Monday, December 31, 2012

Power of Pictures - Part 1

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Why do I believe that using photos is a great way to teach kids critical thinking?  What is the connection between pictures and questions?  How do you read pictures?  What do pictures have to do with text?  Why should you teach photo-analysis in the classroom?  Photos are engaging. They are a non-threatening media (no text to struggle with).

Who hasn't looked at old family photo's without having questions about the pictures? 
  • Who are these people?
  • What are they doing?
  • When was this taken?
  • Where was this taken?
  • What's the story behind the photograph?
These questions lead to exploring connections.  Kids are great observers and they ask great questions.  Research is a multi-dimensional process - it is a skill that enhances life long learning.

How do you use photos in the classroom?  The Library of Congress and the National Archives as well as countless state Historical Societies have developed worksheets and lessons for analyzing historic photos.  I love most of these lessons.  So what's the problem?  

The language and concepts are to big for many of my younger and struggling learners.  I decided to  scaffold the process.  When kids work with the process they get better at it.  They ask deeper questions and are excited about discovering the answers.  To me photos are magic portals to exploring history.

I introduce the students to VTS - Visual Thinking Strategies with two books:  "Rosie's Walk" by Pat Hutchins (I like the big book) and Flotsam by David Wiesner.  I start by explaining that illustrations in picture books fall in roughly three categories (1) decoration  (2) enhances and tells part of the same story as the text (3) tells a different story from the text.

Rosie's walk is a parallel story,  the illustrations tell a different story than the text.  My students love the book.  It is really exciting watching them discover the other story.  I facilitate their discovery by repeatedly asking three open ended questions.  
  • What's going on in this picture?
  • What do you see that makes you say that?
  • What more can you find?
Once the kids have practice examining illustrations the next step is to look at photos using the same strategies.  Two great techniques to introduce is the "Magic Eye"  and "Crop It" .  

So where can you find pictures to use in the classroom?  I have been collecting interesting pictures from my local newspaper.  Another place for interesting contemporary pictures is National Geographic's Picture of the Day.  Our Class Reads wrote a post about how she uses "Picture of the Day" in her classroom.  

Here are some sources to get you started finding historical photographs.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Thinking Like a Historian: Using Digital Newspapers in the Classroom

What is so great about digital newspapers?  Well these newspapers are historic - primary sources.  Yes I see the glimmer of light coming on.  The Common Core Standards are big on using primary sources.  Chronicling America is a partnership between the Library of Congress and states to digitize historic newspapers.

I have been involved with creating a unit to use Montana newspapers that have been digitized.  You can work with the newspapers online, but I found that it is easier to print the newspapers for use in the classroom.  The lesson is available at the Montana Historical Society web-page

They have the lesson available as a pdf document 

It is also available on the Library of Congress National Digital Newspaper program site under  educational extras

Martha Kohl maintains the Montana History List serve       I recommend subscribing to this great list serve.  She sends out great resources for teachers and individuals interested in Montana history.  She also maintains a blog called -  Teaching Montana History

One of my favorite pieces of the Thinking Like a Historian lesson is the "Bingo" pages.  Students partner up each having a sheet of their own.  Looking at the newspaper they must look to find answers to questions in the blocks on the sheet.  Every 10 minutes the will move to a different newspaper and continue to work collecting information and discussing it with their partner.  These conversations are rich and provide valuable background when coming back together as a class and discussing their experience.

You can use Chronicling America to study the newspapers of other states.  I have to admit I am kind of biased towards the ones published here in Montana.  It is such a treasure of resources - may your search mining many golden nuggets.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Happy Trails

Have you ever told your mate, "You should have listened to me?"   July 13, 2012 we were driving near Lincoln, Montana when I saw it.  Down the road was a wagon pulled by some draft horses.  Now Dan is usually pretty good about turning around and going back so I can take some pictures.  But not this day!

When we got home Dan was reading a copy of the Western Ag Reporter.  He showed me the article about Bob -  He looked kind of sheepish and said I guess maybe we should have gone back.  Being the generous and loving wife that I am, I said.  "You're right.  You should have listened to me and turned around."

We followed Bob's blog and realized he wouldn't be far from Lewiston Idaho when we would be heading for Spokane. So Dan bless his heart took me on a road trip so I could get some pictures.  Bob's blog told us he had stopped for the night at Pomeroy, WA.  When we got past Pomeroy we occasionally saw some road apples, so suspected we were on the right track.    Timing was perfect.  We caught up with him at a little junction at Dodge, WA.

Bob was very gracious and visited with us about his horses and trip.  From reading other articles he had outfitted his wagon with solar power.  He looked like a very happy man.  Happy Trails Bob.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Arlee Montana

Arlee Post Office on the Flathead Indian Reservation
The present day town of Arlee, was named after a Salish leader Arlee.  In 1855 the Hellgate Treaty was signed.  The tribes present believed they were ratifying an agreement of friendship that would let them stay in the Bitterroot Valley forever.  The non-Indians came knowing the value of the land and wanting the removal of the Bitterroot Salish, Pend d'Oreille, and the Kootenai tribes.  

"A Jesuit observer, Father Adrian Hoecken, said that the translations were so poor that "not a tenth of what was said was understood by either side". 

It would be 15 years (1873) before the US government would successfully force the Salish to move to a "conditional reservation".  Arlee moved his people to the Jocko Agency located a few miles north of what is now Arlee.  The Jocko Agency was later called the Flathead Agency.  

The Jocko Church Cemetery is final resting place for Chief Charlo and others.  There are actually two cemeteries at this location.  The main cemetery behind the church and beyond that one is "The Fallen" cemetery.  The final resting spot for individuals whose life was not deemed worthy to rest within the church yard.

Graves of the "Fallen"

Monument for some of the community leaders.

Cemetery in the church yard.

More of the Fallen

Jocko Church

Jocko Church

Jocko Valley

Links of interest

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Missoula Montana

What do a carousel, a mascot, and a historic site have in common?  They can all be found in one of my favorite communities - Missoula, Montana.  Lewis and Clark passed through the valley in 1805.  C.P. Higgins and Francis Worden opened a trading post in 1860 calling it “Hellgate Village.” In 1877 the US Army established Fort Missoula it was decommissioned in 1947.

Montana was still a territory when an act of Congress dedicated 72 sections for the creation of the University (February 18, 1881).  It was founded in 1893 and formally opened in 1895.  The University even has it’s own zip code 59801 and its own postal service.  It also has a friendly rivalry with my Alma Mater, Montana State University – Bozeman.

Monte is the University mascot and in 2008 Jennifer Newbold wrote “The Great MonteMystery” (picture book).  I loved how she incorporated local landmarks within the story.

The Missoula Carousel is on my must see list.  In 1991 Chuck Kaparich a Missoula cabinet maker approached the city council.  He told them, “If you will give it a home and promise no one will ever take it apart I will build A Carousel for Missoula.” It was approved.  He taught volunteers to carve and paint and he rebuilt the mechanical parts of an old carousel. In 1995 the project was completed.  125 businesses and 1100 people had contributed financially, 240 volunteers had completed over 100,000 hours to make it a reality.

The day I was there a young bride and groom were enjoying the carousel with their wedding party.  They radiated such joy and promise.

A couple of Carousel Facts:
 - 38 carved horses, 2 chariots
 - 800 hours to carve and paint each horse

Fort Missoula is now a historic site.  May 12, 1896 2LT James Moss received permission to organize the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps.  It was the first of its kind in the country.  The story of the Black Bicycle Corps is an amazing story.  I first learned about the Regiment in an article featured in the Army Times many years ago.

Between 1941-1944 it served as an Alien Detention Center.  It held 1,200 non-military Italian men, 1,000 Japanese residential aliens, 23 German resident aliens and 123 Japanese Latin and South American aliens.

There are three major post offices in Missoula two in town and one on campus.  Check out the rainbow and flag near one of the post offices.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bonner, Montana

Bonner was my first Post Office of the day (I missed Clinton so we will do it another trip).  The first post office was established in 1888 with Lane Paskill as postmaster.  The town was named for Edward L. Bonner.   Bonner's Ferry, Idaho was also named for him.

E. L. Bonner was a partner in the Eddy, Hammond and Company when the Northern Pacific Railroad awarded them the lumber contract in 1881.  They went on to build the Blackfoot mill, it began operating in 1886.  The town of Bonner has been closely linked with the lumber industry.  It was dealt a blow when the mill was shut down in 2008.

Other Links of Interest  Bonner History   Timber's Back in Bonner

Bonner is located in southwestern Montana, just east of Missoula on I-90.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Montana - A State of Diversity

Montana is a state of great beauty and history.  My husband and I have been taking pictures of all the open Post Offices in Montana since last year.  From July 7 - July 15, nine days, we drove through 2640 miles of northwestern Montana taking pictures of about 60 Post Offices. This trip my stepdaughter joined us.  A friend accompanied us for the first two days of our journey meeting up with his cousin on the second day.

We saw roads and places none of us had ever been on before.  There are so many places we didn't go! This last year has helped me view Montana History in a whole new way.  I believe that place based learning is very important to understanding our history.

There are over 416 active post offices in Montana.  Last summer a friend challenged me to take pictures of all of them.    I have not counted them recently but I think we are sitting at about 300.  For me the post offices are interesting by themselves.  The history and environment of the community is what gives towns their zest and personality.  As we have driven through these communities I have tried to capture their flavor, telling a snippet of their stories with pictures and words.  

July 7th was the first day of our journey.  These were the major goals we had for our trip.
  • Photos of approximately 60 post offices
  • Glacier National Park
  • Photos for the teaching unit - "Girl from the Gulches"
  • Go to Yaak, MT
  • Go to Polebridge, MT
  • Go to Gates of the Mountains
Years ago I lived in Helena, Montana and traveled through the Northwest.  Dan and Peggy had never been to Glacier National Park or the Gates of the Mountains.  These were two places I wanted them to see.  Dan had always wanted to go to Yaak and Polebridge - perhaps two of the most remote spots in our state.

My pictures only capture a small part of the rugged beauty of this area.  I had forgotten how much I missed it.  These last few days renewed my soul.  The western part of the state landscape is so different from the eastern part of the state.  Both are beautiful in their own way.  The western part of the state has mountains and forests.  The eastern part is prairies, and rolling hills - rugged terrain that is reflected by the inhabitants.

Our first stop was Garnet, Montana - a ghost town.  Based on the map we thought it would be just a few miles off the interstate.   After traveling a number of miles we came to a sign that basically said if you have a trailer turn back and try a different road.  We didn't have a trailer so we continued on.  My husband loves exploring roads.  We have gone places that I just close my eyes and pray.  I love the beauty of most of the places we go just not always the getting there.

Part way up the mountain going to Garnet, MT

Someone had a sense of humor when they placed this sign without any other information.  I-90 (Interstate 90) that-a-way.

Garnet Montana was once a thriving mining community that was built in 1895.  Gold strikes during the 1860's brought people to nearby Bear Creek and Bear Gulch.  Like many of its contemporary towns many of the buildings have no foundations but they have lasted over 100 years.  

Garnet, MT today.

While we were there we met a lady who belongs to the Garnet Preservation Society .  We learned that unlike other mining communities Garnet was made up of miners and their families.  Garnet had a school soon after its founding.

The lady from the Garnet Preservation Society also directed us to a better gravel  road and we continued our journey.  Sadly there is no active post office in the Garnet area, there are over 350 people living between the base of the mountain up to the top.  Many are living off the grid.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Pryor Mountain Wildflowers

Sunday June 25, 2012 Dan and I, his sister and her husband took a trip up the Pryor Mountains.  The landscape is breath-taking.  The dirt roads have improved since last I was there.  Sections of the road are REALLY, rough though.  It took us one hour to go 8.4 miles, from the top of the mountain down to the ice caves. The elevation is 8822 feet.  There were still pockets of snow at least 6 feet deep on the mountain.  We traveled beyond the snow line.

The mountains are located on the Crow Reservation; BLM land, and private land.  It is a botanical hotspot.  There are about 8 species of flora that are found no where else in the world.  Wild horse herds also call it home.

These are some of the pictures I took of our day's excursion.

Wooly Prince's-Plume

Wooly Prince's-Plume

Sego Lily

Looking at the middle of a canyon wall about a third of the way up the mountain.

Shooting Star

Wild horse - I wonder what she is thinking?

Young colt - late birth.

Looking over the top.  Above the snow line.

I think these are Pasque flowers.

A carpet of wild flowers.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Spring brings the inevitable list of change.  Renewing, altering.  Teachers changing schools, retiring, moving on.  New hires.  Nothing is truly static.  I feel the ripples from other peoples choices.  Some I embrace, some wash over me - an I experience loss.

Tonight we will honor 5 women who are retiring from our library ranks.  4 active librarians and our library boss.  Several of these ladies I count as good friends.  I have been busy beading my gift to them.   I have tried to reflect the personality of each by the ornaments I beaded.

This is an original design.  I call it Concinnity - it means harmony of design.

I wish them happiness and joy as they leave our ranks.  I already feel the loss as I look back at our time together.  I look ahead and know that I will keep in touch with my friends but it is somehow different.