Monday, February 18, 2013

Students Using Archival Material--Three Examples

It’s been an exciting year for partnerships. I’ve especially been enjoying working with my colleagues in the Research Center and Helena High School teachers to develop a series of projects that have students conducting primary source research.

All three projects also involve having the students visit the MHS Research Center and do some of their research on site—but all of them could be adapted for students who live too far away to make a trip into the historical society.

The first two projects were designed with English teachers and complement the reading of specific texts (Fools Crow and Grapes of Wrath). The third project was developed with an American history teacher to enrich students’ study of World War I.

Fools Crow/Marias Massacre project

 We created this project with 10th grade honors English teacher Jill Van Alstyne. After her students read Fools Crow, she has them look at the Marias Massacre, an event that occurs at the end of James Welch’s novel.

After completing the MHS lesson plan: “Blood on the Marias: Understanding Different Points of View Related to the Baker Massacre of 1870`,”  and reviewing the difference (and different uses for) primary and secondary sources, she assigns a research paper focused on the Marias Massacre. Students are asked to answer one of the following questions: “Why did Baker attack Heavy Runner's band?” “How did attitudes to the event change over time?” or “How did geography and/or ethnicity influence perspective?”

As part of their research, they visit the Montana Historical Society, look for newspaper articles on microfilm and other relevant information. A fuller description of her project is here.

By the way, Jill and I are presenting on this collaboration at the upcoming IEFA Best Practices Conference February 25-26 in Helena. (You can register for that conference here.)

Grapes of Wrath project

 Helena High School Junior Honors American Literature teacher Jean O’Connor worked with us to develop this project, which will have students conducting research in the Governors Records to gain a deeper understanding of what life was like in Montana during the Great Depression. Although “Governors Records” sounds deadly, the collection actually contains heartrending letters from farmers and others detailing their struggles on drought stricken farms. (You can view some of those letters on the Montana Memory Project by searching for “Governor Erickson” in the “Letters, Diaries and Documents from the Montana Historical Society”. (Make sure you limit the search to that specific collection or you will get hundreds of irrelevant hits.) Details of her project are here.

Alien and Sedition Act project

 We designed this one with eleventh grade American history teacher Kelley Edwards, who is going to have her students explore the question “what should be the limits of free speech in wartime?” through research on the causes and effects of Montana’s Alien and Sedition Act. These students will dig into historic newspapers, the records of the Montana Council of Defense, even digitized prison records. Details of that project are here.

This is the second year for the Fools Crow project, and the first year for the other two, which we may find will need some refinement. Bottom line, though, is that we’re delighted to be playing a role in encouraging student research. I’m happy to work with any teachers interested in adapting these lessons to their own classes no matter where they teach in Montana.

P.S. I learned from Julie Saylor that, at the Best Practices in Indian Education for All Conference, OPI will be handing out hard copies of the revised Elementary Level Language Arts Model Teaching Units (now aligned to the Common Core) that I talked about last post. Those who want a hard copy of the two volume set but can’t make it to the conference can email Julie (jsaylor@mt.gov) with your mailing address and she’d be happy to send it to you.

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