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, September 21, 2023

Montana's Poet Laureate Chris La Tray (and resources for teaching about the Métis/Little Shell)

 Chris LaTray (Little Shell/Métis) is Montana's newest poet laureate. His book, One-Sentence Journal was recognized with the 2018 Montana Book Award, the 2019 High Plains Book Award (Best First Book), and as a finalist for the 2019 High Plains Book Award (Best Book by Indigenous Writer). 

Thanks to retired elementary librarian Ruth Ferris for gathering information about Chris and about the Little Shell and Métis in an album she created for the Teaching with Primary Sources Teachers Network (TPS). The album includes links to video interviews and presentations, newspaper articles, and a sample of Métis music. 

A side note about TPS: "The TPS Teachers Network is a password-protected, peer-to-peer platform designed to support teachers, librarians, and other educators in the use of Library of Congress primary sources to improve student learning." Membership to the network is free and open to everyone. And because Ruth is a TPS Mentor Teacher, there's even a subgroup: TPS Montana, that includes albums on 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps, and Contemporary Native American Artists, among other topics.

In addition to the material Ruth gathered, I invite you to explore MTHS's resources on the Little Shell and Métis: 

OPI also has some materials:

P.S. In our "Best of, Middle School" post, Jennifer Hall said her students loved The Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture's lesson on finger weaving, which she had them do after reading the book The Flower Beadwork People.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Best of, High School Edition

Every spring, I ask folks to share their favorite Montana history or IEFA lesson, the one they would absolutely do again. Here are the responses from high school teachers with some notes from me in brackets. You can find the elementary teachers' responses here and middle school teachers' responses here.

Denise Routledge, who teaches at the School for the Deaf and Blind in Great Falls, wrote: "I love using the collection of Birthright poetry from the IEFA resources. I can easily have the poems embossed into Braille and accessible for all students. We study the theme of a poem and then write our own based on that theme and style/formatting. We record ourselves reading them and then put them into a slideshow to listen to everyone’s perspectives on the poem. One of my favorites to use is “If I Lived in That House”. We can then pair a picture of the house with our recording of our poems in the slideshow. You can adapt it and have them describe their own house (and what typically goes on in a day in a life within their family and home) or have them do some research and locate images of traditional Native American dwellings and write the poem based on traditions and events that would have gone along with that specific tribe within their dwelling. Loads of possibilities!"

Vicky Nytes, who teaches at Superior High School, wrote: "I am really appreciating the continued addition of the history of Blacks in Montana. The website (while can be somewhat difficult to maneuver) has really great stories, images, and shows the continuing role that Blacks have played in Montana. The addition of Hidden Stories: Montana's Black Past documentary adds to our understanding.

Laura Monosmith, who teaches at Pine Hills in Miles City, highly recommends Visual Thinking Strategies, which she uses in her World, U.S. and government classes.

Sara Belke, who teaches English in Butte, wrote: "I taught The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and utilized a comic strip activity to have the students highlight what they learned about the characters and their experiences."

Some teachers chose to share anonymously: 

Local history integration into Montana history milestones. [I'm guessing this teacher asks students to examine local history when the class is studying homesteading, World War II, etc. One of my favorite examples of this type of project is detailed in this lesson plan: Local Experiences of World War I Lesson Plan, which asks students to conduct and share original research on ways the war impacted the people of their own county.]

Women's Suffrage lesson on Hazel Hunkins, a suffragist from Billings. "I used the QFocus lesson technique I learned from the Right Question Institute and took materials from the Hazel Hunkins lesson plan."



Monday, September 11, 2023

Last Minute Opportunity

 The University of Montana Western is part of a statewide effort looking to increase proficiency-based education (PBE) practices in Montana. They are looking for teachers to take part in curriculum work under the broad topic "Place and Displacement in the American West." Participating teachers will design a PBE-aligned unit, participate in four one-hour evening Zoom meetings in September and October, and attend an all-paid 2-day professional development trip to Cody, WY (including Heart Mountain Interpretive Center and the Buffalo Bill Center of the West) on November 6-7 (the program will pay for your substitute). Teachers will receive a $520 stipend based on completion of grant participation, up to $550 in classroom resources to create a PBE-aligned unit, and a copy of Proficiency-Based Instruction: Rethinking Lesson Design and Delivery.

If you are interested, please visit the project website to fill out the interest form by Friday, September 15. For more information, contact Katrina Kennett at UMW (katrina.kennett@umwestern.edu).

Best of, Middle School Edition

 Every spring, I ask folks to share their favorite Montana history or IEFA lesson, the one they would absolutely do again. Here are the responses from middle school teachers with some notes from me, in brackets. You can find the elementary school teachers' responses here.

Chris Clairmont, who teaches in Superior, wrote: "Making atlatls and arrows to throw at a mammoth. Kids loved it and gained an understanding of how difficult this was.' [Check out our step-by-step instructions for making atlatls.]

Jennifer Hall, Eureka Middle School, highly recommends Métis finger weaving. She wrote: "I found the lesson in the Discovering Lewis and Clark footlocker resources (from the Hands-On History Footlockers provided by MTHS). The lesson begins by reading the picture book, The Flower Beadwork People, and letting students explore the beautiful Métis sash provided in the trunk. After reading the book, students watch a video tutorial on how to finger weave like the Métis people. Although it was a bit slow and chaotic to start, all of my 135 students enjoyed this hands-on activity. They begged me to let them do it again the next day. My classroom floor was covered in yarn bits and I was exhausted by the end of my sixth class, but it was so worth it. I will definitely teach this lesson every year from now on."

Michelle Moccasin, who teaches Crow language and culture in Lodge Grass, recommends Bird Country, "a crow story about where the birds journey back to their homelands."

Sheryl Kohl, who teaches at Poplar Middle School in its alternative education program, recommends the footlocker Gold, Silver, and Coal: Oh, My! She wrote: "I expanded upon the "Motherlode" activity and the students were each a miner in the field, some days finding a few nuggets, and some days gambling away their profits!  Some days the weather would cooperate and some days the animals would get into their food.  The students had a great time." [Learn how to order a hands-on history footlocker here.]

Jim Martin, who teaches at C. S. Porter Middle School in Missoula, shared his approach to teaching about Indian boarding schools: "Students are faced with the guiding question: 'How have Native Americans been able to preserve their culture in the modern United States?' 

We then read Sweetgrass Basket by Marlene Carvell, a historical fiction book that describes the Native American boarding school experience. Throughout the unit we read various articles regarding Native Americans. Articles are found at Newsela and need of a subscription, but they discuss having better depictions of Native's in comic books, more Congressional representation, Charles Curtis, first BIPOC Vice President of the United States, the Dawes Act (1887) and Indian Removal Act (1830). We look at maps of Southeast United States and see how many tribes were relocated to other states and placed on reservations. We also look at Montana: Stories of the Land Chapter 13 p. 255, in which the two graphics illustrate homesteading into the Flathead Reservation.

While reading about the Indian Removal Act, we look at another article at Newsela that discusses how Native food seeds are being reunited with tribes. The Indian Removal Act conversation comes up again as we talk about, for example, foods in Florida not having the same climate as Oklahoma and Kansas. Students finish the unit with an essay answering the guiding question, "How have Native Americans been able to preserve their culture in the modern United States?"  

Dylan Huisken, who teaches in Bonner, wrote: "This year I designed modules using the Montana: Stories of the Land textbook, MHS recommended primary sources and links, and the Primary Source Analysis worksheet. Students responded well to the worksheets and did an amazing job. I then added other links, games, and activities for them to work on when done with their reading/notetaking/research. I gave students a week to complete their module and they could work with others. This was for 8th grade and was meant to act like an "independent study" that mimicked block scheduling and high school-level notetaking skills. This allowed for deep engagement with a topic of their choice, allowed us to share and cover a lot of ground, and worked as a natural segue for me to do a Charlie Russell lesson. Students completed the module using Google Classroom, which is the perfect template for offering up a variety of links, videos, and primary sources in addition to them doing pencil/paper notes and reading from the physical book. This was a rigorous way for us to cover the many topics of so-called Manifest Destiny in a place-based, IEFA-informed way without relying on the national timeline of Texas Independence, Polk, Trails, California Gold Rush, Railroads." 

Robin Miller, who teaches in Hot Springs, does a lesson on disasters that focuses on "The Three Disasters of Montana (Glacier Lake Missoula, Quake Lake, and the Yellowstone Caldera)." 

Glacial Lake Missoula is the first major disaster that occurred in Montana.  We read about it in our textbooks, watch a power-point and then watch the video "Mystery of the Mega Flood".  Then we create a list of the highlights of the disaster and put it on the whiteboard.  The students then take the list and divide it into categories and give them headings. (We save this list.)

Then we move on to the most recent disaster: Quake Lake. We read about it in the textbook, we watch a PowerPoint, then we read excerpts from primary resources that were published in the newspaper the next year. Then we once again create a list of the highlights of the disaster and put it on the whiteboard. The students then take the list and divide it into categories and give them headings.  (We save this list as well.)

Then we move to the disaster that hasn't happened yet: the Yellowstone Caldera. We read about it in the textbook, then we have a worksheet that covers some of the scientific aspects of this disaster, and finally we watch the video "SuperVolcano" that was produced by the Discovery Channel.  We again make a list of highlights of the disaster and create categories. 

The final activity varies depending on the year. Sometimes the students will debate which disaster is the most interesting, catastrophic, or horrific.  Other years the students write an essay that answer the same question in a writing prompt. Or students create posters of their favorite disaster, write a speech to support their choice, and then present their nominee for most interesting disaster. When all the speeches are finished, the students vote for the best disaster. Each student gets 2 votes so that they can vote for themselves and one other disaster.  

Other teachers answered anonymously: 

I used Montana Stories of the Land resource in my ELA classes as an extension activity. We were reading the novel Lyddie, which explores factory conditions in the 1800s. Students were able to explore the different industries in Montana through the Stories of the Land resource. [My guess is that she focuses on Chapter 15 and Chapter 16.] I followed up this exploration with a deeper investigation into the North Butte Mining Disaster of 1917.

Native poetry, boarding schools [I'm guessing she uses Birthright: Born to Poetry]

Charles Russell Biography through the PowerPoint presentation to 8th graders

Stay tuned for high school teachers' recommendations.


Thursday, September 7, 2023

Best of, Elementary Edition

Every spring, I ask folks to share their favorite Montana history or IEFA lesson, the one they would absolutely do again. Here are the responses from elementary teachers with some notes from me in brackets.

Angel Juarez, who teaches at Clinton Elementary, wrote: "I will always make time to teach the tribal homelands lesson! I was so excited to find transparency paper and see the students make amazing connections to the area we live in. I had some awesome feedback from students and saw students take control of their learning!" [This is a lesson from Unit 2: Montana's First People of the fourth-grade Montana: A History of Our Home curriculum.]

Savannah Buckner, who teaches fifth-sixth grade at Blue Creek Elementary, recommends 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving [an IEFA lesson from OPI.]

Susan Seastrand, who teaches at Morin Elementary, loves the Lewis and Clark footlocker. [Learn how to borrow our hands-on history footlockers here.] 

Johanna Trout, who teaches fourth grade in Billings, wrote: "I created mini unit on Star Quilts: Lessons in Leadership. It includes a literary component, a math component, a history component, and a civics and government component and Essential Understandings component." [Johanna has graciously shared her lesson, which is built around the book Shota and the Star Quilt. It includes having students create a class quilt and chose someone they wish to honor by giving it to them.]

Other teachers shared anonymously: 

The Art of Storytelling is my favorite lesson that I will never miss, but I am going to describe the fishing lesson. This year, I read a story [a chapter from Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare] where a boy loses his fishing hook, and a Native American helps him make a new hook. The class replicated that hook along with a fish trap and a spear used for fishing. It was group projects where trios of students each made a fishing spear, a fish trap, and hooks. It turned out really great.

I loved the immigration push and pull factor lesson from Unit 3: Coming to Montana of the fourth-grade Montana: A History of Our Home curriculum.

Blackfeet and Crow Star Stories, Grades 5-8

Finally, a teacher recommended "The one about the stars." I assume she was referring to one of the following IEFA lesson plans from OPI: 

Stay tuned for middle school and high school teachers' recommendations.

P.S. Don't miss the first of our monthly Monday Meetups, September 11, 4:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. where I'll be sharing an Introduction to Montana Historical Society Resources. Register to earn one Renewal Unit. 


Monday, September 4, 2023

Montana's Labor History

 This is a less practical post than most, but since it's Labor Day, I thought I'd share some resources relating to Montana's labor history. 

First up is this tour in Historic Montana, which features (in brief) a few of Montana labor temples, union halls, and other union-related sites, from Missoula's Free Speech Corner in Missoula to Forsyth's Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers Hall. Note: There are MANY sites that are not included in this list. Not every town in Montana had (or has) a significant union presence, but every railroad division and subdivision point, logging, or mining town did. Where did working people (primarily workingmen) gather in your community?

My colleague, Rich Aarstad, created an intriguing timeline of Montana labor history. Reading it over, several things surprised me, including the first workers to organize a union in Montana in 1866. It's not who you think.

Butte was known as the Gibraltar of Labor, so it's not surprising that there is a lot of material connected to the city.

Most of Montana's unions were exclusively male, but not all of them. Here's a short article about Butte's Women’s Protective Union. Before Montana passed legislation guaranteeing women equal pay for equal work in 1919* (forty-four years before the 1963 federal Equal Pay Act!), women hired to work for the Northern Pacific Railroad in Livingston during World War I received the same wages as their male counterparts because of the union. 

The Montana Historical Society has digitized over 600 oral histories with Montana workers Voices of Labor. I'm honestly not sure how--or whether--teachers can use these. I'd love your ideas. I do know that before looking at any of these oral histories, you, or your students, will want to look at the index, which lists topics covered in the interviews. (Links to the indexes are at the top of the page.) University of Montana has also digitized its Unions and Labor Oral History Collection. 

Happy Labor Day.

*I learned this from Rich's Montana Labor History Timeline, too!


P.S. Don't miss the first of our monthly Monday Meetups, September 11, 4:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. where I'll be sharing an Introduction to Montana Historical Society Resources. Register to earn one Renewal Unit. 

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Engage Your Students with Indigenous Stories

 The Big Sky Film Institute is once again partnering with the Montana Office of Public Instructions Indian Education Unit to share films made by and about Native people. According to their Facebook post in the Teaching Montana History Facebook group

The 2023 season of the NFI Film Club [Native Filmmaker Initiative] presents "Celebrating Cultures & Honoring Traditional Practices," a triptych of films curated to engage Montana youth with unique and uplifting stories of Native and Indigenous individuals ... who are building strength through their communities and upholding traditional practices in the modern day. Our films are selected and ready for teacher registration, each one accompanied with an accompanied discussion guide, streaming link to view the film and an invitation to join our live filmmaker Q&A with film teams and OPI’s Indian Education Specialist, Mike Jetty.

Here's more from their website: 

The Native Filmmaker Initiative Film Club is a virtual youth education outreach program that screens a curated selection of Indigenous-made documentary films in classrooms across Montana. Following the screenings, filmmakers visit classrooms virtually for a live Q&A and discussion activities rooted in Montana's Indian Education for All Essential Understandings. Film Club discussions are led by the Big Sky Film Institute in collaboration with Montana Office of Public Instruction’s Indian Education Specialists as well as participating filmmakers to talk in-depth about the process of filmmaking....

Running October through December, each Film Club event will focus on diverse Indigenous subjects and topics. Consult the discussion guides to help adapt the Film Club activities into social studies, science, history or other areas of study. Films are available to view in advance of Film Club discussions and each classroom will receive access to discussion guides and instructions on how to join the live Q&A.

Visit the Native Filmmaker Initiative website to register your classroom to view one or more of this year's films. Registration includes a screening link to the film with details to join a live filmmaker Q&A and accompanied discussion guides. Email Director of Education, Julia Sherman, at julia@bigskyfilmfest.org for more information, or to be added to their Youth Programs email list.

Here are the three films they will be showing this fall (text from the NFI website): 

October 11: Snqʷeyłmistn (pronounced, SING-KWAY-SH-MEE-STOIN), 7 minutes

Following the native-led organization ​Snqʷeyłmistn, this short portrait follows key players behind the organization's mission and seasonal programming which aims to foster Salish community immersion for foster children of the Flathead Reservation in Montana. With programs and activities designed to empower, strengthen, and inspire generational change, the organization offers indigenized solutions for foster care issues across the Flathead Reservation and greater Indian Country.  RECOMMENDED FOR ALL AGES & GRADES

November 15: Shrampari: Legacies of the River, 16 minutes

In one of the most remote places in the Peruvian Amazon, an Ashéninka boy must overcome his fears to start his journey as an adult: catching a giant catfish using only a hook. RECOMMENDED FOR GRADES 3+ (DUE TO SUBTITLES, OTHERWISE SUITABLE FOR ALL AGES)

December 12: Jonathan Thunder, Good Mythology, 14 minutes 

Follow Anishinaabe artist Jonathan Thunder as he dives deep into the inspirations behind his surrealist paintings and animations. From the killing of an iconic American hero to critical perspectives of how Indigenous people were portrayed in early children’s cartoons, Thunder’s art prompts viewers to reexamine our shared mythologies. THIS FILM IS RECOMMENDED FOR GRADES 4+

On their website you can also find links to past film club films and discussion guides. These films cover topics that are sure to connect with your students: skateboarding, boxing, mountain biking, fly fishing and horse racing to bison restoration and the water protectors movement. They also have a film notetaking guide that could be useful for any film you watch with your students. 

If you are interested in bringing authentic Indigenous voices and perspectives into your classroom--and I hope you are!--this is an amazing resource.

P.S. Don't miss the first of our monthly Monday Meetups, September 11, 4:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. where I'll be sharing an Introduction to Montana Historical Society Resources. Register to earn one Renewal Unit.