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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Museum School Partnership Grant Opportunity


An exciting community-building opportunity is coming your way: The 2012-2013 Museum & School Collaborative Grant Opportunity to Integrate Indian Education for All.

The Office of Public Instruction and the Montana Historical Society have developed a partnership to invite communities to work together in a unique educational collaboration between museums and schools.

This collaboration between local museums and school districts must

(1) Explore ways schools and museums can become co-educators in the topics of Montana American Indian culture and history in a museum setting,
(2) Integrate IEFA through place-based education, as well as in the classroom, and
(3) Improve the preservation and presentation of American Indian artifacts and related documents in their museum collections.

OPI will award up to six grants for amounts of $7,000 - $10,000, with priority given to communities which have not participated in a prior IEFA museum–school grant.

Interested parties must submit a Letter of Intent by April 23, outlining the potential partners (on both the school side and museum side); the project's Indian Education for All goals, and a brief description of the proposed project.

A complete grant proposal will be due June 22 and notification of grant approval will be sent by July 13, 2012. Grant funding begins July 1, 2012-June 15, 2013. Complete details and Letter of Intent form can be viewed here.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Edward Curtis: In the News and In the Classroom

The Smithsonian Magazine has an interesting article on its blog about Edward Curtis, an early twentieth-century photographer committed to documenting the “vanishing Indian.” His work, “highly romanticized and most craftily staged,” exerted a major influence on the image of Indians in popular culture.

As we know—Indians did NOT vanish and Curtis’s insistence on portraying Indians as living in an untouched past (including possibly retouching some of the photographs in order to remove modern objects) is troubling, to say the least.

On the other hand, Curtis did succeed in capturing the likeness of many important and well-known Indian people of that time, including Geronimo, Chief Joseph, Red Cloud, Medicine Crow and others.  And many Indian scholars, including former director of the National Museum of the American Indian George Horse Capture, admire Curtis’s work. 

Which leaves a question: How, if at all, should you use Curtis photographs in the classroom? There are tools to help.

The Eastman House has produced useful material on "The Vanishing Indian" with a special focus on the work of photographer Edward Curtis (http://education.eastmanhouse.org/discover/kits/files/9/ConsiderThese.pdf) as part of its "Discovery Kit" Beyond the Image: Depicting Native Americans.

The Library of Congress, which has over 2,000 Curtis images, gathered background information, including timelines, historical critiques, maps, and other relevant material  for teachers in “Edward S. Curtis's The North American Indian: Photographic Images.”

Whether or not one ends up using Curtis photographs (and we chose not to, when we produced our textbook), the above links are worth reading to increase your own understanding about media portrayals of Indians. They provide lots to think about—not just about Curtis, but about portrayals of Indians generally, and about photography as a documentary art form.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Know Any Centenarians?



The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) needs help updating its list of Montanans who will turn age 100 and older by the end of 2012.

DPHHS maintains a list of the state’s Centenarians so they can be honored every year at Montana’s annual Governor’s Conference on Aging.

This year, the Centenarians will be honored on May 1, 2012, at a luncheon in Helena at the Colonial Red Lion Hotel. The most current list from 2011 features 89 Centenarians.

“Even if they cannot attend the conference, we would like to honor them with a certificate from the Governor and add them to our list,” said DPHHS Director Anna Whiting Sorrell. “We request just a little bit of information and the questions can be found on our Web site.”

The information can be found at www.dphhs.mt.gov.

If you are a Centenarian or are aware of one and would like them to be recognized, please supply Brian LaMoure at DPHHS the following information by April 2, 2012. Submitted photos are also requested, in addition to replies to the following questions.

1. Centenarian name and address.
2. Where and when they were born?  If not born in Montana, what is their story on how they got to Montana?
3. What is the secret to their longevity?
4. What has been the most amazing event in their life that they would like to share?
5. What would their favorite quote be?
6. Anything else they would like us to know?
7. Will they be attending the luncheon?  Please RSVP if possible.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Successful Museum-School Partnership


On Friday, I’m heading to Bozeman to talk about museum-school partnerships at the Museums Association of Montana conference.

You may remember awhile back that I sent out a call for examples. Among the emails I received was this one from Malta history teacher Shawn Bleth, describing the local history project his juniors conducted as part of their American Studies class. I was particularly intrigued by this activity for three reasons:

1. Shawn said that it was “the best project” he had done in an long time;
2. the project used no outside funding, and
3. it seems easily replicable.

The project involved in-depth research at the county historical society to write local history articles. You can see the work his students created here.

Details from Mr. Bleth:

“Last year, Malta High School juniors, as part of a joint project in their U.S. History and English classes, took part in a "Local History Project."  The project required that the student groups address a topic of local history.  The only restriction was that it had to be a topic that was not already thoroughly addressed.

“We started by visiting the Phillips County Museum to familiarize the students with the collections and the students took it from there. They were required to engage in authentic research, including: interviews, newspapers and document reviews, on-site visits, etc.  Most of the students spent considerable amounts of their own time at the Phillips County Museum going through their artifacts and collections. The Museum staff was phenomenal in their interaction and assistance with the students.  The finished papers were bound and presented to the museum and school library to add to their collections.  They are also published on our school website: http://www.malta.k12.mt.us/hs/localhistory.html.”

Shawn provided this additional information on the project during follow up correspondence:

“We prepped our students as to what we were expecting the project to look like before we went to museum so they … could frame the visit in that context.  We used the visit as both a way to familiarize the students with the museum but also as a way to get ideas for the project.  The students were responsible for scheduling their own return visits around their schedule as well as the museum's. We expected most of this work to be done outside of class, so this was an ongoing project.  We used about 7 weeks.  This year we are allowing closer to 12 weeks from start to finish.

Publishing the work on the internet and in the museum brought a certain amount of "high stakes" to the project.  We STRESSED the importance of proper citation and quality writing.  Most of the class time we did provide in both the English and history classes was used for proofreading, editing and revisions.  Having an English teacher (Kathie Cary, for us) who is totally on board is a vital part.

The local newspaper did a front page story on the finished product which brought some attention to it.  During the first few months of the summer the product site was averaging over 150 hits per month.  The group that did the "Loring Murders" project received an email from a teacher in New Mexico who had family involved in the actual event but they would never talk about it.  So she actually learned most of the details by stumbling across their story on our site.  That was pretty cool for all of us….

“All the teachers involved agreed that this was the best project any of us had done in quite a long time.  We were really proud of it and are currently in the early phase of year 2.  Our students also really enjoyed it.  We told them that if they did this project the right way, it is possible that they could be the most knowledgeable living person on that particular topic.  That really intrigued some of them.”

Thursday, March 15, 2012

National Archives Resources for Teaching with Primary Sources


In the recent post, I talked about four ways to use primary sources in the classroom: focus activities, inquiry activities, application activities, and assessment activities

In response, archivist Jeff Malcomson just pointed me to a nifty list of 15 ways to use primary sources in the classroom, created by the National Archives.

Their suggestions include such cross-curricular ideas as

Project Inspiration: Let documents serve as examples for student created projects. For example: If your economics assignment is for students to create a poster encouraging young people to save money, share examples of WWII savings bond campaign posters with them,” and

Writing Activity: Use documents to prompt a student writing activity. For example: Share with students a letter and ask them to either respond to it or write the letter that may have prompted it.”

The list is part of the National Archives Educators Toolbox.  

Other elements of the toolbox include

History in the Raw
Guidelines for Using Primary Resources
Primary Sources Help Teach and Reinforce Historical Thinking Skills
Universal Truths of Teaching with Documents
What can I do with resources from the National Archives?
Links to document analysis worksheets
Links to professional development opportunities, and
Links to videoconferencing workshops for students and teachers

I was really intrigued by this last link—these "interactive and document based" videoconferencing workshops are made possible through "ISDN or IP-based videoconferencing systems." (I confess--I didn't completely understand this last part. Does your school have access to this?)

The student workshops are available for groups of up to 30 students, grade 5-12.  Your school initiates and pays for the call to the National Archives—there is no other charge. Topics include “The Constitution” and “Introduction to the National Archives and Records Administration.”

This is all in addition to the site Docsteach.orgwhich provides online tools and interactive learning activities using National Archives documents.

If anyone has participated in one of the National Archives videoconferencing sessions, or successfully used Docsteach with his or her students, I'd love to get a review.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Tech Tools


Billings elementary librarian Ruth Ferris is my tech connection. She recently alerted me to some interesting tools.

Museum Box. Museum Box is a free Web-based service created in England for use in the history classroom that provides tools for collecting and presenting digital versions of primary sources. Students can use Museum Box to collect sources about historical eras, events, biographies, inventions, regions, fashions—in short about anything that can be digitally documented. More on Museum Box here.

History Pin. History Pin is a fairly new site that asks users to “pin” photographic images to a world map. The images can be of any location - outdoors or indoors - at any time in the past. According to their FAQ, if images “are taken outdoors, at street level and at certain angles, will be able to be layered onto Street View (this is a bonus, not a requirement).” The site has some sample classroom projects, and plans to expand its educational outreach in the next year.

Ruth is also turned me on to the blog, “Technology Tidbits,” which is where I saw a plug for Spliced. Spliced, according to the blog’s owner, David Kapauler, “is an excellent site for editing YouTube videos. … All a user has to do is enter a URL and then select their start/stop times to grab the clip of the video that they want.” (I haven’t explored this because the State of Montana blocks YouTube, but it sounded pretty nifty.)

Finally, I found this rave review of Dipity on the Montana Council for History and Civics Education Facebook page: "Looking for some neat technology tools? Here is a timeline maker that is interactive. From Dipity: 'Dipity is a free digital timeline website. Our mission is to organize the web's content by date and time. Users can create, share, embed and collaborate on interactive, visually engaging timelines that integrate video, audio, images, text, links, social media, location and timestamps.' " (MCCE is a fairly new organization, one that’s definitely worth watching, so like their page on Facebook.)

Friday, March 9, 2012

More on Teaching with Primary Sources


Dear Listservers,

My last post on teaching with primary sources received a good response, including this from MontanaPBS:

“Just because you were talking about primary resources… we offer two online learning simulations for 4-9th graders at mission-us.org… the first one is about the Boston Massacre and the second about the Underground Railway… three more to come, including a possible one with Montana roots!”

In that post, I talked about the why of integrating primary sources in the classroom and pointed readers to good analysis tools.

I also intended to include a link to an article that suggested ways of using primary sources in the classroom—but the Library of Congress remodeled its web page and took it down—my apologies to all who tried to follow that link.

Fortunately, the article remains in the internet archive. I find the framework this article provides a useful way of thinking about types of activities one can conduct with students. In brief, it recommends using primary sources in


  • Focus Activities—to introduce a topic or reengage students during a longer lesson;
  • Inquiry Activities—to help students explore main concepts in a block of instruction using an inquiry approach;
  • Application Activities—to help students apply the concepts they are learning; and
  • Assessment Activities—to evaluate student mastery of skills and concepts. 

So, now we’ve covered why and how, what about where? The fact is, you can find primary sources almost everywhere. Start with a historic image in your textbook—and have students slow down enough to really look at it as documentary evidence instead of just an illustration.

Want to do more? For Montana history, check out our website. Many of our lesson plans are primary-source based, including five of our Indian Education for All lesson plans.

If you haven’t yet, I’d recommend exploring the Montana: Stories of the Land Companion Website and Online Teacher’s Guide—we’ve created “Teaching with Historic Documents” units for almost every chapter of the textbook (e.g., this letter from Chief Victor, written in 1865). Even many of the worksheets ask students to analyze primary sources (e.g., this worksheet designed to supplement the homesteading chapter).

If you have the luxury of planning ahead, order one of our Hands-on History footlockers—all of which contain replica artifacts, historic photographs, and other types of primary sources.

Another great source for primary sources is your own community: your local museum, archives, and community members’ private collections.

For national history, check out the National Archives, “100 Milestone Documents in American History.”

Or—look to the Library of Congress’s American Memory Project.

The American Memory site is huge and potentially overwhelming but it is a veritable treasure mine—and they have created many easy points of access. Depending on how you learn, I’d recommend starting your exploration of the site either on their Teacher’s page or by taking their online tutorial, “Finding Primary Sources”. By the way: we provide MT OPI renewal units to teachers who take this and other Library of Congress online trainings. Find out how by scrolling to the bottom of this page.

Now it’s your turn. What’s the most effective primary source lesson plan you’ve ever used in your classroom? Or the most startling, powerful primary source you’ve ever shared with your students?

Post your answers as a comment or send me an email (mkohl@mt.gov) and I'll compile a list to share.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Teaching with Primary Sources


I’m recently back from OPI’s Indian Education Division’s “Best Practices” Conference, where many of the sessions, including the one we presented, focused on using primary sources.

There are lots of reasons to have students work with primary sources, many of which are outlined in this online article from the National Archives: "History in the Raw." 

Adding urgency to incorporating primary sources into history and social studies curriculum are the new Common Core Standards—soon to be adopted across the state. These standards recognize the value of integrating primary sources into the classroom. For example, Common Core Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies include these expectations for students grade 6-8:
In Grades 6-8, students will be able to

  • #2 : “Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
  • #6 : “Identify aspects of a text, including those by and about American Indians, that reveal an author’s point of view or purpose…
  • #9: “Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic.”

And primary source analysis remains important in later grades as well.

So how do you do it? "Using Primary Sources, Library of Congress Learning Page Lesson Framework" has good suggestions.

What else do you need? Good analysis tools help. Both the National Archives and the Library of Congress have analysis worksheets.

The National Archives’ worksheets are easier to use at first blush: http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/worksheets/.

With practice, however, I’ve grown to like the Library of Congress’s worksheet even more—but only when I have access to both the worksheet and the “Teacher’s Guide” which has guiding questions missing from the student version.

Library of Congress Student Worksheet.
Library of Congress Teacher’s Guide.
Advice for using this tool can be found in this recent post on the Library of Congress’s blog for teachers

This post is already plenty long, so I’ll talk about where you can find good primary sources in a future post.