Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Nonfiction Detectives: Perfect Pairs: Using Fiction and Nonfiction Pictur...

The Nonfiction Detectives: Perfect Pairs: Using Fiction and Nonfiction Pictur...: Perfect Pairs: Using Fiction and Nonfiction Picture Books to Teach Life Science, K-2 by Melissa Stewart and Nancy Chesley Stenhouse Publ...

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Who Are The People We Honor?

This morning I was looking at the historical register for Montana, gathering ideas for upcoming lessons.   As I waited for inspiration to strike, I checked my email.  There was something from the Zinn Project  "Its Not Just the Confederate Flag" .  

I have a friend who lives in South Carolina.  I worry about her safety and the safety of her family.   When I was in the service another friend and I invited one of our instructors to visit Montana.  He looked at us smiled and said a firm no.  He had no intention of ever returning to Montana.

He had traveled through Montana in the late 60's to get to a family funeral.  He remembered stopping for gas in Montana and being stared at.  At the time I laughed and said small towns do that with every outsider.  Little did I understand how sinister those actions would feel to someone who had experienced violence because of the color of their skin.

The news stories of today make me wonder if I have fallen into a time warp or an alternate universe where the 60's just continued without a change of course.  I ask myself how does this happen?  Why is it continuing?  What can we do to change it?  I believe understanding our history and heritage is the responsibility of being an informed citizen.

As an educator I believed the lynchings and bombings of the 60's were behind us.  That as a society we had turned the corner and were becoming a more enlightened society.  I was wrong!

In the Zinn Project post they wrote about two men I had never heard of.  The first was Ben Tillman South Carolina Governor and US Senator.  (His statue stands in front of the South Carolina Capitol.)  They also wrote about Robert Smalls another man I had never heard of.

The article makes the suggestion that perhaps it is time to honor heroic men and women and replace the monuments and statues of individuals whose actions we now view as despicable by reasonable people.

I do not live in South Carolina, I do not face violent discrimination every day.  I am an outsider looking in.  So what does this have to do with US Senator Ben Tillman and Robert Smalls?

The last several years it has been my privilege to facilitate workshops about teaching with primary sources.  I tell teachers that history is messy.  There are layers and many contradictions.  I remind teachers to view the language and documents within the context of the times.

Our textbooks write a sterilized paragraph or two about events.  Raw history is messy, violent and often does not end happily ever after.  It is about people.  Complex, unpredictable people whose lives are complicated and controversial.

I wonder what discussions we would have in our classrooms if we gave them primary sources surrounding both these men, and asked them who deserved to be honored in front of the South Carolina Capitol?  Whose perspective is not represented?
  In 1900 on the Senate floor  US Senator Tillman stated -  
“In my State there were 135,000 Negro voters, or Negroes of voting age, and some 90,000 or 95,000 white voters. Now, I want to ask you, with a free vote and a fair count, how are you going to beat 135,000 by 95,000?”

Senator Tillman often bragged about his involvement in the "Hamburg Massacre" 
Here is the article "DEMOCRATIC REFORM THE HAMBURG MASSACRE." as was published in the State Journal dated Aug 11, 1876  - Aug 11, 1876
In the article "Saving the Nation" The National Tribune wrote about Capt Robert Smalls

As a society we need to be having conversations about who we honor and why.  Can you imagine what those conversations would sound like in your classroom?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

James Earl Jones Reads Frederick Douglass

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Charlie Russell and the Margin Project

Charles M Russell created over 4000 pieces of art in his lifetime  (documented numbers).   Charlie often illustrated his letters to friends.  Writing for him was a challenging endeavor, his spelling is thought provoking.

In 1902 B.B. Kelly loaned Charlie his copy of A. C. Laut's "The Story of the Trapper".  When Charlie returned the book  B.B. discovered to his delight about 16 new illustrations in the margins.  B.B. died in 1920 at which time he conveyed the book to his infant godson, Stephen A. Birch.  It remained in his private collection until his death in 2009.

The Birch heirs have leant it to the Montana Historical Society where it is on exhibit.  Several of the illustrations have been reprinted as cards that can be purchased at the Museum Gift Store.

Charlie's talent is amazing, but using art to synthesize reading is within all students ability.  Corbett Harrison uses Mr Stickman in his classroom.  You can find his original handouts at along with how some of his students used it in their notebooks.

I would also like to share some information about the "Margin Project" and how some teachers and librarians are using it with their students.  Select books are chosen to be written in.  (You didn't ever think you would hear that from a librarian.)

The first reader adds notes as he/she reads.  Then the book is passed on.  The second reader add their own notes and sometimes responds to the notes from the previous reader.  Then the book is passed on.  Reading has become a more social experience.  My friend Kathi has used the Margin Project to the delight of some of her book clubs.

Read more at Jen Malone's site!margin-project/cpa5

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Attending the Charlie Russell Symposium

I grew up seeing Charlie Russell's art on calendars, and knick-knacks.  Reproductions hung in homes. I remember the first time I saw an exhibit of his work.  It would have been in 1979 after I moved to Helena, Montana.  I visited the Montana Historical Society and they had some of his work on exhibit. My favorite pieces were some letters he had illustrated.  They spoke to me but I didn't understand yet what they were saying.

During the intervening years I would have a nodding acquaintance with the artist.  A few years ago I was participating in a writer's challenge.  I had chosen Montana A-Z.  I was stuck for a place for the letter "U".  My husband said let's go to Utica.  That was the town in one of Charlie Russell's paintings.  And my journey began.

A Quiet Day in Utica

I came to understand Charlie Russell was not only a gifted artist but above else he was a story teller. 

The Montana Historical Society has been celebrating the 150th anniversary of Charlie's birthday.   It has been my honor and pleasure to be able to attend the Charlie Russell Symposium that they organized this year.  Scholars and authors,  actually they are Rock Stars in the Charlie Russell world.  
What I notice is the connection and friendship that these scholars and historians have developed over the years.  They have been generous with their time and knowledge.  It has been an incredible few days.  

Here is a list of some of the presenters:

Jodie Utter
Peter Hassrick
Mary Jane Bradbury
B Byron Price
Kirby Lambert
Jennifer Bottomly- O'Looney  
Brian Dippie
Larry Len Peterson
Kathryn Kramer
Jack Gladstone
Montana PBS

And of course there are the wonderful books.  Larry Peterson gave 50 copies of his book "Charles M. Russell:  Photographing the Legend, to Montana Schools.  I decided on two books "Montana's Charlie Russell" by Jennifer Bottomly-O'Looney and Kirby Lambert.  And "The 100 Best Illustrated Letters of Charles M. Russell" by Brian Dippie.  My husband tried to talk me out of purchasing them.

As I was paying for the two books.  The fellow from the bookstore turned to my husband and said.  "You weren't successful".  You see Dan had been planning to buy them and give them to me for a present.  I think today I will point out several other books I have my eye on.