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 26, 2013

Vacation Reading: Most Popular Listserv Posts

Winter break is a good time to go skiing, drink eggnog, and catch up with friends and family. But if you have a sneaking itch to get away from all that fun, it's also a good time to catch up on your reading. Assuming folks are too busy to read every post, I looked at my stats and found a list of Teaching Montana History's all-time most popular entries. Here they are, for your reading pleasure.

Top Ten Most Important Events in Montana History (Dec. 6, 2012)

Lesson Plans on Mining and Primary Sources (Oct. 31, 2011)

Teaching with Primary Sources (March 5, 2012)

Elementary Teachers: A Handy New Guide Aligns OPI's IEFA Lesson Plans to the Common Core (Feb. 14, 2013)

Happy Veterans Day (Nov. 10, 2011)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Montana Authors Project

Do you teach (or just love) D'Arcy McNickle's The Surrounded, Debra Earling's Perma Red, Norman Maclean's River Runs Through It, the poems of Richard Hugo, or Judy Blunt's Breaking Clean?

If so, check out Humanities Montana's very cool Montana Author Project. They've mapped sites relating to these books and marked them with images and relevant quotations. Over the next several months, they will add the following titles to the map:

Fools Crow
by James Welch
This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind
by Ivan Doig
The Big Sky
by A.B. Guthrie Jr.
Tough Trip Through Paradise, 1878-1879
by Andrew Garcia
All But the Waltz: A Memoir of Five Generations in
the Life of a Montana Family

by Mary Clearman Blew

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Contemporary Montana

Looking for resources to teach about Montana today?  In no particular order, here are some links.

The Fall 2012 issue, of Montana Policy Review, titled "Community Responses to Energy Development," addresses community efforts to mitigate the changes taking place in oil country. Articles recognize the challenges and complexities of natural resource development while accentuating positive, forward-looking responses, as well as lessons learned from communities that have already weathered the energy boom and recommendations for those on the fringe of development. 
Slate published some great pictures of the Berkeley Pit.

Speaking of the Pit: I highly recommend a visit to pitwatch.org. Pit Watch is a must-visit website for anyone with questions about the Berkeley Pit. Another great resource is the Clark Fork Watershed Education Program, which offers lesson plans and activities relating to the Superfund site and restoration efforts. 

The Rez We Live On dispels myths about life on contemporary Indian reservations through friendly cartoons. Topics include taxes, sovereignty, checks from the government, and more. For more on contemporary Indian issues, check out the series Native News ran in 2013. Topics include blood quantum, the difficulty of building homes on the reservation, and problems with the Indian Health Service.

If you want to teach your students about both resource extraction and Indian issues, consider using our lesson plan, "Mining Sacred Ground: Environment, Culture, and Economic Development on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation." The goal of this activity is to challenge students to better appreciate the complexities of promoting resource-based economic development when such action conflicts with traditional cultural values. By the end of the exercise, students should also understand that tribal members differ in their attitudes toward resource extraction. If you do use this in your classroom, drop me a line. I'd love to hear how it works (or doesn't).

For a daily look at the hot issues in our region, your best source is Mountain West News. You can visit their website or subscribe to get headline news from around the region.

Finally, folks may also be interested in this earlier post I wrote on resources for studying twentieth-century Montana immigrant groups (Mexican Americans, Hutterites, and Hmong).



Monday, December 9, 2013

More about Hanukkah--and Museum-School Partnerships

My recent post on Billings' Hanukkah story garnered some good response. I learned that this year is  the 20th anniversary of the 1993 hate crime and community mobilization (I could have done the math myself, but I hadn't.) According to a recent Billings Gazette article, there will be several commemorative events over next several months, culminating with a conference in June 2014.

I also learned that in honor of this anniversary, Bruce Wendt's West High students are interviewing people involved in the 1993 mobilization and are working to put together a museum exhibit that will be displayed at the Western Heritage Center.

Their collaboration is worth looking at as a potential model for other communities. This project is just the latest in a long partnership between Bruce's Billings West American Studies class and the Western Heritage Center. Other student-created exhibits the Western Heritage Center has hosted have included a
  • Millennial Exhibit: Students choose a decade and then decided what event in the Yellowstone region best represented the century from 1900 to 2000. The students then worked with Kevin Kooistra, the curator there, to choose photographs. 
  • Leadership Exhibit: This exhibit focused on the concept of leadership. In this case, each junior chose one individual in the community as an example, did an interview, wrote an essay about their choice, and then again worked with Kevin to design the exhibit. The WHC held an evening open house and invited the students, their subjects, and the community.
  • Women’s History Exhibit: Last year, to complement WHC’s exhibit, “A Mile in Her Shoes: Montana Women at Work,” students researched Billings women who have impacted the community. Their work was displayed in its own gallery.
Other communities have also conducted successful museum-school partnerships. You can read about some of them here, here, and here and I highly encourage ambitious teachers to look for ways to partner with local museums beyond fieldtrips.
However, for those interested in exploring the idea of working with your local museum to produce a student-created exhibit, I interviewed both Bruce Wendt and Kevin Kooistra (the museum curator) to find out what makes their remarkable partnership from both the teacher's and the museum's perspectives.

What makes it works, according to Bruce:
  • Work is conducted as part of an American studies class, last two periods of the school day.
  • Bruce (who teaches both English and Social Studies), has the same 30 kids for both hours.
  • Students enter the class knowing they will have different expectations than other classes.  
  • Parents sign a permission slip allowing students to travel to the museum in personal cars.
  • The Museum staff is flexible and willing to work with the students without the teacher present.
Bruce said, “The key [to the project’s success] is the WHC. They are willing to work with high school students and put up with their foibles.  … In the past Kevin [Kooistra, curator at the WHC] has been willing to work with kids without me. For example, I will be engaged with a portion of the class at school and 7 or 8 students travel to the WHC to work. The next day a different group goes. Obviously, both Kevin and I have to be flexible on how we conduct business.”

What makes it work, according to Kevin:
  • He treats the kids as professionals. "I tell them, 'This is an exhibit—this is going up in our gallery—it’s serious'.”
  • He also tells the students: “Being a community historian gives you a ticket to do things and talk to people you wouldn’t normally get to talk to. Pick the person you want to meet."
  • Kevin sees his job as guiding students through the process: "I share mistakes I’ve made and let them make mistakes."
  • Students do archival research/and or conduct interviews on topic of their interest: they reduce that to a paragraph and image. (Another teacher once told me—longer writing pieces are harder, but you can get students to do great paragraphs.)
  • Often they take a very basic question: What makes a great leader, for example.
  • Kevin allows students to follow their own interest--even when it means expanding how he imagines the exhibit. 
  • The payoff for the museum is the reception and opening. With the leadership exhibit, the museum hosted parents, kids, and leaders all on hand—and got great media attention.
If you want to try this with your local museum, here are a few things to keep in mind (again, from Kevin and Bruce):
  • You've got to realize that exhibits take TIME.
  • Museum exhibits can cost a little money—but not a huge amount if the museum is willing to construct an in-house exhibit.
  • It is important to keep the topic manageable—narrowly define the focus.
  • It is important to keep the size of the group manageable (Kevin works with a class of 25 to 30 students and wouldn’t want to do more than that.)
On the other hand, working on museum exhibits offers great benefits for students, not least that the experience provides an authentic audience for student work and allows students to contribute to their communities through what the Montana Heritage Project used to call "gifts of scholarship." The work students do crafting an exhibit also aligns nicely with common core standards. Could a student help create an exhibit without doing all of the following?

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.6 Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.9 Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.11-12.2 Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.11-12.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.11-12.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.11-12.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

My Favorite Montana Hanukkah Story--and Resources to Teach It

Hanukkah came early this year (yesterday was the last day), so I'm at least a day late in recommending resources that highlight Montana's special Hanukkah story--but I won't let that stop me.

If your elementary/middle school library doesn't have The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate, by Janice Cohn, illustrated by Bill Farnsworth, (Morton Grove, IL: Albert Whitman, 1995), it should. This picture book is based on a 1993 episode in Billings; when members of a hate group threw a rock through a Jewish family's window during Hanukkah, the community organized in opposition. Over 10,000 Billings residents displayed pictures of menorahs in their windows as an expression of solidarity with their Jewish neighbors.

The Center for Law and Democracy has a lesson plan to use with this picture book.

Other resources include materials The Working Group created to accompany their video, Not in Our Town, which also features Billings residents' stand against racial and religious intolerance. See a five-and-a-half minute clip of the video here.

Paper Candles: How Courage and Goodness Triumphed in an American Town is a play based on the story written for elementary, middle and high school students. 

Happy belated Hanukkah to all.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Primary Sources about Montana in the Library of Congress

I love the Library of Congress's American Memory site--but I've always found it hard to find Montana-specific resources on it. So I was pleased to see that TPS-Barat chose Montana for its recent "State Spotlight."

They include links to images, maps, an oral history (recorded in Idaho but which includes information about Montana--including the 1918 flu epidemic in Helena), Montana newspapers digitized as part of the Chronicling America project, and more. You can check out their links here.

If TPS-Barat sounds familiar, it might be because you've heard me talk about their the Barat Thinking Triangle--a tool to help students analyze historic photographs--as well as the useful chart they created explaining how reading photographs aligns to the Common Core.

Happy surfing.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Reading Strategies for Elementary Students

Elementary teachers: I was intrigued with the strategies explored in this video to get elementary students so they understand the main ideas of a text.

The first is to have them read to answer a focus question. I think this is tremendously important. Confession time here: I’m a professional historian and *my* mind wanders when I read history UNLESS I’m reading to find answers to specific questions.

The second was a strategy she calls “Keep it or Junk it,” a method that helps students identify key words and concepts in a text. Check out the video and let me know what you think.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm driving to Seattle next week to spend Thanksgiving with my brother and sister-in-law. Crossing icy mountain passes (McDonald, Lolo, Fourth of July, and the dreaded Snoquamie) is a memorable part of our family's Thanksgiving tradition. So are my sister-in-law's creamed onions, my cousin's delicious raspberry-cranberry relish, my nephew's artful apple pies, and the raucous game Scattegories we always play after dinner.

How do you and your students celebrate Thanksgiving? What do you remember of Thanksgivings from your childhood? How are Thanksgiving celebrations today similar to, and different from, the Thanksgivings of earlier times?

What has changed and what has remained the same is one of my favorite research questions. Answer this question by having your students interview elders about their Thanksgiving memories. MHS has a guide to using oral history in the classroom. It has great tips and training exercises that will be useful even if you don't choose to have your students conduct full-blown oral histories. I think an informal interview is more appropriate for this project, but all good interviews require scaffolding. Thus, I recommend brainstorming interview questions (and teaching them the difference between open-ended questions and closed "yes-no" questions) before sending them home to gather information.

Alternately, ask your students to look for answers in the historical newspapers on the Chronicling America site. To limit your search to Montana newspapers, select "Montana" from the list of states. Type the word "Thanksgiving" in the search box and see what comes up. After looking through a few articles, have your students to make a copy (or write down) something they found interesting (including the citation!). Share these items as a class and compare what you found to Thanksgiving today. A quick look at the historic newspapers had me thinking about Thanksgiving parades, shopping and what might politely be termed overindulgence. (You may want to assign students different pages from the search, so they all read different articles/advertisements).

Looking for a few good secondary stories about Thanksgivings past? Check out these from Ellen Baumler's Montana Moments blog: "Mining Camp Thanksgiving,"  "A Mild Thanksgiving in Wild Miles City, 1882," and "Thanksgiving Day Murder at Elkhorn."

Finally, check out this wonderful blog post, "Native American Perspectives on Thanksgiving," from our friends at Project Archaeology, which includes links to lesson plans, videos, and more.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Happy Geographic Awareness Week

This week is Geographic Awareness Week, so I thought I would post some information about digital map resources (thanks to MHS interpretive historian Ellen Baumler, colleague extraordinaire, for the list.)

Find maps from the Montana Historical Society Research Center and The University of Montana Mansfield Library in this collection, which includes everything from territorial maps to present day topographic maps.

After going to the map collection homepage, you'll need to search "Montana" to find these resources. My favorite maps in this collection are the early panoramic maps (also known as birds-eye views), which they have digitized for several Montana communities including Butte, Helena, Livingston, and Missoula.

You will find a wealth of material on this site, including Montana Maps (ready made maps on all sorts of topics, from elevation to weather to political divisions), the Digital Atlas of Montana (where you can request specific information), Montana GIS portal, Montana Cadastral Mapping (which includes information about current property ownership), the Natural Heritage Map Viewer and the Animal Field Guides (range and other well-organized information about Montana’s birds, mammals, and amphibians).

How do I love the, Sanborn Fire Insurance Company? Let me count the ways. “Founded in 1867 by D. A. Sanborn, the Sanborn Map Company was the primary American publisher of fire insurance maps for nearly 100 years.” Their maps “include information such as the outline of each building, the size, shape and construction materials, heights, and function of structures, location of windows and doors. The maps also give street names, street and sidewalk widths, property boundaries, building use, and house and block numbers.” These maps are available by subscription only, but the Montana Historical Society has paid for a subscription on behalf of all Montana residents. Feel free to email me for password to access this amazing resource.

Bakken Graphs and Maps

There are amazing map resources to learn more about the Bakken. The best way to find them is simply to type the phrase “Bakken maps” into your favorite search engine.

Other Tools and Resources


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cultural Bias Is Everywhere--Including Our Libraries

In response to my recent post, "Poetry and Prose for Native American Heritage Month," Broadwater Elementary School Librarian Marla Unruh shared some interesting thoughts about how librarians catalog and organize Indian-related material. She particularly noted how traditional cataloging choices can marginalize Indian material and, especially, relegate native peoples to the past rather than recognizing them as active, culturally and politically, in the present.

She wrote:
While searching for a Dewey Decimal classification for Birthright: Born to Poetry – A Collection of Montana Indian Poetry, I came across an article titled “Classification, Bias, and American Indian Materials,” by Holly Tomren. She asserts that both the Dewey Decimal and the Library of Congress classification systems do not have adequate categories for Indian literature, marginalizing basic Native concepts by using outdated terms and relegating Indian works to the past, placing them on the history shelves.
As I look our school district catalog, I find the overwhelming preponderance of books and resources in 970.004, the history section reserved for all things Native American.
I decided to put Birthright into our poetry section rather than segregating it from other poetry.
This is something I had never thought about and so I am especially appreciative to Marla for writing. How is the Birthright collection cataloged in your school library? Where do you think it should be?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Remembering Veterans

In response to my Veterans Day post last week, Jim Konen from Butte shared this poem written by seventh grader Mackenzie Vogt. The poem is tribute to her grandfather, James Miller, a Korean War veteran and a retired Montana educator who taught in Drummond and Butte.

It may be too late to fit this in—but I just learned about another cool crowdsourcing project—this one to do with collecting WWII veterans’ stories. The Trust for the National Mall has created a “Stories of Courage” contest. It’s asking folks to share and vote for stories from WWII veterans and Americans on the home front through its Facebook page. Contest ends November 30, 2013.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Poetry and Prose for Native American Heritage Month

Part of me resists the idea of Native American Heritage Month (or African American History Month and Women's History Month) since I believe these topics should be explored all year long. That said, I'll take what I can get and since November is designated Native American Heritage Month, I thought it might be useful to provide a few links--to use this month or any time at all.

National Museum of the American Indian is posting a poem a day on its Facebook page in honor of Native American Heritage Month.

For a great collection of poems by Montana Indian poetsalong with well-thought-out teaching resourcessee OPI's Indian Education Division's (relatively new) book, Birthright: Born to PoetryA Collection of Montana Indian Poetry. OPI posted the entire book online as a PDF for download and sent copies to public school libraries. They also filmed and posted the poets reading their poems, which I loved, because I much prefer hearing poems to reading them.

More interested in prose than poetry? An interview with Darrin Old Coyote, Crow tribal chairman, is a recent installment in the National Museum of the American Indian's "Meet Native America" series.

In the "oldie-but-goodie" category, Montanatribes.org is a great resource. A collaborative project of the Office of Public Instruction and the  University of Montana's Regional Learning Project, this digital archive contains short video clips of tribal cultural and historical experts speaking on a variety of topics.

The Montana Historical Society has created a number of IEFA lessons that focus on topics from pre-contact trade to resource extraction on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. Explore these and other resources on the Indian Education for All Lessons page of our website.

Other IEFA worksheets, lessons, and documents can be found on our Montana: Stories of the Land Companion Website. Chapters 2 (Pre-contact), 3 (Horse Era)7 (Treaty Period) and 11 (Early Reservation Era) focus entirely on Montana Indian history but Indian history is woven throughout so almost every chapter has activity suggestions in the end of chapter material, links to resources, or worksheets designed to deepen students' understandings of Montana Indians (see for example this worksheet from the railroad chapter). 
Finally, here's a link to OPI's Indian Education Division's newsletter from last November, that includes an annotated list of resources for teaching about Thanksgiving in ways that include American Indian perspectives.

What's your favorite IEFA resource?

p.s. Looking for still more inspiration? Click on the IEFA label to see past blog posts, including this one, this one, and this one.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Veterans Day

Next Monday is Veteran's Day, so I thought I would preview some good resource material.

In honor of Veterans Day a few years ago, the National Museum of the American Indian ran a story about Joe Medicine Crow and his service in World War II--including video.

Here are some other Veterans Day resources--including letters from Montana soldiers.

p.s. Missoula middle school teacher Karin Flint responded to my last post about brands to remind me of a wonderful (my word, not hers) brand lesson she, Linda Giammona-Eggers, and Wilma Tabaracci wrote for Grant-Kohrs Ranch. It is one of the many resources featured on the educator resources page for Montana: Stories of the Land Chapter 8, "Livestock and the Open Range, 1850 - 1887."

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Cattle Brands and Cowboys

Do you teach the story of Montana's open range cattle days?

Here's one of the best articles I've seen on decoding brands.

We've had the Montana Livestock Brand Registration records available online via the Montana Memory Project for some time, but this summer, our research center staff worked hard to make them easier to use. There's no way around it: brand searches are time consuming--but it is much easier than now than it has been in the past, and these instructions will help.

In addition, if your interested in the history of local brands, many counties have compiled their own historical record of brands recorded within that county. You can search for specific county brand books through the Montana Historical Society Research Center Online Catalog and possibly find those books at your local historical society or library. Finally, brand information was often published in local newspapers, some of which are available to search via Chronicling America.

You can find more resources for teaching Montana's ranching history on our Montana: Stories of the Land Companion Website under Chapter 8: Livestock and the Open Range, especially on our Educator Resources page.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Essential Questions and Research Questions: Two Very Different—But Equally Important—Things

Historians ask questions and, as I’ve been saying during a spate of recent trainings, the questions you ask have a lot to do with the answers you find. Good questions are the key to interesting and successful historical research projects.

Essential Questions

I am an advocate of essential questions. “Facing History and Ourselves” lays out a convincing case for asking essential questions “to get at matters of deep and enduring understanding.” As Facing History explains, “By connecting material to a significant theme that resonates with the lives of adolescents, essential questions can add relevance and focus to a unit of study.”

Difference between Essential Questions and Research Questions

It is important to remember, however, essential questions are different from research questions, the questions historians use to help them understand the past—and in this way begin to understand these larger philosophical concerns.

For example, “Who am I? What are the various factors that shape identity? In what ways is our identity defined by others?” are clearly essential questions. Research questions, by contrast, approach these larger issues from the side, instead of head on. They are place and time specific—and narrow enough that you can (at least provisionally) answer them by looking at the historical record. “How did German Jews define themselves in the 1920s and 1930s?” “How did the boarding school era affect the identity of Crow tribal members?” are examples of research questions that can lead students to investigate specific historical topics while also allowing them to begin to wrestle with larger issues of identity.

Asking Good Research Questions: Tools for Grades 6-12

Asking good research questions is hard—and is a skill worth teaching. John Schmidt and Jeff Treppa offer tools to help students ask good questions in a larger piece they’ve written on research papers. Especially useful are the handouts they prepared: Guidelines for Forming Historical Questions and Practice: Developing a Historical Question

Asking Good Research Questions: Tools for Elementary Students

Especially for elementary students, Billings librarian Ruth Ferris recommends using Question Matrices to ask better questions. Find her description of question matrices and links to valuable resources in Appendix 8 of “Thinking Like a Historian” (page 29 of the lesson).

Asking Good Research Questions: Another Technique for Everyone

Another technique is to start with the essential question “What has changed and what has remained the same—and why?” In her lesson plan “Thinking Like a Historian”—which focuses on using historic newspapers to explore life during the gold rush—Ruth suggests students use life today as a comparison to “generate a list of general topics and categories that they will need to learn about to develop a snapshot of life in the 1800s. Possible topics to consider: food, clothing, transportation, communication, technology. Then have students ask questions about these topics. See the entire lesson plan.

Asking good questions is a huge step toward developing greater understanding. How do you teach this skill in your classroom?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Learning about Twentieth-Century Montana Immigrants

Deb Mitchell and I have been working on updating our hands-on history footlocker, "Coming to Montana: Immigrants from around the World." (You can learn more about our hands-on history footlockers here.)

In the course of our work, we've come across some interesting resources for teaching about three often overlooked Montana communities: the Hmong, who settled in Missoula and the Bitterroot Valley, Mexican-Americans of the Yellowstone Valley, and Hutterites, whose colonies dot central and eastern Montana.


Hmong and Mexican Montanans

The Hmong are one of Montana's most recent immigrant groups. Check out the Hmong Missoula to learn more about their history and culture.

Some years ago, with funding from the NEH, the Montana Historical Society produced a DVD titled Montana Mosaic: Twentieth Century People and Events. The DVD features 12 short films--chapter 5, "Ethnic Migrations" includes information on both the Hmong and Mexican migrations. We donated copies to each public Montana middle and high school library. You can find the user guide for chapter 5 here.

The best essay I know about on Mexican Americans' Montana experiences is Laurie Mercier's very readable "Creating a New Community in the North: Mexican Americans of the Yellowstone Valley," first published in Stories from an Open Country: Essays on the Yellowstone River Valley (Billings, 1995). The Montana Historical Society Press reprinted it in Montana Legacy: Essays on History, People, and Place (Helena, 2002).


Did you know that OPI created Essential Understandings of Hutterites: A Resource for Educators and Students? The Hutterian Brethren Website is a final useful resource.

Monday, October 21, 2013

National History Day Resources

Grade 6-12 teachers: Are your students participating in National History Day this year?

If so, please remind your students that the Montana Historical Society will award the Martha Plassman Prize ($500 and a certificate) to an entry that demonstrates a clear understanding and use of newspapers as a primary source AND that uses the digitized newspapers available on the web site  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. More information here.

If you haven't had students participate, perhaps this is your year. Here's a long post I wrote last year at about this time, explaining the program, encouraging participation and outlining how it will help you realign your curriculum to the Common Core.

To summarize NHD is a project based curriculum that has students grade 6-12 investigate a historical topic related to the annual theme, by conducting primary and secondary research. After they have worked to analyzed and interpret your sources, and have drawn a conclusion about the significance of their topics, students will then be able to present their work in one of five ways: as a paper, an exhibit, a performance, a documentary, or a web site.

You can find more about integrating NHD into your curriculum and how it connects to the Common Core here.

You can find some excellent lesson plans to integrate NHD into your curriculum here and here.

This year's theme is Rights and Responsibilities in History. I found this year's theme a little harder to wrap my head around than last year's theme of "turning points in history" or even the theme from the year before (revolution, reaction and reform in history). NHD suggests that when considering a topic and how it links to the theme, students think about the following questions:

  • What is the struggle between those who have power and those who don’t?
  • What are we required to give to the community?  What are we entitled to be given?
  • How do we balance the rights of the individual with the rights of the group? 
  • What responsibilities do we have to protect those who cannot protect themselves?
  • What are the limits to rights?  Where should the lines be drawn?
 Learn more about the theme here. Find ideas for Montana topics here.
Want to get your students involved? Here's the Montana National History Day homepage.

The following websites also have useful resources for teachers and students.

New York National History Day
Washington National History Day

Questions? Contact Montana National History Day State Coordinator Tom Rust: trust@msubillings.edu or 406-657-2891.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Another Great MEA-MFT Conference Session--and Rethinking Columbus

Last week I highlighted some MEA-MFT sessions of interest while promising PRIZES for the first five readers to stop by our conference booth on both Thursday and Friday. (Come say hello!) 

Here's one more session that looks wonderful:

On Thursday, from 10 to 10:50, Pam Roberts and Tichelle Ickes from Huntley Project High School are presenting "CCSS: Research and Writing for HS Students"
IS 14. I've heard Pam and Tichelle talk about this project, and I'm completely enamored with it. They are emphasizing how the project meets Common Core standards but equally significant (to my mind anyway) is how this local history project connected students to their community.

Here's the description: "Students (Gr. 9) completed a local research project, focusing on primary and secondary sources, utilizing collaborative computer programs and tools. Their final presentation included an annotated bibliography and a Prezi presentation. The project included many Common Core State Standards requirements. "

On a completely unrelated note, I thought some of you might be interested in these timely resources from the Zinn Education Project on "Rethinking Columbus."

Friday, October 11, 2013

Are You Going to MEA? We Are!

My colleagues and I are excited about  the upcoming MEA Conference in Belgrade, October 17-18. We'll be staffing a table in the exhibit hall--so stop by and say hello. (Need incentive? We'll have prizes at the table for the first 5 people on both Thursday and Friday who tell us they read this blog).

You might also be interested in checking out one of our sessions.


9:00 AM-9:50 AM: "Coming to Montana: Teaching About Immigration," Debra Mitchell

  • Grade Level: 3-8
  • Active learning using primary sources brings history alive while meeting Common Core standards. Learn about the Montana Historical Society's new immigration lesson plans and revamped footlocker and other available hands-on history trunks. (IE) (Record #207) 
  • MS B110

3:00 PM-3:50 PM: "Bringing Literature to Life with Primary Sources," Jean O'Connor, Helena High School and Martha Kohl

  • Grade Level: 6-12
  • Relevant to the CCSS, this workshop will provide tools and examples for incorporating historical secondary and primary sources to bring literature to life. Participants will view digitized primary sources, analysis tools, and specific lesson plans on the Depression and the Gold Rush that demonstrate the integration of literature and history. (Record #197)
  • MS B108 

3:00 PM-3:50 PM: "Mapping Montana: Tracing Community Evolution," Ellen Baumler

  • Grade Level: 3-12
  • Maps are fabulous tools that offer clues to the past and illustrate the evo-lution of places, roads, and vistas so familiar to us today. Take a trip through Montana’s historic communities and discover how they grew. Learn how your students can travel through time using easily accessible historic maps. (Record #213)
  • MS B109


3:00 PM-3:50 PM: "Combining Art, IEFA, and History with K-6 Students," Debra Mitchell

  • Grade Level: K-6
  • With the Art of Storytelling: Plains Indian Perspectives bring ledger drawings and other pictographic art into your classroom to engage students in the study of a vibrant art form while learning about Indian peoples’ adaptabil-ity and resilience during a period of rapid change. (IE) (Record #357)
  • MS B107



11:00 AM-11:50 AM: "Where Are the Women? Integrating Women's Stories," Martha Kohl

  • Grade Level: 4-12
  • The year 2014 is the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage in Montana and the perfect moment to revisit the history of Montana's women and the way we do, or don't, include their stories in the curriculum. Learn about new resources and opportunities to commemorate the anniversary. (Record #224)
  • MS B110

In addition to presentations by MHS staff, here are other sessions that caught my eye:


12:00 PM-12:50 PM: "Forum: Common Core in the Social Studies," Bruce Wendt

  • Grade Level: K-12
  • Teachers across Montana will need to incorporate the newly-released Social Studies Common Core. Come listen to experienced educators share their knowledge and contribute your own ideas in a sharing of ways of improving our discipline. (BT) (Record #149)
  • IS Band Room


1:00 PM-1:50 PM "New Perspectives on Women of Montana," Mary Murphy, Montana State University - Bozeman

  • Grade Level: K-12
  • Women have long played an integral and pivotal role in Montana's devel-opment. Come learn new research that can help you invigorate your class-room learning and spark conversations with your students. (Record #310)
  • IS Band Room


1:00 PM-1:50 PM: "Using Archival Sources Documents in the Classroom," Ellen Crain and Irene Schiedecker, Butte-Silver Bow Archives

  • Grade Level: K-12
  • The Butte-Silver Bow public archives staff will provide a perspective on archives, what they are and how to use them. The Archives staff will provide a hands-on demonstration on how to incorporate primary archival sources into classroom activities for example: reading immigration documents in a social studies class. (Record #185)
  • MS A103
What sessions are you particularly looking forward to attending?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Indian Relay--New Film

Our friends at Montana PBS asked that I share information about the new film, Indian Relay--which will be showing both on PBS and premiering in theaters across Montana.

From the web page: "The hope and determination of modern-day American Indian life is revealed in this film about what it takes to win one of the most exciting and perilous forms of horseracing practiced anywhere in the world today. ... Throughout America there remains a wide array of misunderstanding about tribal citizens ranging from strong anti-Indian sentiments to over-romanticized notions of the noble savage. Along with the erroneous belief that all American Indians now receive free checks from the government, there's often considerable guilt about the hardships American Indians had to face after Europeans arrived in the Americas. Indian Relay helps overturn these stagnate stereotypes via a watchable, present-day story full of excitement, humor, knowledge and self-determination."

Upcoming MontanaPBS air dates:
  • Thursday 10/31 at 7:00pm
  • Monday 11/18 at 9:00pm
  • Wednesday 11/20 at 2:00am
  • Wednesday 11/20 at 12:00pm
FREE Indian Relay Preview Screenings in the following communities:
  • Crow Agency, Apsaaloke Center Sun. 10/13 at 7pm
  • Browning,  Blackfeet Tribal College Student Commons Mon. 10/14, 7pm
  • Bozeman, Museum of the Rockies' Hagar Auditorium Thurs. 10/17 at 6pm
  • Fort Hall, ID, Shoshone Bannock Hotel & Event Center Sat. 10/19 at  6pm
  • Billings, Babcock Theater Sun. 10/20, 4pm
  • Helena, Myrna Loy Center Thurs. 10/24, 7:30pm
  • Missoula, Top Hat Lounge Mon. 10/28, 7:30pm
  • Great Falls, Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center Tues. 10/29 at 7pm
Word is that there will be curriculum for this film on the MontanaPBS website--but it is still in production. I've also heard that OPI has purchased DVDs to distribute to school libraries.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Visual Thinking Strategies--My New Favorite Technique

My colleague Deb Mitchell introduced me to a technique called Visual Thinking Strategies last year, and the more familiar I become with it the more I like it.

The principle is simple: teachers ask specific, open ended questions to get students to look closely at visual material to draw conclusions based on evidence. It is designed to use with all ages--kindergarten to adults.

Although it was originally designed to use with art, we've found that the surprisingly powerful technique works well in getting students to look closely at and analyze all sorts of images, including historic photographs, posters, propaganda, and advertisements.

We're currently revamping the "Coming to Montana: Immigrants from around the World" footlocker and we've included VTS in two of the new lesson plans. That's how much we like it!

Deb created a brief PowerPoint summarizing the technique for a presentation she was giving on VTS that she graciously said I could share with you.

You can learn more about VTS on the VTS website, where you can also watch videos of teachers modeling the technique.

What's your favorite teaching strategy? Share it with me and I'll share it with on the blog.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Oral History Seminar in Kalispell

From the Ground Up, Montana Women & Agriculture
Oral History Seminar—Kalispell, Montana

Teaching students and adults the art of collecting oral histories

The role of women in agriculture is an essential thread in the fabric of Montana’s settlement and history. An exciting project by the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and local conservation districts will pay tribute to farm and ranch women by preserving their stories of life on the land.

OPI Licensing Renewal Credits: 6

Date: October 5, 2013 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Location: Lone Pine State Park Visitor's Center, 300 Lone Pine Road, Kalispell, MT 59901

Cost: $15—covers lunch and refreshments
Who Should Attend: The oral history seminar is designed for educators who want to inspire students to record oral histories on agricultural women. The oral historian from the Montana Historical Society will teach educators how to implement a lesson plan that will guide students in research, pre-interview preparation, rapport development, the interview, and the final product—a transcribed document for the Montana Historical Society’s collection. The seminar will also address how the oral history project can relate to Montana’s Common Core Standards.
Community residents are also welcome to participate. At the end of the seminar, all attendees will have the knowledge to complete an oral history.
Sponsors:  Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation, Montana Historical Society, Broadwater Conservation District, & Flathead Conservation District

Monday, September 30, 2013

Resources for Teaching about Homesteading

Last year, I asked readers to take a survey identifying the top ten events in Montana history, promising that I would write up blog posts on resources for teaching some of our collective top tens. I managed posts on the discovery of gold and on railroads, which tied for first, receiving sixty out of eighty votes. (More on the results here.)

Homesteading came in third place, with 50 votes--I personally think it was more place-changing than the discovery of gold. And, luckily, we have lots of resources to use to teach about it.

Elementary Resources

 Elementary teachers, particularly, should see our hands-on history footlocker "Inside and Outside the Home: Homesteading in Montana 1900-1920," which focuses on the thousands of people who came to Montana's plains in the early 20th century in hope of make a living through dry-land farming. You can preview the user guide here and learn more about how to order the footlocker here.  I also recommend teachers look at the Danish Memoirs lesson plan (based around a remarkable homesteading story) in the "Coming to Montana" footlocker. (You can do the lesson without ordering the footlocker by downloading the information from the user guide, starting at page 43.)

Middle and High School Resources

 As always, a good starting place for lesson plans is the Montana: Stories of the Land Companion Website and Teachers Guide, where we've not only posted free PDFs of every chapter of our award-winning middle school textbook, but have also posted worksheets and links to lesson plans and other interesting web resources. For the homesteading, you'll want to see Chapter 13: "Homesteading this Dry Land." 

I'm a big fan of our Learning from Historical Document Units, which in this case include "Letter from W. M. Black to Gov. Joseph Dixon, from Shelby, 1921, Requesting Aid for Drought Victims" and "Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway Montana Homesteading Brochure."

There are some other fantastic examples of homesteading propaganda available to download on Montana Memory. My favorites include "Map of Montana's homestead lands: taken from records of United States land offices at Glasgow, Havre, Great Falls and Lewistown, January 1914,"   “The Judith Basin: Fergus County Montana,” 1913, and “We Are Satisfied: Stock Raising, Grain, Dairy Products, Ryegate, Montana,” c. 1914. Corvallis teacher Phil Leonardi came up with a great assignment using homesteading propaganda--having students identify (and then research) potential falsehoods. Details here.

Studying homesteading lends itself to community history projects. If you know the names of homesteaders in your area (which you can probably find by looking in your county history book), you can use BLM records to research their homesteading patents - and often view copies of the actual documents granting them title.

Looking for guidance on how to embark on a community history project? "Exploring Community through Local History: Oral Stories, Landmarks, and Traditions" is a lesson plan from the Library of Congress. The Montana Heritage Project also offers useful advice to teachers wishing to engage in in-depth community study. See particularly the project's ALERT model.

Of course, historic newspapers are a great way to explore the homesteaders' world. Our staff has been working with Chronicling America to digitize parts of our newspaper collection. A full list of Montana newspapers currently digitized is available here. 



When discussing homesteading it only makes sense also to talk about allotment. OPI's Indian Education Division has pulled together a list of resources that "help to provide insight into the impact the law had on Indian communities and provide multiple perspectives."

My favorite resource on allotment is NOT mentioned on the OPI list. They are the letters, to and from Sam Resurrection, a Salish leader who lead the fight against opening the Flathead Indian Reservation to homesteaders. His letters lobbying the federal government and the Assistant Commissioner of Indian Affairs' responses are incredibly powerful and can be found on the Montana Memory Project. (Select "download all as a PDF" and see particularly pages 10-13 of the document.)

Did I miss your favorite homesteading (or allotment) resource? Drop me an email and I'll pass it along in a future listserv.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Montana: Stories of the Land Now Aligned to Common Core

You asked, we've delivered. We now have charts showing how the Montana history textbook, Montana: Stories of the Land, aligns to the new Common Core literacy standards--including the history and social studies, reading, writing, and speaking and listening standards. Find standard alignments for the textbook, the end of chapter questions and exercises, and the worksheets here.

That same link will also take you to charts showing the alignment to Montana State Standards for Social Studies and the Essential Understandings regarding Montana Indians.

We’re working on posting similar charts for other curriculum material we’ve created. Stay tuned.

By the way--if you are new to the textbook, I highly recommend you take our online tour. It is a little dated, because we've added some new resources since it was created, but it gives a nice overview of the Montana: Stories of the Land companion website and I bet you'll find teaching resources you hadn't found in your own exploration. Submit the quiz at the end to earn an OPI Renewal Unit.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Ten new MT newspapers on Chronicling America!

As Zoe Ann Stoltz, MHS Reference Historian, is fond of saying, “newspapers are the closest thing we have to a time machine.” That’s why I love the National Digitization Newspaper Program.

Montana newspapers available through Chronicling America

Library staff have been hard at work digitizing some of our historic newspaper collection. We now have sample issues (and a few full runs) digitized from 36 different Montana newspapers. Our total page count is now 127,664, distributed across 17,197 issues. A full list of Montana newspapers currently digitized is available here.

Most recently, ten new titles have been added:

  • Butte Inter Mountain
  • Culbertson Searchlight
  • New North-west (Deer Lodge)
  • Malta Enterprise
  • Producers News (Plentywood)
  • The River Press (Fort Benton)
  • Rocky Mountain Husbandman (Diamond City)
  • Ronan Pioneer
  • Suffrage News (Helena)
  • Sun River Sun

The Missoulian run has grown from one to five years (1909-14), and the Helena Independent now has continuous coverage from 1889 through 1894. Brief abstracts for the titles are available here. 

Other states’ newspapers available through Chronicling America

Looking for newspapers outside of Montana? Thirty-six states and Puerto Rico are also actively digitizing their newspapers. See all of the papers available through the Chronicling America Website (and remember, the site is regularly adding more titles).

Lesson Ideas Using Chronicling America

Looking for ideas of how to use these in the classroom? Here are a few hints:

  • Ask students: What was happening on your birthday 100 or 75 years ago? 
  • Play “newspaper bingo” to explore the social world of the era you are studying (Sample bingo cards and instructions are available here.
  • Have students go shopping in the ads to answer the question “what can I buy now, what could I buy then”?
  • Have students research how newspapers of the time portrayed certain significant events (See this useful post on conducting advance searches on the Chronicling America website.)
  • Use our lesson plan, “Thinking Like a Historian,” to have students explore what life was like in Virginia City, Montana, by conducting newspaper research. 
  • Compare events as described in a reminiscence, letter, or other source to the account of the same event in the newspaper (see our page 21 of our study guide for Girl from the Gulches: the Story of Mary Ronan, for an example). 
  • Have students write up a column to be published in your local newspaper or radio station, “This Week in Montana History” (hat tip to Renee Rasmussen, who did something like this with her Chester High School English students.) 

Looking for even more ideas? Edsitement has more suggestions for you.

Other Sources for Newspapers

I like Chronicling America because its interface is the most friendly and it is (relatively) easy to search. But if your students are conducting local history projects, and the newspapers you want are NOT available through Chronicling America, they might still be able to find relevant articles through other sources. A list of freely available digitized Montana newspapers is here.

In addition, the Montana Historical Society has 95% of all the newspapers ever published in Montana on microfilm. Your library can interlibrary loan up to five reels of microfilm for thirty days at a time.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Crowdsourcing Projects: Allowing Students to Make Genuine Contributions While Learning History, Research and Writing

Crowdsourcing (“the practice of obtaining needed … content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community”) seems to me to offer great opportunities for classroom teachers—particularly high school teachers because they can provide students with an authentic audience and a real purpose for conducting research and writing. Participating in crowd-sourcing projects allows students to make actual contributions to preserving knowledge.

Here are three good examples—all of which seem to me to provide great opportunities to engage Montana students.

National Museum of American History’s National Agricultural Innovation and Heritage Archive

This new project is designed to document the transformation of American agriculture over the past seventy years. Recognizing that “personal stories are key in telling the story of agricultural innovation,” “the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is asking the public to help us preserve the innovations and experiences of farming and ranching across the United States.” Thus far, curator Peter Liebhold has collected 40 stories, including ones from Illinois (participating in soil conservation NoTill projects in the 1980s). Hawaii (cowboying in the 1960s), Iowa (plowing with horses in the 1930s) and California (the spinach crisis of 2006). They have instructions on how to participate and plan on adding specific ideas for teachers down the road.

The Living New Deal

 This is a very cool website created by members of the University of California Geography Department to document the ongoing impact of the New Deal. As they explain:
No city, town, or rural area was untouched by the New Deal.  Hundreds of thousands of roads, schools, theaters, libraries, hospitals, post offices, courthouses, airports, parks, forests, gardens, and artworks—created in only one decade by our parents and grandparents—are still in use today. Because these public works were rarely marked, the New Deal’s ongoing contribution to American life goes largely unseen. Given the New Deal’s scale and impact across America, it seems inconceivable that no national register exists of what the New Deal built.  The Living New Deal is making visible that enduring legacy.
The project is great—but Montana is woefully underrepresented with only 9 sites. Luckily, they are looking for volunteers to add information. “In order to identify New Deal public works, we are asking volunteers from historical societies, libraries or any walk of life to help provide information. If you know of a New Deal project in your community, please take the time to photograph and document it. Then send the information to us for inclusion in the New Deal inventory. For tips on being a New Deal sleuth, download our Guidelines for Researchers.” You can find out more about how to get involved in this documentation project here.

Story Project: Celebrating Montana Women as Community Builders 

Looking for something closer to home? This project is part of a larger project to create a new mural for the Montana State Capitol Building--the first in over 80 years. Initiated by the 2011 Montana Legislature with Senate Bill 59 and supported by private donations, the mural will honor the history of Montana women as community builders. It will be installed in November 2014 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of woman suffrage in Montana.    
The Story Project is designed to extend the commemoration’s reach, to raise awareness about the centennial of woman suffrage in Montana, to recognize Montana women’s contributions to the state and their communities, and to celebrate the creation of the Montana Women's Mural in the State Capitol.

How will it work?
The Story Project is inviting people across Montana to collect stories about individual women and women's organizations who have helped shape our communities and state, past and present. At the completion of The Story Project (November 2014, the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage), stories and photographs donated to the project will be offered to the Archives of the Montana Historical Society for use by future generations of researchers.

What types of stories is The Story Project looking for?
According to its website, The Story Project “welcomes stories about a woman or group of women whose type of contributions and achievements will help the artist painting the Montana Women's Mural envision how Montana women built our social institutions: libraries, museums, theaters, parks, playgrounds, schools, shelters, hospitals, labor unions, and social clubs.”

The Story Project has developed a questionnaire to guide participants’ research and storytelling, as well as forms you’ll need to submit information.

If anyone decides to participate in these (or other) crowdsourcing projects, I’d love to hear about your experience—and that of your students.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Best High School Montana History, IEFA or Heritage Education Lessons

Last week I shared middle school teachers’ answers to the question “Describe (in brief) the best Montana history or IEFA lesson or project or resource your taught this year--the one you will make time for next year no matter what.” (Didn’t have time to do the survey but have a great lesson to share—one you love, regardless of who created it? Send it along and I’ll let folks know.)

Here are the answers submitted thus far from high school teachers.

Art of Storytelling  

Robin Gray, from Missoula, wrote: “Art of Storytelling: Plains Indian Perspective! It was awesome.  We created ledger art drawings.”

Using Google Maps to Study Literature

Cory Snow (from Billings) “used Google Maps to track characters' journeys from the novel A Yellow Raft in Blue Water.”

Panning for Gold

“I taught a lesson on panning for gold.  I took the kids out of the classroom and had them try it for themselves. We used that experience to look at how hard it must have been for miners to do that day in and day out.  It gave my students an better understanding/appreciation of what those people went through.” If you want an easier gold panning exercise, you can find one on page 35 of the  the user guide for the "Gold, Silver and Coal" footlocker.

Inside Anna’s Classroom Study Guide and Article on Wounded Knee

“While I didn't directly teach any of the lessons, I forwarded them often to my consulting teachers.  I was especially impressed with the "Anna Study Guide" and source materials such as the New York Times article on Wounded Knee, which fit in well with the IEFA lessons my teachers in the Poplar, Montana school district were doing.”


“I utilized the website http://fourdirectionsteachings.com/ and shared with my students the information from the 5 nations listed.  They had an opportunity to compare the cultures presented and see that the connections to the past are a lot closer than we realize as long as we look.  I hope that this helps them make connections to their culture and customs on a more regular basis. I had one other lesson that I worked on that stands out, but it only truly connected with one student.  I asked my students to research the history of Wounded Knee, recognize 2 or 3 prominent members of the Sioux nation, the current land dispute, and if they had suggestions in resolving this situation.  (Is there a connection we can make to encourage the government to establish the land as a national landmark?)

Native Poetry using the Birthright: Born to Poetry

“The students had to create a poem that matched a Montana History occurrence and write it from the point of view of someone living in that time period.”  (Ed. note: Birthright: Born to Poetry, a Collection of Montana Indian Poetry is fabulous—and each poem comes with classroom ideas). There’s also a Birthright video with the authors reading their poems.

Boarding school/Birthright Lesson

“As an instructional coach, I didn't teach this. However, I developed it based on a workshop by Dottie Susag. The objective was to write a paragraph that  identified, with supporting details, the common theme of a boarding school video and two poems from the Birthright anthology.”

Sanborn Maps

Using the Sanborn maps  for Missoula, we re-constructed neighborhoods and created logs of the businesses and how they changed over time. [Find Sanborn maps for your community at http://sanborn.umi.com/ (email mkohl@mt.gov for username and password.)

Student Created Video about Perma Red

Anna Baldwin, from Arlee, wrote: “I used digital photography, digital audio recording, and a basic editing program to help students create an audiovisual representation of Debra Magpie Earling's novel Perma Red. This novel incorporates beautiful imagery and incredible descriptive detail about landscape, so I first had students select parts of the novel they found moving or descriptive and recorded them reading these selections. Then I took  students out one morning with digital cameras (and their smartphones) to photograph the area. While a pair edited the pictures to the audio track, others created intro and transition slides. Finally as a group they selected their music. It all came together as this video, hosted on youtube: Perma Red From Our Vision.

World War I and Sedition 

Kelley Edwards, Helena: “The Sedition Project- WWI Exploring the social, political, and economic impact that the sedition law had on Montanans.  Also explored if there should be limits to the First Amendment.  I am doing it again next year!“ (Learn more here.)

Place-Based Unit

Jeri Rittel (PAL, Helena): “I taught a thematic unit which included art, social studies and English. We visited Bannack, Fort Benton and Helena. We would like to do a river theme next year and include Fort Benton.”

Change on the Huntley Project/People involved in Positive Social Change 

Pam Roberts, from the Huntley Project, shared information on two research projects that had 9th and 10th grade English students conducting research using World Book Online – EbscoHost. Students investigating the Huntley Project also used resources digitized as part of Montana Memory Project; visited the Huntley Project museum, interviewed community elders, and created Prezis in which they compared Huntley Then and Now—with each student taking on a different topic, from fashion to raising chickens.

Homestead Fair

Mary-Kate Neinhuis, Harlowton: “The most fun and successful project was our ‘Homestead Fair.’ Each student created an ‘exhibit’ on a specialized subject that piqued their interest during our participation in ‘The Big Read’ (Harlowton participated in a Big Read of My Antonia. More on the Big Read here.) Students each created a board with information, primary sources, and an interactive element on a variety of topics such as homestead structures, transportation, fashion, courtship, and even prostitution during the homestead era in Montana. The students really enjoyed this more than anything else.”

IEFA Museum School Partnership Program

Chris Fisk (Butte) participated in a museum-school partnership program that focused on Indian Education for All. His students learned about area’s history before copper—including what the Salish called different sites around Butte and what traditional uses of those sites were. Among the highlights was a visit from Salish traditional technology expert Tim Ryan, who came down from the Flathead Reservation and taught the students how to build a fish trap.

Chronicling America 

One teacher gave a shout out to Chronicling America, the Historic American Newspaper Digitization Project.  “It brings history alive to read the articles that correspond to the events in history.  We used this source quite a bit while teaching Girl from the Gulches.” (Chronicling America is an AMAZING project that allows students and other researchers to read (a selection of) newspapers published between 1836 and 1922. See the Montana titles currently available here. Learn more about using Chronicling America in the classroom here.

Several teachers talked about the importance of integrating Montana History into other classes:

World War II Project

“Using Primary Sources to teach about Montana during WWII.  Students always find the First Special Service Force, 163rd Inf, Fort Missoula, Charlo and Oiye stories especially interesting. That local connection to the broader US History topics makes what students are learning engaging.”

American Indian Movement

Amy Collins, of Billings, wrote, “I think that the best IEFA lesson that I taught this year was the lesson that I did with my Junior US History class about AIM and the civil rights component for the American Indian. Along with the historical context, we did a component on mascots and place names, and the current movement within NCAA sports to change/replace names, which also had a Montana component.  So, all in all, it was a very timely ‘lesson’ for my students.” (Looking for more resources on mascots? We recently made this Montana The Magazine of Western History article available: “On Trial The Washington R*dskins’ Wily Mascot: Coach William ‘Lone Star’ Dietz.”)

Fort Peck Dam

“We study Montana during the Depression using the Montana: Stories of the Land text and look at the Fort Peck commemorative pamphlet.  This is followed with a visit to the Interpretive center, the Power House, and the Valley County Museum.  Ideally this could include Ivan Doig's novel, Bucking the Sun, to cross curricular areas.  Engineering feats (Technology), measuring (Math), the sky is the limit with this idea. I incorporate this into my Senior Government and US History classes.”

Monday, September 9, 2013

Free Literacy in Social Studies Workshop, Helena, Oct. 7-8

We’ve teamed up again with the Jan Clinard, Helena College, the Indian Education Division of the Office of Public Instruction, and Professor Aaron Parrett (University of Great Falls) to put on a two-day workshop focusing on reading and writing strategies to meet common core standards and integrating Indian Education for All into the curriculum. Focusing on the theme of homesteading, we’ll look at strategies for reading primary documents including newspapers, photographs, brochures, letters, and treaties, ways to encourage your students to think like historians, and ideas for improving student writing.

The workshop will be held at Helena College, October 7 and 8. Register here.  
  • October 7, the workshop will run 8:30 a.m.-3:15 p.m., with a reception and behind-the-scene tours of the Montana Historical Society from 3:30-5:00.
  • October 8, the workshop is scheduled for 8:30-3:30. Participants can earn 15 renewal units.
This free workshop is designed to help implement Montana’s Common Core Standards by developing Literacy in Social Studies, as described in the Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies Standards and Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects. These include asking students to
  • “cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources” (RH 1);
  • “evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information, including texts by and about American Indians” (RH 8);
  • “write arguments focused on discipline-specific content” (WHST 1); 
  • “write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events” (WHST 2); and
  • “conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question” (WHST 7). 
Helena College is working with other partners to offer a second workshop in Great Falls, but this one focuses on reading and writing strategies for science and technical subjects. That workshop—co-led by long time heritage educator/English teacher/IEFA advocate Dottie Susag—will be held September 23-24 and is geared for 6-12 English and science teachers.

To register, go to http://tinyurl.com/LISSTS-MT, where you may also register for on online course called “Searching, Selecting, and Citing,” designed to enhance digital research skills and the use of web tools in the classroom.

Questions? Contact Jan Clinard, Ed.D., 406-447-6951, jan.clinard@umhelena.edu.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Best Middle School Montana History, IEFA or Heritage Education Lessons

Last week I shared elementary teachers’ answers to the question “Describe (in brief) the best Montana history or IEFA lesson or project or resource your taught this year--the one you will make time for next year no matter what.” (Didn’t have time to do the survey but have a great lesson to share—one you love, regardless of who created it? Send it along and I’ll let folks know.)

Here are the answers submitted thus far from middle school teachers.

Learning from Historical Document Units

Marylou Sytsma (7th-8th grade, Manhattan Christian) writes: “I really enjoy using the primary source documents that are available through the curriculum. The earthquake letter from Helena really gives the students a chance to step back into the past and read about an event from one person's point of view. It helps them to experience history first hand rather than just read it in third person from a textbook. We have great discussions when we talk about the letter and how things have changed now.” Note: We’ve digitized primary sources for almost every chapter of the Montana: Stories of the Land textbook. See the main page for each chapter on the Montana: Stories of the Land website for links.

Examining Artifacts 

Kim Konen, 7th grade Montana History teacher in Whitehall, brings in tools to supplement her class’s study of the Montana: Stories of the Land chapter on “Livestock and the Open Range." “My family lives on a ranch near Dillon, Montana.  I was able to get some old brands, dockers, sheep shears, and other old tools that were used by my grandparents and have been in my family to share with my class.  It was fun to explain how the various tools were used and to be able to explain how technology has become an important part in ranching and farming today.  How things have changed and made raising livestock and crops easier to produce!”

Mapping Montana, A-Z

“I do the map activity to begin the year because then they delve into the state of Montana map and look at it closely.  Love the hands on!”

Building a Gold Rush Town 

Wendy DosSantos, Trout Creek School, writes: “The lesson I would repeat again would be for the creation of our gold town model (used along with Chapter 6 in Montana: Stories of the Land). The kids make a mining town/camp loosely based off Bannack (They are free to name their own town.) They make buildings from popsicle sticks and place them on a big, painted piece of plywood.  They use spray insulating foam to create terrain.  Through the lesson we talk about what types of buildings were likely to be in a mining camp, etc.  They all are proud of their efforts, and the whole school enjoys the final product which is now displayed in the library.  For the little kids [who attend the same school] I display library books with a western theme or setting with the display.”

Unit on Place 

“I taught a unit on sense of 'Place.' The unit included a historical and contemporary look at the Salish and the importance of the Bitterroot Valley.” Although the teacher didn’t mention it, she might have used “Building World Views Using Traditional Cultures and Google Earth.”


Teri Ogle of White Sulphur Springs takes here 7th graders on a “three-day field trip throughout Montana - with overnight stays at participating schools.”

Immigration Maps 

“We are making maps showing immigrant homesteaders that settled in Stillwater County.   An extension of this activity if we have time, will show an overlay off previous Crow lands to see how lands were assimiliated by different cultures.”

Montana Tribes Digital Archives online 

No quotes from the teacher—just great recommendations.

Montana: Stories of the Land Companion Website

All of the resources that come with our Montana: Stories of the Land textbook.
No quotes from the teacher—but you can bet I was happy to see this recommendation.

Socratic Circle 

Favorite Activity: “Socratic seminar with 8th graders after examining the history of Federal policy and Indian Relations.” Inside Anna’s Classroom Study Guide describes how to use Socratic Circles on page 7. (I’m sure other places do too—this is just the one I know.)

Connecting Fiction and Non-fiction

“Working with the students with their reading of fiction [Jason’s Gold, about the Klondike Gold Rush] and correlating with a non-fiction piece and primary sources available to us online.”

Montana History Report/PowerPoint

Cindy Glavins of Big Timber wrote: “My 7th Graders do a Montana History report and Power Point in computer lab.  We cover the topics of:  Ranching, Mining, All 12 tribes, Local history, Famous people, etc.”