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.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Opening Up the Textbook

Last week I wrote about using primary sources for focus activities. Especially in middle school and high school, primary sources can also help in opening up the textbook. According to TeachingHistory.org, "Opening Up the Textbook, developed at Stanford University, is one method of using the textbook to help students learn how to think historically and read critically."

Opening Up the Textbook moves the textbook from its position as the one true story about the past to one historical account among many. Intended to help students slow down, read closely, and critically evaluate their textbook, this is not a strategy that fits well with reading lengthy textbook passages or chapters.

TeachingHistory.org lists six ways to Open up the Textbook. The two that work best with primary sources are
  • "Direct Challenge: Using primary documents to challenge textbook facts or interpretation" and 
  • "Vivification: Breathing life into a text that only mentions, or omits."
The other suggestions are
  • "Comparison: Comparing two textbook accounts—e.g. U.S. to non-U.S, old to new."
  • "Narrativization: Where does a textbook begin to tell the story, where does it end it?"
  • "Articulating Silences: Who is left out of the textbook's narrative? Try bringing in voices of the silenced or moving issues of narrative choice to the surface." 
  • "Close Reading: Careful, attentive focus on word choice, including adjectives, titles, and the like."
Opening Up the Textbook teaches students to question what they read and that "an authoritative tone ... does not necessarily convey the full or exclusive story." It asks them to compare and integrate multiple historical accounts (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9) and to consider sources' perspective and purpose (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.6). 

Have you tried it? What sources did you use/topic did you address? And how'd it go? (I'd love to know!)

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Primary Sources: Perfect for Focus Activities

I've written about teaching with primary sources before, for example in this 2012 article cleverly named "Teaching with Primary Sources," and in this post, which recognizes that exposure to primary sources is not enough. But I believe the topic bears revisiting.

Primary sources can help promote empathy, curiosity, and engagement; make students feel like “real historians”; provide an opportunity to practice close reading (images are great for this!); and teach students how to evaluate the evidence and the quality of a source.

With so many sources now available, through the Library of Congress, National Archives, Montana Memory, and other websites, finding primary sources is no longer the main barrier to integrating them into the classroom. The barrier is figuring out how to use them effectively.

One of the easiest ways to effectively integrate primary sources into your classroom is to use them for focus activities--to introduce a unit or refocus students' attention at a midpoint.

For focus activities, I especially like primary sources that

There are lots of different focus activity techniques:
  • Visual Thinking StrategiesCrop It and Zoom-In (for images)
  • Class or pair/share discussion based on one or two well-crafted questions, especially after giving students a few minutes to "write their way in" (3 minutes of non-stop writing to get thoughts down on paper--without worrying about spelling, punctuation, etc.)
  • After reviewing source, have small groups of students generate a list of questions about the upcoming topic of instruction. 
Do you have a favorite strategy for working with primary sources that I've missed or a favorite primary source that you use with your class? Share it with me and I'll share it out.

P.S. The deadline to apply to become a Middle School Montana History Teacher Leader is fast approaching. If this interests you, make sure to submit your application before April 30. If you have questions about the program, don't hesitate to contact me.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Virtual Field Trips

Last week's post focused on field trips and how to integrate them into your curriculum. But what if you can't travel?

A quick internet search for "virtual field trips" brings up a dozen lists of "best virtual field trips." Here's one from my go-to blogger Glenn Wiebe. 

And, closer to home, for teachers unable to bring their students to Helena, we've been creating ways to bring Helena to you (some higher tech than others.)

Ellen Baumler just finished a virtual tour of Helena's Pioneer Cabin, "What Would You Bring?" Emigrant Families on Montana's Gold Rush Frontier (grades 3-8). The site is curated by the Montana Heritage Commission and Ellen took the tour she gives of the cabin and transformed it into a PowerPoint with a script that teachers can use in the classroom. We supplemented it with introductory exercise, post-tour discussion questions, and standards alignment and added it to our growing collection of PowerPoint Lesson Plans. It's really quite wonderful. I encourage you to check it out.

Laura Ferguson created a "virtual tour" (again based on a PowerPoint and script--though with interactive elements written in) of our exhibit Neither Empty Nor Unknown: Montana at the Time of Lewis and Clark. It's part of the larger Neither Empty nor Unknown: Montana at the Time of Lewis and Clark Lesson Plan. Turn to Appendix 4 (page 36) for instructions on how to modify the lesson without visiting the museum.     

This spring we are again offering special tours of the Mackay Gallery of Russell Art, given by "Nancy Russell (Charlie's wife and business manager) as portrayed by first person interpreter Mary Jane Bradbury. But even if you can't get to Helena, you can watch Mary Jane Bradbury touring the gallery as Nancy Russell on YouTube.

You can virtually explore the Montana State Capitol and the Original Governor's Mansion (OGM) on Google Maps. Neither have scripts, but for the Capitol, there's a static web exhibit featuring the art and history (just waiting for someone to design a web quest--those are still a thing, right?) And for the OGM, there's a scavenger hunt we developed for use with the virtual tour as part of the Original Governor's Mansion footlocker. (See pages 47-48 of the OGM foootlocker User Guide.)  Tour guide extraordinaire Bobi Harris is also working with colleagues to create a video tour of the Original Governor's Mansion. We'll add a link to it as soon as it's done.

Of course, computer tours are never as good as the real thing. To schedule actual tours of Montana's Museum at the Montana Historical Society or the Original Governor's Mansion, contact us at (406) 444-4794 or by email bharris2@mt.gov.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Field Trips: More than a Day Out

Field trip season is upon us. To facilitate getting your students out of the classroom, Nick Zarnowski (who's working for us this spring) created a series of maps showing possible Montana history field trips across the state. One of the maps shows all of the field trip sites, the others are organized to show how the sites align with chapters of our textbook, Montana: Stories of the Land.

I've written before about ways to make field trips more than a fun day off school and continue to be inspired by Smithsonian's research-based best practices for a meaningful field trip, which include clarifying the learning objectives of the visit, linking the visit to curriculum, and providing structure to the visit while also allowing time for free exploration. 

Nick had a great suggestion to fulfil the latter goal: before and after concept mapping. Have students draw a concept map showing what they know about the topic they will be learning more about on the field trip before you go and then again after you return home. It's an easy way to see what they learned and what points you want to reteach or reemphasize in the classroom.  

Nick also created a scavenger hunt to be used for visits to our special exhibit, "Times of Trouble, Times of Change: Montana and the Great War," so if you are planning a trip to MHS, consider adding this temporary exhibit to your agenda. Pre and post-tour activities for this centennial installation include reading Chapter 16 of the textbook Montana: Stories of the Land, "Montana and World War I"; having students explore the "Montana and the Great War Story Map," possibly using the story map Scavenger Hunt; or having students complete the Montana and the Great War Lesson Plan, which asks students, after studying the period, to  write a journal entry or a letter from the perspective of someone living in Montana (or serving in the armed forces) during the war.

Here are a few other pre and post field trip ideas for sites curated by the Montana Historical Society, including our museum.

Touring Montana State Capitol?

Watch the first 10:55 of “When Copper Was King” (part of Montana Mosaic), which focuses specifically on the Copper King’s 1894 Capital Fight between Helena and Anaconda. The video begins with students giving their best answer to the following focus question, which relates to Segment 1: “Why is Helena our state capital?” I recommend asking your students the same question before viewing the episode. (You can find the teacher guide/discussion questions here.

Touring the Original Governor’s Mansion?

The mansion is interpreted around Gov. Stewart’s tenure (1913-21), which encompasses the years of World War I and, during the WWI centennial, it is being interpreted in the WWI context through a tour called "Doing Our Bit: Montana’s Home Front during the Great War." To prepare for that tour, consider having students explore the Montana and the Great War Story Map, which looks at the war's effects on Montanans, using this scavenger hunt and/or this lesson plan. And/or have them read Chapter 16 of Montana: Stories of the Land. (The PDF is available online).   

Even more valuable would be to introduce the mansion and the era using the hands-on history footlocker, Original Governor’s Mansion: Home to the Stewart Family in Turbulent Times, 1913-1921. Remember that even if you can't bring the physical footlocker to your classroom, you can still make use of the lesson plans, informational text (aimed at a fourth-grade level), and PowerPoints with historic images. (And have your younger students make calling cards to bring with them on their field trip. (See Lesson 4B in the Original Governor's Mansion footlocker user guide.) 

Touring Neither Empty Nor Unknown: Montana at the Time of Lewis and Clark?

Preview the story-telling tour and download pre- and post-tour lessons and discussion questions.

Touring the Mackay Gallery of C. M. Russell Art?

Integrate the field trip into your curriculum with Montana's Charlie Russell, which offers biographical PowerPoints, hands-on art lessons, and ELA and social studies lessons.

And speaking of the Mackay Gallery: We once again have special tours available this spring, led by Nancy Russell herself (as portrayed by Mary Jane Bradbury.) 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. The tour has gotten rave reviews, so make sure to ask for it if you are interested in Russell. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

High School Resources for Government, Native Studies, and Montana History Classes

If you are like me, you are always on the lookout for new resources. Here are some standouts that have come to my attention recently. 

New to Native Knowledge 360: lesson plans created by rock star Montana educators Tammy Elser and Julie Cajune.  
  • "Northern Plains Treaties: Is a Treaty Intended to Be Forever?" provides perspectives from Native American community members, images, documents, and other sources to help students and teachers understand the difficult choices and consequences Northern Plains Native Nations faced when entering into treaty negotiations with the United States. Explore the intentions, motivations, and outcomes of two treaties: the 1851 Horse Creek Treaty and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty.
  • "Northern Plains History and Cultures: How Do Native People and Nations Experience Belonging?" provides perspectives from Native American community members, images, objects, and other sources to help students and teachers think about the significance that homelands, kinship systems, and nationhood hold for Native Peoples of the Northern Plains. Explore four case studies to learn more about the relationships that help to create a sense of belonging. 
These are resource and strategy rich and align with a number of academic and IEFA standards. They are also constructed in such a way that if you don't have time to undertake the entire unit, you can use individual lessons and resources (including some nice short videos.)

Speaking of treaty rights, here's an interesting article about a current case before the Supreme Court: "Supreme Court case tests weight of old Native American treaties in 21st century,"  by UM Law Professor Monte Mills. I discovered the link because I subscribe to the Mountain West News' "Rockies Today, "a regional news service of the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West at the University of Montana." If you have your students do any type of current events reporting, this is a great source for meaningful stories.

The film about Elouise Cobell, 100 Years: One Woman's Fight for Justice, is now available on Netflix! I highly recommend this movie for high school government and Montana history classes. And to make your life easier, OPI's Indian Education Division created a model teaching unit for it. 

Laura Ferguson recently revised "Montana's Landless Indians and the Assimilation Era of Federal Indian Policy: A Case of Contradiction"  and we've reprinted copies of this powerful, primary-source based unit. If you'd like me to send you a copy, let me know (you can also download it from our website). 

Finally, the Great Falls Tribune has gathered all of its articles about the 1964 flood in one place. (And for good measure, here's a more scholarly article, which focuses specifically on the flood on the Blackfeet Reservation, published by Aaron Parrett in Montana The Magazine of Western History.) Seeing it reminded me of this an old, but still relevant, post I wrote about teaching about disasters.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Do you teach Western Literature? Apply for the WLA/Charles Redd Center K-12 Teaching Award

The Western Literature Association and the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies will sponsor two K-12 Teaching Awards to provide teachers with the opportunity to attend the Western Literature Association Annual Meeting in St. Louis, Missouri from October 24-27, 2018. The selected teachers will present their approaches to teaching western literature on a K-12 Teaching Panel on Saturday, October 27.

The prize will include conference registration, award banquet ticket, WLA membership, and $700 toward conference travel costs.

More information can be found on the WLA website: http://www.westernlit.org/k-12-teaching-award/. Submission deadline is July 1.

If you are looking for spring or summer PD opportunities, check out this posts:
Or register for our April 18 or April 19 workshops in Kalispell and Pablo.

Monday, April 9, 2018

News Roundup

"Pre-Contact Montana," the inaugural lecture in our series, Montana History in 9 Easy Lessons is now available to view online. Jessica Bush gave an engaging and informative talk and I have a new understanding of how archaeologists interpret evidence and what they think life was like here 12,000 to 300 years before present. She's a really excellent speaker--if you choose to view her program, you can also complete the short reflection to receive an OPI renewal credit. We'll be live-streaming the second installment on the early contact period this Wednesday at 3:30 p.m., but don't worry if you can't join us for the live stream. We'll post a link to recording for you to view at your leisure.  

We still have spaces in our On-the-Road workshop, "Crossing Disciplines: Social Studies, Art, and the Common Core." We feel very lucky that presenter Jim Schulz has agreed to conduct these trainings for us. An award-winning history and science teacher with over thirty years of classroom experience, Jim does a remarkable job sharing techniques and resources that will be useful in any social studies, ELA, and art classroom. He'll be in Kalispell on April 18 and Pablo April 19. Sadly, we had to cancel the Libby workshop due to low registration. He's presented across the state for us over the last two years (Cut Bank, Chinook, Glasgow, Lewistown, Billings, Glendive, Miles City, Sidney, and Livingston) to rave reviews, and this is likely the last time he'll be offering this particular workshop, so I encourage you to register if you can.

And speaking of trainings: I want to remind everyone that applications for our middle school Teacher Leader in History program are due April 30. I've talked to several remarkable teachers who were hesitant to apply because they didn't think they were qualified. All I can say is, "You're Good Enough, You're Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like You," so, if you are interested in participating in the program, submit your application(Equally, if you know of a great middle school Montana history teacher, encourage him or her to apply.) We can only select 12 participants, but you can't win if you don't play. 

And, finally, drum roll, please... Phil Leonardi of Corvallis handily won the teacher edition of Montana Madness, our take on March Madness, which pitted object against object in a competition to be named Montana's Most Awesome Object. Phil predicted a remarkable 11 out of the 15 contests. You can see the winning bracket here, and, if you or your students played, compare it with your own predictions.

In the end, it came down to two powerful objects, yet in the end, the humble Smith Mine Disaster Board handily won the competition against Russell's masterpiece, When the Land Belonged to God, in what can only be seen as a vindication of the power of story.  

Emil Anderson was one of the 77 coal miners who died in the 1943 Smith Mine disaster and the board was his last letter to his family. Here's more on the board:

At 8 a.m., Saturday, February 27, 1943, Emil Anderson and seventy-six other coal miners entered Smith Mine #3 near the community of Bearcreek. One hour and thirty-seven minutes later, employees close to the surface of the mine felt an enormous pressure in their ears, followed by a powerful gust of air filled with soot and debris exploding past them. Only three workers escaped from the mine. Within its depths, thirty men died instantly from the forceful blast and another forty-four soon suffocated. Anderson was part of this latter group. In the short time he had remaining, he used the materials he had available to leave his family this message on the lid of a dynamite box: “It’s 5 minutes pass [sic] 11 o’clock Agnes and children I’m sorry we had to go this way God bless you all Emil with lots [of] kisse[s].” This fragile letter—which conveys a deeply personal and tragic story—survives as one of the most poignant objects cared for by the Montana Historical Society.
The Smith Mine Board, When the Land Belonged to God, and the other 14 objects that made the Sweet 16 are all on display in our virtual exhibit, "Appropriate, Curious, & Rare: Montana History Object by Object." I think the objects in this exhibit--and the stories behind them have the potential to be powerful teaching tools. If you have ideas of lesson plans or other resources (a scavenger hunt/web quest?) that would make the exhibit more useful for your classroom, please let me know. We plan to create some teaching resource/lesson plan for it, but I don't yet know what, so if you tell me what you want, that may very well be what we end up doing.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Western Science

I recently finished the beautifully written and thought-provoking Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, by botany professor and citizen of the Potawatomi Nation Robin Kimmerer. I highly recommend adding it to your summer reading list.

You know how it is. When you learn something new, you begin seeing evidence of it everywhere. Maybe that's why I took notice of this article in the Smithsonian Magazine, "When Scientists “Discover” What Indigenous People Have Known For Centuries." 

I recently learned that OPI's Indian Education Division is working on a comprehensive new science curriculum, and I now await it more eagerly than ever.

While we wait, it's worth checking out some of these resources:

Monday, April 2, 2018

Montana's Most Awesome Object

Have you been following Montana Madness, our March Madness-style competition that pit object against object to determine Montana's Most Awesome Object?

The journey began with 65 objects, on display in our first major online exhibit "Appropriate, Curious, & Rare: Montana History Object by Object."  Fans narrowed the choices down to 16, then 8, and then the Final Four. Now only the Smith Mine Disaster Board and the C. M. Russell painting When the Land Belonged to God remain to battle for the crown.  

It's the clash of the titans. 

The #1 Seed Smith Mine Disaster Board represents Montana's mining heritage, the tremendous sacrifices miners made for their families and their country and the need for constant vigilance when it comes to workers' safety. Here's the back story: At 8 a.m., Saturday, February 27, 1943, Emil Anderson and seventy-six other coal miners entered Smith Mine #3 near the community of Bearcreek. One hour and thirty-seven minutes later, a powerful explosion occurred. Only three workers escaped from the mine. Within its depths, thirty men died instantly from the forceful blast and another forty-four soon suffocated. Anderson was part of this latter group. In the short time he had remaining, he used the materials he had available to leave his family this message on the lid of this dynamite box: “It’s 5 minutes pass [sic] 11 o’clock Agnes and children I’m sorry we had to go this way God bless you all Emil with lots [of] kisse[s].”  

The #3 Seed, When the Land Belonged to God, by Charles M. Russell, exemplifies a romantic view of the Old West and represents the work of Montana's most beloved adopted son. No person better personifies Montana’s perception of its colorful past than does the “Cowboy Artist,” Charles M. Russell (1864–1926).  No painting better exemplifies Russell’s artistic genius than does When the Land Belonged to God. At face value a preeminent portrayal of wildlife, it is also a testament to Russell’s belief in the superiority of life in Montana before it was changed forever by the farmers and boosters who closed the open range.

Voting remains open in this too-close-to-call contest until 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, April 4, 2018.  I hope you'll make your preference known. And check back on the Montana Madness webpage on Thursday afternoon to find out whether the Smith Mine board or the Russell painting took the day.

P.S. If you engaged your students this contest, would you take a moment and drop me a line? We're evaluating the success of this contest and I'd love specific feedback from educators.