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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.

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