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 24, 2015

Monday, December 21, 2015

Reading for Winter Break

Winter break can be a good time to catch on your reading. Assuming folks are too busy to read every post, I looked at my stats and have compiled a list of some of the most popular posts of 2014-2015.

Happy reading, everyone. And all the best wishes for the New Year!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Revisiting Montana's Historic Landscape

As longtime readers will know, I'm a big proponent of students studying their own communities. (You can read more about why and how in this post I wrote in 2012).

Architectural historian Carroll Van West's blog, "Revisiting Montana's Historic Landscape," is a great resource for local study--particularly if you are interested in learning more about how your community's history is reflected in the built environment and involving students in learning about heritage preservation.

To find articles on your community in this blog, type your town's name into the search bar (top right).

You can find more ideas for local study by scrolling through past Teaching Montana History posts about local history projects. There you'll find resources and models for researching local brandspartnering with your local museum, participating in crowd sourcing projects like HistoryPin and What Was There and much more.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Not in Our Town

This weekend, 150 Billings residents rallied in a local park to show support for local Muslims, who have been receiving threats. (Article here.)

This act of solidarity reminded me of Billings' response to anti-Semitic violence in December 1993, when thousands of families posted pictures of menorahs in their window as a visible rejection of prejudice. The movement became known as Not in Our Town.

Facing History has created a reading and discussion questions about Not in Our Town.

Elementary students can learn about this history through the picture book The Christmas Menorahs. If your school library doesn't have this book, it should. More resources for teaching about Not in Our Town are here.

On an entirely different note, TPS-Barat is offering a free professional development workshop in January. From their website:

The virtual workshop will feature independent work at school/home, including work before the first of three one-hour synchronous sessions held Tuesdays January 5, 12, and 26 at 6:30 pm CST online. The workshop will be capped at 10 participants but must have no less than 5 to run it. 
Prior to each online session, participants will be asked to investigate resources on the Library of Congress and the TPS-Barat Primary Source Nexus and to prepare materials to share in the synchronous discussions. The online meetings are designed for participants to share their findings and experiences and receive advice, feedback, and additional information from the TPS-Barat master trainers as well as their cohort colleagues. 
Who: K-12 teachers; 5-10 participants 
What: Teaching with Primary Sources from the Library of Congress Level 1 
When: January 5, 12, 26, 2015; sign up by December 22 using an email address you will check during winter break 
Where: School, Home & Online
Why: Enhance your ability to find and access Library resources as well as create and implement primary source activities

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Interdisciplinary Unit: The 10,000 Year Significance of Bison

Project Archaeology recently featured the work of graduate student Mario Battaglia, who, in cooperation with educators and cultural experts on the Blackfeet reservation, recently published a new interdisciplinary, bison-themed curriculum designed for use in grades 6-9 science, social studies, and language arts classes.

According to Mario, "the curriculum examines the 10,000 year significance of bison to Native and, much later, non-Native peoples primarily within the state of Montana. In all, five interactive, hands-on, and student-driven units highlight bison’s integral role culturally, politically, socially, and ecologically both before and after Euroamerican contact. Throughout the curriculum sequence, students uncover bison’s dynamic and turbulent past, discover bison’s central placement within Native cultures, and are challenged to critically engage with the processes leading to the near-extinction of bison in the late 1800s. From this understanding, students are tasked with determining potential steps forward in bison restoration and management."

You can read more about the free curriculum on Project Archaeology's website or download the 5-unit curriculum and review it for yourself.

Monday, December 7, 2015

World War II Primary Sources on Montana Memory

It’s D-Day—so I thought I’d share a link to the Peggy Letters, one of my favorite collections on the Montana Memory Project, Montana's version of the Library of Congress's American Memory Project.

The Peggy Letters are “newsletters written by the Miles City branch of American Women’s Voluntary Services (AWVS) from late 1942 until early 1946. The newsletters were sent to every service man and woman from Miles City, Custer County, and neighboring areas for whom they had addresses to keep them abreast of events at home while they were serving in the military. The AWVS chose “Peggy” as a pseudonym: several AWVS women took turns writing the newsletters.” The collection has the newsletters—but also letters that “service men and women wrote back to ‘Peggy’.” 

P.S. Montana Memory is working hard to become more user friendly and has just posted a series of 2 to 5 minute instructional videos on everything from to view a document, how to use audio files, and how to create a PowerPoint to advance search techniques. In terms of finding material, I still find it easiest to go straight to collections I know about (which is why I am going to be featuring specific items and collections over the next few months). This is the second in the series. The first featured the hundreds of Evelyn Cameron and L. A. Huffman photos the Montana Historical Society Photo Archives recently added to the digital archives. If you have a favorite collection (or item) on Montana Memory, let me know and I’ll share it to the list. 

P.P.S.Our new lesson plan, Reader's Theater: Letters Home from Montanans at War, features excerpts of several World War II letters. It also includes links to the Montana Memory Project, including to a letter John Harrison wrote from Germany on May 14, 1945, informing his family of his brother Bob's death. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Evaluating Sources

I had the great pleasure of hearing Sam Wineburg, founder and Executive Director of the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG), speak last September. SHEG is responsible for "Beyond the Bubble," a site that suggests ways teachers can use primary resources to create innovative, easy-to-use assessments to "gauge historical thinking.”  SHEG is also the creator of the Reading like a Historian curriculum, "87 flexible lesson plans featuring documents from the Library of Congress." Here is a nice article about Reading Like a Historian (which, by the way, is now aligned to Common Core).

I'm a bit of a SHEG groupie, so you can imagine how excited I was to listen to Wineburg, who focused on the problem authenticating information.

The question: With so much information on the web, how do we decide what's reliable? It used to be, we would tell students to avoid ".com" sites, and trust ".org" or ".edu" sites. But almost anyone can establish an organization and claim a ".org" address (and many people with axes to grind do.) Equally, there are many ".com" sites with valuable information (this one, for example).

Instead of hard and fast rules, he suggests we teach our students to ask two questions:

1. Who is the site's author/owner?

Sometimes, the site makes it evident. If not, you can find out in two shakes by using entering the URL into the search bar at "WhoIs.Com".

That gets you a name, and possibly an institutional affiliation. How do professional fact-checkers (people who need to get information in a hurry) vet the expertise of a name they've found on "WhoIs.Com"? According to Wineburg, they search it on Wikipedia--the very site so many of us warn our students to stay away from. However, for something like this, it can be very useful.

2. Who are that author/site's friends?

As Wineburg pointed out, we're known by the people we associate with. Looking for information on the Holocaust? Probably don't want to trust a site whose primary "friends" are neo-Nazis and white supremacists. So--how do you find out a site's friends? You can enter a URL into the search box at http://www.alexa.com/ and it will show who links to that site. Handy!

According to Wineburg, "Reliable information is to civic well-being as clean air is to physical well-being." For this reason, he recommends teaching students that "Sponsored Content" is a fancy way to say "Advertisement" as well as the importance of "sourcing" (by which we mean considering WHO wrote a document, WHEN, Under WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES, and for WHAT PURPOSE) all material--both contemporary and historical.