of people found it hard to pick just ten events, and some of them wanted to explain their choices:
  • “Several events I have listed as ‘not top 10’ because I'd interweave my lessons to include them. I tried to pick the ‘Big Idea’ item as my Top 10 and the other topics/events would be under it. RE: Copper King War--this would be a side note to the larger story about copper production. Likewise gold discovery would probably begin the unit, but the big event would be copper and electrification. In that story would also focus on unions, the Progressive Era, and MT's importance in WWI.”
  •  “In my case (resource) I have fewer direct historical instruction moments, but when I do I lump more together - treaties/reservations, Lewis and Clark/fur trading, gold/Indian removal, for example.”
 More on the actual survey results in future posts.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Professional Development in Missoula, Helena, and Billings areas

The Helena College’s College Readiness Program is organizing an exciting professional development opportunity focused on improving literacy in social studies, science, and technical subjects (like health) and helping teachers integrate Common Core standards.

The program, designed for teacher teams (one English teacher and one subject matter teacher), will model strategies for implementing Common Core State Standards that are critical to college readiness:
  • Comprehend and analyze complex texts
  • Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content
  • Gather relevant information from multiple digital resources
  • Cite specific textual evidence to support claims
Workshop Details
Participants throughout the state may take an online course (Digital Research: Searching, Selecting, and Citing) to help students: gather relevant information from multiple digital sources; assess the strengths and limitations of each source; and follow a standard format for citation. This six-week course includes resources and videos that can be used in the classroom, as well as access to a college database.
Onsite workshops will be offered in Helena, Missoula, and Billings. Each regional site will offer a series of 3-4 onsite workshops in which teachers will learn and apply 1) deep reading strategies for complex texts; 2) strategies for teaching authentic writing in selected disciplines; and 3) discipline-specific scoring rubrics, tied to the Common Core State Standards, to analyze and discuss samples of students’ cross-curricular, research-based, writing.
Along with Tom Rust and Michael Scarlett (MSU-Billings/National History Day), and Kathy Holt (Coordinator of Clinical Practices, MSU-B), I’ll be involved in the Billings workshop, “Perspectives and Biases in Social Studies.” Other regional offerings will focus on science (Helena) and health (Missoula).
Title II: Improving Teacher Quality funds provide college credit, OPI Renewal Units, workshop expenses, including food and materials, at no cost to districts, and substitute teacher pay for up to 75 participants, statewide, for three days each.
Registration closes January 15. You can register and learn more here: http://www.mus.edu/writingproficiency/index.asp.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Announcing the Martha Plassman Prize and Generally Celebrating Chronicling America

As one of my colleagues is fond of saying, old newspapers are the closest thing we have to a time machine. That’s why Chronicling America—a national, ever-expanding newspaper digitization project—is one of my favorite resources.

Thus far, as part of this project, Montana has digitized selected ranges of nine different newspapers, with twenty-four more titles to come in over the course of the next year. See the list of titles here.

To encourage folks to discover this treasure trove, we created the Thinking like a Historian lesson plan, which outlines a way to engage students in in-depth research, but also offers options for shorter forays into the historic newspapers.

We’ve also included lessons using Chronicling America in the Girl from the Gulches Study Guide (see, particularly Lessons 5 and 7) that can be used as part of a unit on Mary Ronan or as stand-alone lessons.

That’s the old news. The NEW news is that we’ve just created the Martha Plassman Prize. This prize will award $500 and a certificate from the Montana Historical Society at the State National History Day competition to the student project that best uses Montana’s newspapers digitized on Chronicling America.

If you are participating in National History Day, please let your students know about this opportunity and encourage them to take advantage of it. Of course, we hope that students research a Montana history topic (see here for topic ideas), but that is NOT part of the prize consideration. To be eligible to win the Martha Plassman Prize, students researching a national topic can look in Montana newspapers to see how their topic was covered here at home.

if you aren’t participating in National History Day yet, there is still time. (Contact Tom Rust at trust@msubillings.edu for more information.) We’ll even be giving a training to help new teachers get started in Billings, February 6 and 7 as part of the Montana University Systems Professional Development Offering: Literacy for the Common Core.

P.S. You can find out more about Chronicling America and access additional links to Chronicling America teaching resources here and here.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

IEFA Resources

The Western Montana CSPD has a nice Indian Education For ALL Resources page. Among other useful links, it includes links to some of my favorite resources created by the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes: Fire on the Land and Explore the River.

Fire on the Land looks at how the Salish traditionally used fire, and the profound effects that their controlled burns and on plant an animal communities. It is a great antidote to the “virgin wilderness” idea that so many of us (including me) grew up with.

Explore the River is a “comprehensive multimedia education package that describes the characteristics and values of healthy aquatic and riparian ecosystems, the ecology and importance of bull trout, and the relationship between bull trout and the Salish and Pend d’Oreille people.”
Most of the components of both curriculum are available free of charge and may already be in your school library.

P.S. Friday is the last day to participate in our Top Ten Events in Montana History Survey—and possibly win a fabulous prize. Learn more here.

Monday, December 10, 2012

DocTeach and iPad Apps

Do you use iPads in your classroom? If so, Scobey teacher Bryan Pechtl recommends you check out Docs Teach, put out by the National Archives.

According to Bryan, it “has pre-made activities using primary sources from the Archives. Teachers can also create activities specifically for their classes at the Archives website, then distribute the activity code to students. If teachers don't have iPads, the website also lets teachers and students conduct the same activities on a standard PC, too.”

I’m old-school, so I had to check out Docs Teach via my PC. I found a Lewis and Clark exercise I liked and one on the impact of westward expansion on Indian tribes that I didn’t—because it seemed to me you could complete the exercise without actually examining any of the documents in detail.

I also discovered that DocsTeach has an entire section devoted to National History Day, including teaching activities relating to the NHD theme of “Turning Points.” It has also posted document collections around specific turning points, from the fall of the Berlin Wall and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency to the Spanish-American War. (I can’t help but put in another plug for NHD. It’s a great program and there’s still time to involve your classes in this year’s contests. Learn more here.)

Anyone else have a favorite app to recommend? 

P.S. Don’t forget our Top Ten Events in Montana History challenge. Response has been so great, I’m adding a fourth prize—for the 75th person to complete the survey. The survey closes December 16.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Great Professional Development Opportunity for Western Montana Teachers

If you teach in western Montana:

Western Montana CSPD is joining up with the Library of Congress’s Teaching with Primary Sources program to offer a great looking professional development opportunity:  “Weaving the Common Core and Indian Education through Teaching Primary Sources Documents.”
Designed for middle and high school teachers, the course will combine face-to-face and online modules to focus on investigating and learning to use the resources available at the Library of Congress.

Participants will create and implement lesson plans and/ or other activities using Primary Source documents from the Library of Congress for use in their classrooms.

Deadline for applying has been extended until December 15.

Course Details- January through May 2013
  • Location:
    • First Session January 17 in Kalispell or January 18 in Missoula (your closest city)
    • March 8 & May 17 Salish Kootenai College, Pablo (transportation to Pablo provided)
  • Number of Seats Available: 40 from the region
  • Targeted subjects: English/ Language Arts or Social Studies, and Library Media Specialists
  • Grade levels: Middle & High School Educators (teams that include a Library Media Specialist will be given preference)  
  • Schools: Schools in Region 5 counties of Ravalli, Missoula, Mineral, Lake, Flathead, Sanders, or Lincoln
Project Objectives:
Teachers become familiar with the breadth and organization of the Library of Congress' digital primary sources, understand their value in instruction and create basic inquiry-based learning experiences.
  • Learn what primary sources are and understand their value in teaching
  • Review the Montana Common Core standards (including those reflecting IEFA) for their grade level and content area and identify where primary sources documents could be used.
  • Learn how to locate and navigate the Library of Congress Web site
  • Learn how to access, save and present primary sources from the Library of Congress' Web site
  • Gain a foundational understanding of effective instructional practices for teaching with primary sources
  • Create instructionally sound learning experiences that integrate primary sources from the Library of Congress
Credit: Participants will have the opportunity to earn OPI renewal credits or 2 semester University credits. (participants are responsible for $135 recording fee)
Stipend: Participants who complete the entire project will receive a $150 stipend.

P.S. There’s still time to take the Top Ten Events in Montana History Survey. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Top Ten Most Important Events in Montana History

And now for something completely different…

One of my favorite “End of Chapter” questions included in our textbook, Montana: Stories of the Land, asks students to “Create a list of the five things you think have had the greatest impact on life in Montana throughout human history.” I like it because it requires students to step back, think about what they’ve learned, and see the forest for the trees. (Does anyone ever assign this question? If so—I’d love to know how it works.)

I thought it would be fun to ask members of the Montana History and Heritage Education community a similar question.  Top five seemed too hard, though, so I’ve created a quick survey asking folks to identifying the TOP TEN most important (seminal, transformative, influential, significant, consequential) events in Montana history.

Take the survey here.

If you don’t take the question too seriously (and I hope you won’t), it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to record your answers. This is really an “off the top of your head,” gut-feeling kind of survey. And it is very informal. If you end up picking a top 8 or top 12 instead of a top 10, no worries.

This very informal survey has four main purposes:

  1. I thought it might help those teaching Montana history step back a moment and consider how they are allocating their time. Are you spending the most time on the most important events? Or are you spending more time on less significant topics? And, if the latter, why? (There may be very good reasons to do so—but it is worth thinking about what your priorities are.)
  2. I am really curious to see what people think. Will we all have similar ideas? Or are there radical differences in how we perceive the history of our state? I’ll share the results in a future post.
  3. After I compile the answers, I’ll also take the top picks and feature teaching resources on those topics to make it easier to teach about what we (collectively) think is most important.
  4. It will be fun.
Need more incentive? I’m offering prizes to the third, tenth, and twenty-third person to answer the survey. So, what are you waiting for? Click through.
P.S. Did I mention that this survey shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to complete?

Addendum: I am no longer tabulating survey results, but taking the survey is still an instructive exercise. You can find out what I learned from the survey by reading these posts: Surprises. Survey Results, and Comments.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Gilder Lehrman Summer Institutes

I guess it’s never too early to think about summer. Last week, I sent out a post on the NEH Workshops for Teachers, including the one MHS is sponsoring, “The Richest Hills: Mining in the Far West, 1862-1920.” But NEH is not the only organization providing free, or practically free, summer professional development opportunities.

The Gilder Lerhman Institute of American History also offers weeklong teacher seminars for graduate credit. Their options are varied—from broad overviews (“A Visual Approach to Teaching American History” and “American Women from the Colonial to the Modern Era) to more focused seminars (“The American Civil War through Material Culture—K-8 Teachers Only” and “The Era of George Washington.”)

If I could sign up for one of these seminars, I’d choose “Native American History,” with Colin Calloway. I’m a great admirer of his work. He’s written an absurd number of books including One Vast Winter Count: The Native American West Before Lewis and Clark (University of Nebraska Press, 2003), and his essay, “Army Allies or Tribal Survival?: The ‘Other Indians’ in the 1876 Campaign,” is the most interesting essay I’ve ever read on the Great Sioux War. (You can find it in your library or via interlibrary loan because the Montana Historical Society Press included it in two separate anthologies: Legacy: New Perspectives on the Battle of the Little Bighorn (1996) and Montana Legacy: Essays on History, People, and Place (2002).)

Gilder Lehrman’s summer seminars are free, and Gilder Lehrman pays for room and board. However, it only reimburses teachers up to $400 for travel—probably not enough to get to where most of these institutes are held from Montana, but certainly a help.