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Monday, February 26, 2018

Checkology: Another Media Literacy Resource

My post, "Fighting Fake News," on tools to teach media literacy--especially online--received a number of responses. Among them was one from Lisa Kerscher, Education Director of Brightways Learning in Missoula, who pointed me to Checkology. Created by the News Literacy Project and designed for use in grades 6-12, the site offers 12 online lessons that (according to the site's own promotion) teach students how to 
  • Categorize information
  • Make and critique news judgments
  • Explore how the press and citizens can each act as watchdogs
  • Detect and dissect viral rumors.
My favorite statistic from the site's PR: "86% of students reported that after Checkology's lessons, they "learned to check information before they share it."

The nonpartisan News Literacy Project was founded in 2008 by former Los Angeles Times investigative reporter Alan Miller, and its partner news organizations (who endorse its mission and donate services) include the Associated Press and Reuters as well as many other news organizations. (See how I'm modeling media literacy and sourcing* here?) 

Teachers can get free premium access to Checkology during 2017-2018 school year.

*Sourcing is a historical thinking skill we all should use when analyzing informational text (including both primary and secondary sources). It starts with asking three questions of every source: Who created it, when, and for what purpose?


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Your Time Machine Awaits

I'm always surprised when I talk with a teacher (especially a high school teacher) who doesn't know about Chronicling America and Montana Newspapers. These two sites remain among my favorite research tools. You can find over three-quarters of a million newspaper pages from Montana and millions more from other states. The earliest newspaper available from Montana is the August 27, 1864, Montana Post. I'm not sure what the earliest paper is nationally, but the oldest I found in a cursory search was the April 15, 1789, issue of the Gazette of the United States. 

My amazing colleague Natasha Hollenbach just added the following titles to Montana Newspapers:

  • The Winifred Times, a brand new addition to Montana Newspapers, covering June 22, 1923-July 10, 1936.
  • The Mountaineer (1921-1936), which is a continuation of The Bear Paw Mountaineer (1911-1921), the subject of their first project.
  • An additional 15 years of The Hardin Tribune-Herald. With this extension, The Hardin Tribune and The Hardin Tribune-Herald is now available from 1908-1933. 
How can you use this amazing resource in your classroom? I have ideas.

Struggling with the technology? Here are tips from Primary Source Nexus for viewing and saving articles and for searching Chronicling America. (These tips will work with Montana Newspapers as well.)

P.S. Among the objects displayed in our new online exhibit is the Lowe Press No. 2, the hand printing press on which Montana's very first newspaper, The Montana Post, was printed in Virginia City in 1864. You can read more about it here. Our Montana Madness competition--during which 16 objects will vie for the title of Most Awesome Object--kicks off in March, but through February 25, we're hosting "pre-tournament play." This printing press is in the running to make the Sweet Sixteen. You can cast your vote for it--or other objects competing to represent the "Becoming Montanans" Conference here.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Link Roundup

I don't have a real theme for this post--unless cool things I saw on the internet is a theme. Perhaps you'll find one of these articles useful--or at least interesting and thought-provoking.

"Site unseen: Floodwaters buried a treasure trove at Marmes Rockshelter": This Seattle Times article talks about the Marmes Rockshelter, near the Palouse River, which contains evidence of continuous human habitation for over 11,000 years. The site, and likely others like it, were covered by the Snake River's Lower Monumental Dam, and some are advocating for the dam's removal to ensure the survival of endangered wild salmon. If that should happen, the sites will be accessible once again. But then what? Archaeologists are eager to dig, but many tribal members object to what they see as grave robbing. (A Montana-based unit exploring similar topics and moral issues is "Project Archaeology: Investigating the First Peoples, the Clovis Child Burial").

Last Best News reports on a new book that celebrates Montana's one-room schools. Called Chasing Time: Last of the Active One-Room Schools in Montana, the book document twenty-six of Montana's remaining sixty plus one-room schools with photographs and feature stories. Rural schools make a great topic or study. Among those working to document the state's rural schools (including those that were closed long ago) is the Montana Preservation Alliance. Learn more here. 

While reading up on grizzly bears to rework the lesson plans for our state symbols footlocker, I came across Mountain West News's post "Coexisting with Grizzlies," which asks "Can Yellowstone Grizzlies coexist with people?" I didn't end up using it but I found it a thought-provoking read. How about that for a Geo-Inquiry question? 

P.S. I hope you've had time to check out our new online exhibit "“Appropriate, Curious, & Rare: Montana History Object by Object.” And I hope you've VOTED on which of the objects featured in the exhibit should be chosen to participate in our Montana Madness competition in March, during which these pieces of history will compete March Madness–style for the title of Montana’s Most Awesome Object. We need your help selecting the Sweet Sixteen. If not, there's still time. Vote here!



Thursday, February 15, 2018

Summer PD Opportunities: In Billings, Bozeman, Helena and across the Country

I've already touted the Montana Geographic Alliance's Geo-Inquiry Institute at Flathead Lake (June 20-22). Here are a few other professional development opportunities that have crossed my radar.

Once again the Montana Network of Holocaust/IEFA Educators is hosting "Worlds Apart But Not Strangers: Holocaust Education and Indian Education for All. The seminar is for all educators, grades 4 through college professors, who are currently teaching or interested in teaching the Holocaust and/or the Indian Education for All. Held on the campus of MSU-Billings, June 10-16, 2018, this intensive, inquiry-based seminar bridges past and present. Participants build background knowledge about the Holocaust and IEFA and gain writing-based classroom strategies for building community and processing difficult information. The seminar is free (three graduate credits are available for $135) and includes copies of selected books and teaching materials, lunches and most dinners, several field trips, and the opportunity to apply for mini-grants of up to $1,000. Low-cost dorm housing is available.

Project Archaeology is offering a professional development workshop “Civil Rights through the Lens of Archaeology: Investigating a Shotgun House," on June 18-20, 2018 at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, MT. The cost of registration is $145 which includes full instruction and all materials. (University credit (1) and renewal units (21) are available, university credit is an additional $60.) Participants will explore the history of the working class, the meaning of neighborhood, and the definition of family. Workshop leader Crystal Alegria assures me that she's adapting the national curriculum to Montana and that the participants will take home curriculum that is immediately usable in their classrooms to fulfil Common Core Standards, while their students discover historical inquiry through engaging hands-on activities. The registration deadline is June 1, 2018, or when the class fills. If you have any questions, please send email Crystal at calegria@montana.edu or give her a call at 406-994-6925.


We're teaming up to offer OPI Renewal Units for teachers attending the Montana History Foundation's Cemetery Workshop, which will be held in Helena, June 21-23, 2018. Day 1 features national and regional experts on cemetery presentation techniques, including GIS mapping and ground penetrating radar. Day 2 focuses on technology preservation demonstrations at Forestvale Cemetery and Day 3 offers a choice of field trips that include a day of hands-on preservation training at Elkhorn Ghost Town and a half-day motor coach tour of Helena's historic cemeteries with MHS Interpretive Historian Ellen Baumler. Registration cost is $125.

Looking to travel farther afield? Check out the NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes for School Teachers. The application is competitive and includes a travel stipend of $1200-$3,000 to defray the costs of attending these one-three week tuition-free seminars. Topics include the 1918 Flu Epidemic (Blacksburg, VA and Washington, DC) and Reading Material Maps in a Digital Age (Chicago). Deadline for applying is March 1, 2018.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Montana Resources to Supplement Your Black History Month Studies

I think every month is Black History Month. That said, I'm delighted to see more attention paid to African American history in February. 

Looking to bring Black history home? My colleague Kate Hampton just published this really interesting blog essay on laws that particularly affected African American Montanans--from their right to vote, serve on juries, attend desegregated schools, marry whom they pleased, and even go bowling or to dinner. I found "Racial Legislation in Montana that Particularly Affected African Americans" eye-opening. I bet you and your upper-level students will too.

Kate also headed up our Montana's African American Heritage Resources Project. The extremely rich website includes place-based research and presentations (including some awesome story maps),  oral histories, photographs, and artifacts, and, of course, lesson plans.

P.S. Are you playing Montana Madness? I hope so. We cooked up this March-Madness style game to promote our new online exhibit, “Appropriate, Curious, & Rare: Montana History Object by Object.” Among the objects competing to make the Sweet Sixteen is a steel recording by Taylor Gordon singing "By and By." (Scroll down to see it.) An African-American native of White Sulphur Springs, Taylor Gordon (1893–1971) first achieved fame as a singer of spirituals in New York City during the Harlem Renaissance. As a young man, Gordon began working for circus impresario John Ringling on his private railroad car that traveled regularly from Montana to New York. It was in the corridors of the train that Taylor’s soaring tenor voice drew the attention of guests who encouraged him to pursue a career in music. During a layover in New York, he joined a traveling vaudeville group that crisscrossed the nation. This steel record, produced in 1929 as an audio letter to his family, is one of the few recordings made of Gordon and includes him singing "By and By." Today, Gordon is best known for his autobiography, Born to Be, which chronicles his rise from servant to high society, from mining camp to New York City. You can vote for Gordon's record or another object in our "Montanans at Play" conference here.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Look out Kalispell, Pablo, and Libby! Here we come.

Mark your calendars and tell your friends! The Montana Historical Society is going on the road with four educator workshops, at venues across the state.

Last year's on-the-road workshops received rave reviews--so we're putting nationally recognized social studies and science teacher Jim Schulz back on the road.  

Cosponsored and held at local museums, these workshops are targeted to 4-12 teachers interested in meeting social studies and Common Core ELA standards and while engaging students in active learning.

Here's the schedule:

April 18, 2017: Kalispell (Cosponsored by the Central School Museum): 

  • Place: 124 Second Ave. East, Kalispell, MT 
  • Time: 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
  • Register now.
April 19, 2018: Pablo (Cosponsored by the People's Center): 
  • Place: 56633 Highway 93, Pablo, MT
  • Time: 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
  • Register now.
April 20: Libby (Cosponsored by the Heritage Museum):
  • Place: 34067 US Hwy 2, in the historic cookhouse, Libby, MT
  • Time: 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
  • Register now.
The morning session will be spent on Visual Thinking Strategies, a technique that uses teacher-facilitated discussions of art images to train students in “key behaviors sought by Common Core Standards” (vtshome.org) and learning about ways to teach art through social studies and ELA/social studies through art.   

In the afternoon, participants will be introduced to other ready-to-use, cross-disciplinary lesson plans from the Montana Historical Society, including a lesson from one of our hands-on history footlockers and lessons that integrate theater, ELA, and history to investigate Montanans' experiences during wartime. Attendees will leave with copies of the reader's theater script and lesson plan "Letters Home from Montanans at War" as well as information on how to access many other free lessons from the Montana Historical Society. 

Those who attended "Crossing Disciplines" in earlier years will note that the agenda has changed slightly. We've kept the morning focus on Visual Thinking Strategies and Russell but have shaken up the afternoon to focus on the World War I era.

The workshop is free. 6 OPI Renewal Units available. 

Learn more, view the agendas, and find the links to register here

Monday, February 5, 2018

Montana History Object by Object

We've just launched a fabulous new online exhibit, “Appropriate, Curious, & Rare: Montana History Object by Object.” Funded in part by the Cultural & Aesthetic Grant Program, the exhibit features sixty-four objects from the Society’s vast collections. Individually, the objects provide fascinating glimpses into the lives of earlier generations of Montanans. Together, the stories they tell create a rich tapestry illustrating Montana’s shared history. 


What does this have to do with you and your classroom?


First, I think you'll enjoy the exhibit, created to celebrate the history of both the Montana Historical Society and the state it serves. 



"Appropriate, Curious and Rare" lives up to its name: it includes some of our rock star objects--like Charles M. Russell's When the Land Belonged to God, one of the objects in the section "Montana State of Mind."

It also includes lesser-known objects, like the chainless bicycle that Presbyterian minister Reverend Edwin M. Ellis rode to visit otherwise inaccessible congregations. You can learn more about its story in the section "Montanans in Motion."


Second, I'm hoping you'll explore the exhibit as the starting point for classroom lessons. What about having your students tell the history of your town, your school, or their family through objects? Renee Rasmussen, who used to teach in Chester, had a great family heirloom project she did with her high school students that involved having her students research and write about an object that had been passed down through their family. Through their work, students tried to answer such essential questions as "What does this object tell me about who I am?" This is exactly the type of question we ask of the artifacts in "Appropriate, Curious, and Rare," substituting "who we are as Montanans" for the more personal "I." 

Finally, I hope you (and your class) will join us for a little fun. Along with launching the exhibit, we're launching a Montana Madness competition, during which the items featured in the exhibit will compete March Madness–style for the title of Montana’s Most Awesome Object.


Will you and your students help us select objects from “Appropriate, Curious, & Rare: Montana History Object by Object” to compete in the Sweet Sixteen? Online polls opened February 2 at our website. Voting to determine which objects should join the initial Sweet Sixteen will end at 11:59 p.m. February 25, 2018.

You and your students can participate in the selection of Montana’s most awesome object by following the voting links on the Montana Madness webpage or through the Montana Historical Society Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Once we've selected the 16 competitors, we'll post a bracket to download--then objects will face off against each other; those garnering the most votes will advance to the Final Four. Ultimately, one object will be named the most awesome of them all.

I'm thinking we can have a lot of fun with this--but I need you to help. First, explore the exhibit. Then vote for your favorite objects. Follow our Facebook and Twitter feeds if you don't already. nds to play. Promote the objects and stories nearest to your heart using the hashtag #MontanaMadness and to invite your friends to play.



I'm rooting for the wooden board from the Smith Mine Disaster (right), whose story you can find in the Montanans at Work section

Which object would you like to see win the title?




Thursday, February 1, 2018

Thinking Geographically

National Geographic and the Montana Geographic Alliance have some cool stuff going on. I've already mentioned the free (including travel stipend) summer institute they are hosting this June for teams of middle school teachers. 

But did you know that National Geographic is active on YouTube? They have a huge number of videos, and several different channels and playlists, including a "101" channel that cover topics from ancient Egypt to coral reefs and, to be more relevant to our region, Wildfires 101 and Climate Change: Glaciers 101. And speaking of glaciers, check out their three-minute video "Photo Evidence: Glacier National Park Is Melting Away." 

And did you know that they've created resources to help you launch a "Geo-Inquiry project" in your classroom? What's that, you ask? According to "4 Ways to Think Outside the Rectangle with National Geographic Geo-Inquiry," it's a problem-based learning project (PBL) that asks students to adopt the attitudes of an explorer ("curiosity, responsibility, and empowerment"), and to use an explorers' skills ("observation, communication, collaboration, and problem-solving")  to elevate their "understanding of the world and how it works" "in order to function effectively and act responsibly.” (Read more here.

Their inquiry process has five steps: "Ask" (or developing a geo-inquiry question), "Collect" (gathering background information, collecting data), "Visualize" (Organizing and analyzing geographic information, "Create" (Developing stories) and "Act" (sharing stories). The blog post that introduced me to geo-inquiry was by a teacher whose students launched investigations into clean drinking water and improper disposal of spent batteries. Montana-specific topics might include aquatic invasive species or the wildfire and the wildland-urban interface.

This type of inquiry is not for the faint of heart. It requires time and preparation. But, as with National History Day and other open-ended research projects, the payoffs can be big. National Geographic has created a website with lots more information, including an Educator Guide and Student Resource Packet (with lots of graphic organizers) to download.  The easiest way to get started, however, is probably to attend the training I mentioned up top.

P.S. Even if you don't have the time to jump into a full-scale Geo-Inquiry, the material is worth looking at. I learned that just as historians are trained to ask of every source "Who wrote this? When? For what purpose?" geographers ask of maps, graphs, and other sources of information, "Where is it?" "Why's it there?" and "Why should I care?" The idea of applying that geographic lens to the world was worth the price of admission for me.