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, April 27, 2017

RAFT Writing and World War I

Our first Montana and the Great War lesson plan is up. It has teachers leading students through a guided exploration of the Montana and the Great War Story Map before asking students to produce a classic RAFT writing assignment. RAFT stands for Role (who are you as a writer), Audience (who are you writing to), Format (are you writing a letter, diary entry), Topic. 

In this lesson plan, students are ask to take on the persona of a person living in Montana during the war or a Montana soldier at the front (Role), and then to write either a letter or a diary entry (Format) about their experiences during the war as informed by their research (Topic.) (Audience is either themselves--if a diary entry--or the letter recipient.) We've targeted the lesson to 5-8 grade, but I think it will work well in high school too.

This should be a comfortable assignment for English teachers, but I only learned about RAFT a few years ago, when Helena High School teacher Jean O'Connor worked with us to develop a similar exercise for the Great Depression. Her students were reading Grapes of Wrath, and to bring it home, she had them conduct research in the Montana Governors Records, where they found heartrending letters from farmers (some of which we digitized) detailing their struggles on drought stricken farms. Details of her project are here.

If you use either of these lessons, let me know. And if you have had students exercise their historical imagination by writing RAFTs on a different topic, I'd love to know that too (including how you had them do their research.)

P.S. Only ONE person has completed the Montana and the Great War scavenger hunt I posted a few weeks ago. Submit your answers to win your choice of the following books:
  • Darkest Before Dawn: Sedition and Free Speech in the American West. Clemens P. Work (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005).
  • Copper Chorus: Mining, Politics, and the Montana Press, 1889-1959. Dennis L. Swibold. Helena: Montana Historical Society Press, 2006.
  • Fire and Brimstone: The North Butte Mining Disaster of 1917. Michael Punke. Reprint edition, 2007. New York: Hachette Books.
  • Beyond Schoolmarms and Madams: Montana Women's Stories. Martha Kohl, ed. Helena: Montana Historical Society Press, 2015.
  • Mining Childhood: Growing Up in Butte Montana, 1900-1960. Janet L. Finn. Helena: Montana Historical Society Press, 2012.

Monday, April 24, 2017


I've just discovered Newsela (thanks Glenn Wiebe!) Newsela is a site that offers nonfiction text (including news articles and primary sources) at multiple reading levels.

Take for example this February 28, 2014, Los Angeles Times article, "Oldest skeletal remains in Americas to be reburied."

The first paragraph of the original reads: "The skeletal remains of an infant who lived in what is now Montana about 12,600 years ago will be reburied in a formal ceremony now that scientists have sequenced its genome, researchers say."

Newsela staff rewrote the article for several grade levels.

Their fourth grade version (690L) is titled: "Ancient Native American boy's bones to be reburied." The first paragraph reads: "Sometime soon, pieces of a very important skeleton will be reburied. The bones are the remains of a young boy. Scientists believe he lived in what is now Montana about 12,600 years ago."

At the sixth grade leve (1000L) it reads: "At the request of several Native American tribes, an ancient human skeleton will soon be reburied in a formal ceremony. The bones are the remains of an infant who lived in what is now Montana about 12,600 years ago. Scientists have already completed a sequencing of the boy's genome."

Newsela is better for geography, world and U.S. history, and current events than for Montana history, but there are a numbers articles about Montana, collected into their text set, "Montana News."

Newsela also offers simplified versions of some primary sources through its Library, including this interesting (and extremely patronizing) article on Jeannette Rankin's election to Congress in 1916.

To access Newsela resources, you'll need to register--but registration is free.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Mining Montana Memory for Golden Resources

Have you checked out the Montana Memory Project lately, or ever?

Montana Memory provides access to digital collections that relate to Montana’s cultural heritage and government to make previously unavailable historic and cultural content available to the general public. You can think of it as Montana's version of the Library of Congress's digitization project (and if you haven't gone to that site, I highly recommend a visit.) 

But back to Montana.

I've mentioned  the Montana Memory Project in earlier posts, including this one on maps, this one on the Peggy Letters (newsletters sent by Miles City volunteers to Custer County men and women serving overseas); and this one on digitized National Register nominations. However, it's worth revisiting because it is such a rich resource. 

The Montana Historical Society is a partner in this project and over the years has added many photographs, documents, books, maps, audio, and other historical materials, including livestock brand records, military enlistment cards, and hundreds of photographs by esteemed eastern Montana photographers Evelyn Cameron and L. A. Huffman.

The crew at the Montana Memory Project has been working hard to make the site easier to use. It isn't perfect--but if you are looking for digitized primary sources, there's gold in them thar hills. Here are some tips for mining this resource.

  1. Use Advance Search. Always. (I find it helpful to do more, narrow searches rather than one large search.)
  2. Do you know what type of resource you are looking for (For example, a photograph or a county history book)? Narrow your search by Material Type.
  3. Do you know the collection name--or likely collections in which you'll find the information you are looking for (for example Central Montana Historical Photographs or Early Montana Histories)? Narrow your search by Collection. 
For example: I was recently looking for pictures of threshing crews. So I went to Montana Memory, selected advance search, selected photographs under type of material and typed in "threshing" for my search term. Among the images I found was this Evelyn Cameron picture of the "Williams family farm showing new Case steam-and gasoline-powered threshing machinery with five-member crew, ca. 1910," Montana Historical Society Photo Archives, PAc 90-87.G059-004.

Pretty cool, huh? 

Want more hints? Check out the Project's handy instructional videos, where you can learn not only tips for searching the site but also how to create a PowerPoint from the resources you find there.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Studying Science, History, and IEFA

The amazing Jim Schulz, who has just returned home from conducting trainings for us in Lewistown and along the High-Line, just introduced me to Threshold, a new podcast from Montana Public Radio, which explores issues surrounding bison in a seven-episode series.
"People and bison first met 75,000 years ago, and ever since, we've been hunting them, painting them, and walking with them into new lands. Before Europeans arrived in America there were more than 50 million bison here. By 1901, there were just 23 wild bison left. Now, we have some decisions to make. Can we ever have wild free-roaming bison in North America again? Should we? What does the history of bison have to teach us about ourselves?"
You can find all seven of the 30-minute episodes here. 

Another, extensive, cross-curricular study of bison can be found through Project Archaeology. The free curriculum includes five interactive, hands-on, and student-driven units highlighting bison’s integral role culturally, politically, socially, and ecologically both before and after Euroamerican contact. 

Have you ever noticed that once you start looking for something it seems to be everywhere? Just after I wrote this post, I heard NPR's "Code Switch" April 11, 2017 podcast, which focused the entire 21-minute episode to "The Beef over Native American Hunting Rights."

And then I saw this article in the Missoulian: "Zinke halts plan to transfer National Bison Range to tribal control." Bison is clearly topical.

On another note: Can you share this with your math and science teacher friends? Mobile Science Lab is a traveling trunk program developed as a joint project between the Carter County Museum and the Museum of the Rockies. It draws from the Carter County Museums' osteological collections to give students a hands-on approach to studying growth curves between maiasaura, cattle, chickens and deer. Through this program, students learn about agriculture and Montana's rich fossil history. It's suited primarily for high school math and science classrooms but has been adapted for younger students as well. Information on the trunk is available on their website at: http://cartercountymuseum.org/education/.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Special Tours--Real and Virtual

We have some new and exciting things happening in our tour program. 

  1. Nancy Russell (as interpreted by Mary Jane Bradbury) has agreed to continue giving tours of MHS's Mackay Gallery of Russell Art through the end of the school year. In this living history tour, Nancy shares first-hand stories about her life with Charlie and the integral role she played in creating his remarkable legacy.
  2. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the US entering WWI, Bobi Harris has revamped the tours at the Original Governor's Mansion to better reflect what was going on during WWI, when Governor Stewart and his family lived in the mansion. Much of the tour is also told through the perspective of the three Stewart girls, giving a kid's-eye view of life from 1910-1921.
  3. We've gotten good feedback on our new story-based tour of the exhibit "Neither Empty Nor Unknown: Montana at the Time of Lewis and Clark." Request the story tour to experience it for yourself.

You can book any of these tours, or our traditional tours of the museum and capitol by calling 406-444-3695 or 406-444-4789. 

Can't make it to Helena or want to extend your tour with pre- and post-tour lessons? 

  1. Every school library received a copy of our Montana's Charlie Russell packet, with lesson plans, PowerPoints, and art prints. The material is also online--and we still have some packets left, so feel free to email us if you want one for your own classroom.) And consider watching the 18-minute "Montana's Charlie Russell: A Visit with Nancy Cooper Russell" on YouTube. 
  2. Consider ordering our hands-on history footlocker, Original Governor’s Mansion: Home to the Stewart Family in Turbulent Times, 1913-1921, which offers an opportunity to investigate life and politics during the Progressive Era and World War I, 1913-1921, as well as the history and architecture of a magnificent building. Check out the Virtual Tour of the OGM and explore the history of Montana during World War I via this interactive Story Map.
  3. We've created PowerPoint tour of Neither Empty Nor Unknown: Montana at the Time of Lewis and Clark using the same stories we tell at the museum--as well as pre- and post-tour lesson plans. 
We're always interested in how you integrate your tours into your curriculum. If you've developed any pre- or post-tour lessons that make your students' visits to the Museum, Capitol or Original Governor's Mansion more meaningful than they would be otherwise, I'd love to hear about them.

P.S. Only ONE teacher has successfully completed our WWI challenge. I still have 4 prizes left. Get to work and you may be one of our lucky winners.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Summer Workshops plus Looking for Input on the state of Historic Preservation in Montana

We're still accepting applications for all of our summer workshops but deadlines are fast approaching: 

Montana and the Great War: Bringing It Home, June 12-13, 2017, Helena (for High School teachers only). Application deadline: April 15. 12 OPI Renewal Units and travel scholarships are available.

Teacher Leader in History Summit, June 14-15, 2017, Helena (for elementary teachers only). Application deadline: April 30. Up to 15 OPI Renewal Units or 1 graduate credit (at the cost of $150/pending course approval from MSU-Northern,  

Struggling Readers and Content Area Textbooks: Making Montana: Stories of the Land Accessible to All, June 16, 2017, Helena (4-12 grade teachers). Travel scholarship applications due May 1. 6 OPI Renewal Units.

P.S. My colleagues at the State Historic Preservation Office are looking for input. They've put together a short (10 question) survey hat they will use as they revise their historic preservation plan, which establishes how they direct resources over the next five years. Will you take their survey? https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/QZ7R7R3

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Montana and the Great War

One hundred years ago today, the United States officially declared war on Germany and entered into what turned out to be a conflict that transformed our state, or nation, and the world. World War I has long been overshadowed by World War II, but I'd argue it is equally significant in its impact.

For the last year, my colleagues and I have been working on a web-based project that examines this complicated and under-examined war. I invite you to explore the result at Montana and the Great War

Look in these pages to find links to download pertinent articles, primarily from the Montana Historical Society's award-winning magazine, Montana The Magazine of Western History; information on archival collections in the Montana Historical Society Archives; clips from oral histories; and (still to come) educator resources. (I'm looking for grades 5-8 teachers to test a one- to two-day lesson plan that uses the online resources we created. If you are interested, please email me! We're also still recruiting high school teachers to participate in our June 12-13 Educator Workshop. Learn more here.)

Of all the aspects of this project, I'm most excited about the ArcGIS Story Map, which features 70 stories from across Montana that reflect the various ways the war changed the lives of Montanans both at home and while serving overseas--as well as ways the war's impact continued into the 1920s. 

To encourage you to explore this map, I'm proposing a contest and scavenger hunt. The first 5 people to find the correct answers to the following questions will win a fabulous as-yet-to-be-determined prize. All answers can be found in the Story Map, a link to which is on the main page of Montana and the Great War. Feel free to recruit your students or friends to help you. Ready?
  1. Name an African American soldier from Montana and the town from which he was from.
  2. What was the American Protective League and name one Montana community in which it was active.
  3. What did telegraph operator Minda Brownell McAnnally use to protect her fellow operators when she was sick with the flu? 
  4. Who came from this latitude and longitude--46.3629015,-104.2789468--and what made her remarkable? 
  5. Name the Montanan who participated in the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown soldier.
  6. What was the Montana Council of Defense's Order #3?
  7. Which town's Red Cross Society published a cookbook of “tempting recipes … [to] help banish memories of forbidden things”? 
  8. Find the story that is connected to the site nearest to your town (remember to look at all three sets of stories: Over Here, Over There, and Home Again.) What is it? Where did it take place? How many miles from where you live?
  9. How many men in your county served in World War I?
  10. Name one new thing you learned from the stories on this map that particularly disturbed, intrigued, confused or excited you.
Submit your answers to mkohl@mt.gov and while you are at it, let me know what you think of our new website. And if you are willing to test-drive our lesson plan (designed for 5-8 but adaptable to high school), let me know that too.

P.S. Spots are still available for our Montana and the Great War: Bringing It Home Workshop, designed for high school teachers interested in working with their students to uncover the war's local impact. Application deadline is May 1. Learn more here.  

Monday, April 3, 2017

MHS Digital Projects

People often say that Montana is a small town with a long Main Street. Both parts of that statement ring true to me. Here at the Montana Historical Society, we're proud to serve people who live in every corner of Montana, and work hard to maintain our connections across vast distances. (One way we're doing that this April is with our on-the-road educator workshops, which will be held in Lewistown, Glasgow, Chinook, and Cut Bank. There's still time to register!)

But the fact is, it is still a long haul from Libby to Cut Bank (the closest April workshop site) and we can't physically be everywhere. To overcome the prodigious length of Main Street, he Montana Historical Society has been working to use the internet to help serve our state. We broadcast all of our Thursday night programs through our YouTube channel, we record most of our annual history conference sessions to post on SoundCloud, and reach out through social media (including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.)

We've also increased our commitment to digitizing collections and creating self-contained digital projects focusing on specific topics. I've talked individually about many of these digital initiatives before, but here's a quick run-down of my favorites:
To make it easier to access and explore these digital projects, I've created a new link on the Educator Resources Page of our website that will lead to a list of our Digital Projects. I'll add more links as we complete more projects so check back often. We have some great new ones in the works.