Monday, March 24, 2014

More on the 1964 Flood--and Student-led Community History Projects

I received a fair amount of feedback from last week's  post on the 1964 flood—all of which reinforced my belief that this would be an EXCELLENT community history project for high school students. When I pitched the topic, I provided a link to previous posts on teaching disasters and oral history in the classroom—but I thought folks might also be interested in some additional resources on conducting large community study projects.

The master of student-led community studies was the Montana Heritage Project, which was active from 1995 to 2006, but still has resources posted online.

Particularly useful, I think, are the MHP resources under the tab “Research with ALERT” (ALERT stands for “Ask,” “Listen,” “Explore,” “Reflect,” “Teach.”) Their website does a good job outlining the process for encouraging "high school students to take their communities as the subject of serious historical research."

But back to the flood itself, and the memories it evoked. 

Bonnie Boggs (now of Miles City) wrote:
This letter reminds me, with a heavy heart, the flood of 64.  I was 14 and we lived outside of Browning, 9 miles to the east.  The flood was devastating and I will remember it always. So much was lost and so many perished, including friends. I remember we didn't leave our farm because we had a cow that was due to calf at any time and we didn't have the means to leave the animals behind.  I recognize now that it meant my families livelihood as we had a dairy farm as well.  As the water rose we found ourselves on a small island completely surrounded by water.  We moved everything to the attic with hopes it would survive.  I also know that it made a deep impact on me, more than I ever thought.  Well, we did survive and I remember helicopters flying over and dropping food supplies. I also remember the radio saying that people needed to get shots as protection from flood caused disease and my 3 sisters and I feeling so lucky that since we couldn't get to Browning, we didn't have to get the shots........how lucky we were.....kids thinking no less. Only later did we realize the people who were lost and missing, one being my best friend and several of her family.  The loss was tremendous and the fear was ongoing for weeks after.  Floods are so powerful and when Mother Nature speaks the wrath can be enormous.  We survived, others did not and still life goes on with questions unanswered and perhaps it is meant that way.  I might add that 3 weeks after the floods subsided, the cow had a beautiful little Holstein calf.  We named her Miracle.
Diane Van Gorden (now of Baker) wrote:
I remember the Flood. I was 9! The HS Gym in Valier became the Red Cross center for many of the displaced families and my dad logged many hours on search and rescue while my mom worked at the gym and I babysat my younger brother.  And I remember trying to help by baking a batch of Ranger cookies that were a major flop.

Some people suggested resources.

Sandi Vashro recommends the book Sky, by Pamela Porter (grades 3-5). “A Blackfeet girl and her family are wiped out by the '64 flood.  However, she finds a young colt in the aftermath. Good book touching on many issues at the time.”

Reference Historian Zoe Ann Stoltz noted that the Montana Historical Society Research Center has put together a list of Montana disasters, that might make a good starting point for student research projects: . She also recommended the book Montana Disasters: Fires, Floods, and Other Catastrophes, by Molly Searl.

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