|Community Project Histories, 2001-2002
Past and Present
Jerry Girard, Beaverhead County High School
The staff of the Beaverhead County Museum led by Vinola Squires
approached the Beaverhead County High School staff during the winter of
2000-01 with the idea of writing a proposal to the Montana Heritage
Project. History teacher Jerry Girard accepted the challenge. Together,
the team decided to work with high school learners to compile a history of
Beaverhead County’s unique public school system. The county has operated
over eighty schools, including one of the state’s first at Bannock.
Currently there are eight separate school districts in Beaverhead County.
Six of those are K-8 rural schools in Jackson, Wisdom, Grant, Polaris,
Wise River, and Glen. The rural in Divide and Melrose are just beyond the
county border. These rural schools, along with size of the county itself,
make for a very distinctive public school system.
The Montana Heritage Project began in the fall of 2001. It included 12
learners first semester and 47 learners second semester in the Montana
History class. The main question posed by the class was simple: What is it
that makes education in Beaverhead County unique?
Learners began their research at the local archives at the Beaverhead
County Museum, the Dillon Tribune, and the County Superintendent’s
Office. In addition to statistics, learners found some documents such as
report cards that helped personalize the information. Their next step was
to collect oral histories of former rural school learners, teachers, and
parents. They even interviewed a retired professor of Western Montana
College who had instructed rural schoolteachers. Each interview subject
was photographed and the interviews were recorded on audio and video tape.
Accompanied by County Superintendent Dottie Donovan, the class traveled
to six rural K-8 schools that still operate in Beaverhead County. At each
school the researchers made photographs and shot video footage inside and
out during a regular class day. They also created written descriptions,
including physical measurements, and conducted interviews with all eleven
At the end of the project, the class donated several gifts of
scholarship to the museum: all the oral histories and interview tapes of
current rural school teachers as well as a brief interview with Dottie
Donovan; written and video documentation of each currently operating rural
school in Beaverhead County; a map showing the location of each of the
past and present schools; a detailed time line of the history of education
in the county from 1863 to the present; and more than 50 historic photos
gathered from interview subjects. The time line and map will form the
basis of a permanent exhibit to be mounted in the restored Argenta
Schoolhouse which has recently been relocated to the museum grounds.
One Hundred Years by the Bay
Mary Sullivan, Bigfork High School
Each of the 79 members of the junior class interviewed a veteran and
wrote a narrative based on the interview. Learners gathered vivid stories
from World War II, Korean, Vietnam and Gulf War veterans. Because of the
varying experiences of the veterans, the points of view expressed were
diverse, with World War II veterans tending to be strongly patriotic and
with Vietnam veterans tending to be quite skeptical.
Stories ranged from the heartwarming to the heartbreaking. Ham Forkner
described what happened after his plane was shot down over Holland. "Once
on the ground in Holland, I evaded capture. I spent the first few nights
in a haystack. The people passed me food through the hedges that divided
the fields. Someone brought me a bike and found me a house to stay in. I
was kept in a house, in the same room for thirteen months, hiding from the
Learners did readings to understand oral history. Studs Terkel’s
Pulitzer Prize winning book The Good War, an oral history of World
War II, proved invaluable. Reading it gave the learners insight into what
their work might sound like when finished.
The importance of understanding the historical setting of the oral
history was emphasized. Learners practiced trying to see the world from
the perspective their subjects. Through class discussions, learners
developed the questions they wanted to ask veterans. Working together,
learners evaluated and revised these questions. As student Michael White
said, "Unlike text books, the first hand information given to us by the
veterans does not just throw out random facts and numbers, but actual
experiences. This made me come to realize that every soldier is a
person and that every loss is a greater sacrifice than I could
They borrowed photographs from the veterans, scanned them, and
incorporated them with narratives written from the oral histories as part
of the public program.
In December, the class presented another public program: Bigfork, One
Hundred Years by the Bay, as the culmination of a community history
project they completed for the Chamber of Commerce’s centennial
Through the winter, student researched "women in Montana" and in the
spring they completed essays of place.
The literary magazine was published in May.
"My father was in the Korean War. He never really talked to me about it
until this oral history interview. Who would have thought my own father
had gone through so much. I will never forget it. For the first time, I
saw him cry." Lill Burgess
End of an Era: 85 Years at Broadwater High School
Darlene Beck, Broadwater High School, Townsend
"This class is far more advanced and interesting than any other class
I’ve taken," said Callie Kimpton. "In the future, I will look beyond the
obvious and wonder about everything’s past." Callie was one of 14 learners
in Darlene Beck’s Western Literature class who worked in research teams to
compile an 85-year history of Broadwater High School. The old building was
destroyed in 2001 to make room for a new school.
"The process was more valuable to them than their product," said
teacher Darlene Beck. "They were caught up in the research. Most were
intrigued by the newspapers and the museum archives. The project taught
them to ask questions and to find answers to their questions." Student
Sabrina Ravndal confirmed this: "The entire project was fun and extremely
educational. I would have to say I enjoyed doing the research the
most,"she said, adding "I regret not taking the class last year, and I
wish that I could take it again next year." The research included
explorations of statistical records in the superintendent’s office,
working through the archives of the Townsend Star, the courthouse,
the Broadwater County Museum and Historical Society, and studying a
collection of high school yearbooks from 1916 to the present.
"With all the digging and research that my group did, I came to the
conclusion that any type of historical research is a good thing" observed
April Schledewitz. "It expands one’s thoughts into another person’s life
Learners created an exhibit telling the story of the school through
time which was set up in the library through April and may. Also, audio
and video recordings of the interviews were placed in the local library
archives, and an illustrated history of the school in PowerPoint was
converted to a video to show at the spring parent/teacher conferences. The
findings were organized by decade into a bound book, which was presented
to the library archives.
"The Heritage project takes a different approach to learning than any
other class I have taken in all my school years,’ said student Billy
Holland. "It requires a lot of research coupled with good work habits,
such as staying on task and organizing information. The class is
demanding, but it is fun and interesting."
Building on the Past
Renee Rasmussen, Chester High School
"This was more than a paper to me," said Jamie Sparks when she finished
her research essay. "It was an experience I will never forget. I
interviewed people about the most tragic event that has happened in their
lives, and I learned a lot."
To get ready to complete their research essays, learners practiced a
range of research techniques. They became familiar with the extensive
collection of work completed by earlier classes in their ongoing work by
researching and writing a column for the Liberty County Times:
"This Week in Local History." Juniors and seniors also began work on
300-word local history pieces for the Chester Chamber of Commerce. The
Chamber is working on a tourism brochure, and will use Montana Heritage
Project research as the basis for their history sections.
Learners also identified photographs, researched them, and created
displays for the Liberty County Museum.
To combine archival and interview-based research, learners wrote papers
about family heirloom. This led them to think through questions about
their relationship to their family and to reevaluate their notions about
heritage and community.
After the September 11 terrorist attacks, learners explored
interviewing more thoroughly by creating web pages based on interviews.
One group talked to an air traffic controller from the east coast who was
on duty September 11. One interviewed a soldier from World War II who was
on his way to invade Japan as the U.S. dropped the bomb. Listening to the
historic record can be a hard job for teens when that listening must come
in textual form, but personal interviews provide compelling "listening"
experiences. One student talked of an interviewee unexpectedly crying
during an interview. One talked of feeling a bond with the couple being
interviewed. "It is this interaction between generations that make the
project work," said Renee.
After learners had completed these research projects, they were
assigned 10-page research papers which would be bound in a single volume
and donated to the local museum, the local library, the school library,
and the Montana Historical Society as well as any other interested
parties. "Writing this paper was one of the hardest things I have ever had
to do," noted Kevin Fenger.
Exploring Cultural and Physical Landscapes
Phil Leonardi, Corvallis High School
Shanda Bradshaw said she was nervous on the first day of school when
she went to her "Heritage Geography" class. "When Mr. Leonardi introduced
us to the idea of Heritage Geography and told us he wasn’t sure what was
to come either, I knew I was in for an adventure," she said. "Little did I
know what I would learn in just a semester and what kind of doors this
experience would open for me."
The 21 learners in Phil Leonardi’s freshmen geography class focused
their study on this question: How has the community dealt with the impact
of forest fires? Interest in this question was stimulated by the historic
fire season of 2000, which devastated much of the Bitterroot Valley.
Learners elaborated this big question into several more focused ones: What
community icons have persisted through time? How did people adapt and
change due to natural disasters? What effects of the fires can be seen in
Each student also dealt with a more personal question: Who am I and how
do I fit into this community?
To prepare for researching this large question, learners were guided
through an extensive series of projects to learn the repertoire of skills
needed by a community geographer and historian. Their focus shifted at the
very beginning of the school year when, after September 11, learners
decided to shift the focus of their community studies long enough to
document local reactions. They videotaped interviews with parents,
teachers, and other community members about their response to the
terrorist attacks. They learned interviewing skills, script writing, and
story boarding to create a video, which was shown at the Heritage Open
House later in the year.
Phil provided frequent direct instruction on the long-term value of the
work learners do. Many of them come to agree with him that seeing
themselves as related through a place and seeing that place related to
other places greatly increases their understanding of the world. "The
Heritage class has made be feel part of the whole, so to speak," said
Kevin Byrne. "When I do a project with the class, not only am I one with
my classmates, I am also part of a legacy that will live on beyond my
Learners were introduced to the five themes of geography by completing
geoportraits, in which they critically examined photographs of themselves
from the recent past to develop understanding of how they related to
place. Max Masnick commented that because of the Heritage project, he
thought about the way every town in the world has a history and he began
to think about how Corvallis is related to the world beyond the Bitterroot
Valley. He said that he began "to connect to the community of Corvallis
through its history and its past, and to the rest of the country through
To develop their historical consciousness, learners examined the
homesteading period, comparing and contrasting the Montana lifestyle of
1900 with their own. They read Percy Wollaston’s Homesteading ,
visited the Montana Historical Society’s traveling exhibit of photographs
by Evelyn Cameron, then each wrote a "Postcard from the Prairie"
describing the everyday lives of homesteaders.
They followed this up with a re-photography project. Each student found
a historic photograph of a local building and re-photographed it, showing
the same scene from the same vantage point today. They mounted both
photographs with a brief history of the building, detailing the various
uses to which the building had been put through the years, and displayed
the finished products on a rotating basis in area businesses. This
collection of photographs will be added to by each class in future years.
To learn how to use quantified information about the past, learners put
the 1900, 1910 and 2000 census records in a spreadsheet. This allowed
them to manipulate and chart the data to examine average ages, numbers of
males and females, educational status, occupations, and places of birth,
and to follow trends through time. With this background, each student
chose one person who appeared in both the 1900 and the 1910 census for
Corvallis to research in more depth. They located "their" person in a
cemetery data base and used this to locate the grave. They made a rubbing
of the headstone as a way of transporting data from it back to the
classroom. Using the year of death from the headstone, they located the
person’s obituary in the archives of local newspapers. These obituaries
provided basic biographical information.
The significant events from each person’s life were charted on a time
line the entire class created, showing important events in the state,
nation, and world. Each student chose one event from this time line to
research in more depth.
It was at this point that the focus returned to the fires of the
Bitterroot Valley, as some of the students focused their research on those
events. They reached an agreement with the Bitterroot National Forest to
digitize some of their historic photographs and to provide some
cataloguing assistance in return for access to the photographs and the
expertise of the foresters. Learners took over 100 photographs from the
Forest Service archives to the classroom to be duplicated. Using their
skills in archival research and interviewing, the class, grouped into
research teams, created tales of local events from the past. These were
included in a video production shown to the community in the spring.
The Montana Heritage Project has been in Corvallis for seven years,
long enough to become a tradition. "My brother was in the heritage
project," said Lindsay Thomas, "and ever since then I have wanted to be
part of it." That tradition is in part of tradition of inquiry. "Being in
this project changed the way I see the area around me," said Jordan Hooten.
"It let me look into the world with a new sense of understanding."
A History of Philanthropy: the Bair Family
Nancy Widdicombe, Harlowton High School
"The Montana Heritage Project is not just a class–it’s an experience!"
said one senior at the end of an entire quarter focused on research and
writing. Sixteen seniors in Nancy Widdicombe’s English IV class spent nine
weeks researching the Charles M. Bair family and their notable
philanthropies in Montana, particularly in Yellowstone, Wheatland, and
Meagher counties. Learners documented and researched artifacts at the Bair
Family Museum, joined a sheep shearing operation at the Bair ranch, and
interviewed thirteen friends and neighbors of the Bair family as well as
museum docents and historians.
Students held an open house to show their work to the community on
April 18, 2002. As part of that program, Cody Halsy and Kelly Warren wrote
an introduction to the project:
"Harlowton students. . .have conducted an extensive study into the
Charles M. Bair family, using the resources of the Bair Museum in
Martinsdale along with the adjoining ranch on the North Fork of the
Musselshell. The class divided the work among several research teams, each
taking a topic related to the Museum, the ranch, or the family’s many
philanthropies. . .The research included sheep ranching in
turn-of-the-century Montana, gold-mining in Alaska, the family’s
relationship with Chief Plenty Coups, and an extensive cataloguing of the
artifacts in the Bair home, which is now a museum. Students did research
at the U.S. Bank in Billings, the Alberta Bair Theater, and the Bair
archives at the museum."
Students told the stories they found through a slide show and video
presented to the community at an open house. They also published a 74-page
book: The Bair Family: A Montana Legacy.
Teacher Nancy Widdicombe said the Project is worth the time and effort
it takes because of what it teaches students: engagement with community
members; an interest in and a love of area history; collaboration with
peers and interdependence through a large-scale, complex project; and
gathering large amounts of data and assimilating it and choosing from it
for a final presentation. "In other words, analysis and synthesis–those
higher levels of thinking."
Collecting Oral Histories of Tobacco Valley
David James, Eureka High School
Eureka is a small town in the beautiful Tobacco Valley in northwestern
Montana, about fifty miles northwest of Whitefish and seven miles from the
Canadian border. During the 2001-2002 school year, students in David James
American History class recorded fifty oral interviews with relatives and
other community members. They worked in pairs to research an assortment of
topics in Eureka’s history, such as the coming of electricity to the
valley, the history of the old town of Rexford (inundated by the waters of
Lake Koocanusa when Libby Dam was constructed), and a history of 4-H in
the Tobacco Valley. They read their research papers to the public in
special readings at the Eureka Book Company. The transcripts from many of
these interviews have been placed on the Project’s web site.
The Land and its People: Learning a Sense of Place
Jeff Gruber, Robert Malyevac, Rose Goyen, Libby High School
The Montana Heritage Project Class taught by Jeff Gruber was organized
around the ALERT inquiry process. The first semester was designed so that
the eighteen students in the class became familiar with the history of
Libby as well as with the resources available in the for research in the
community. They were introduced to a variety of research methods,
including interviewing and archival searches for primary sources.
They began by reading local histories published by the Libby Writer’s
Group: In the Shadow of the Cabinets, Times We Remember In and Around
Libby, Tapestries of Yesterday, and Nuggets to Timber. Through
group discussions, learners formed questions for further research based on
To gain a more detailed understanding of the historical record, each
learner researched the history of a site and included this research in a
careful documentation of the present. They photographed the site, wrote
descriptions including the precise location, the purposes and uses to
which the site had been put, and a history of what had happened there.
Their photographs were given to the Heritage Museum for cataloging and
They investigated the way places are given meaning by writing Essays of
place, which linked the history and nature of specific places to the
personal meaning that made these places important to them and their
families. Each student wrote about personal experiences that had
influenced the writer and that had given the selected place its
To deepen their sense of personal connection while learning archival
research skills, each student located the legal descriptions and
appraisals of the houses where they currently lived in the Lincoln County
Court House. Using these records, they wrote brief histories of their
They read Lincoln County’s War Record, a book compiled in 1920
to chronicle the contributions of Lincoln County to World War I. This text
described the economic, scenic, and human amenities of each town in the
county, and it gave learners considerable insight into how people in the
1920s thought about the future. Each learner chose a single element– such
as natural resources, employment opportunities, or wildlife–and wrote an
essay comparing Lincoln County in 2001 to Lincoln County in 1920. As part
of their research, each student was asked to get an insight from someone
who had lived in Libby for at least 40 years.
This was followed by a concentrated focus on the interview process. The
class invited Brad Phillips, a 76-year resident of Libby, to be
interviewed in class. Learners asked questions, took notes, transcribed
the session, and typed the questions and responses into a document
summarizing some of Mr. Phillips’ life. After this "fishbowl" interview,
each learner interviewed a person of his or her choice, transcribed the
tapes, then conducted a follow-up interview to be sure the transcription
was accurate. They then wrote narratives based on the interviews.
During this process, students discovered that ordinary people could and
did accomplish great things in their lives.
With this background in historical research and the community’s
history, students used their academic talents to complete several service
projects. For the Montana Heritage Project, students contributed materials
to the 1910 Expedition. They searched microfilm copies of local newspapers
for interesting or significant events that occurred during 1910, and
retyped these articles so the text could be placed online. They searched
the local museum archives for photographs of Libby in 1910. They
interviewed a woman who was born in 1910 and had lived her life in Libby.
They put all these materials on the Project website.
For the local mill operated by Stimson Lumber Company, students
completed a brochure detailing the manufacturing process as it occurs
today. This included researching the impact of the local company on the
community. Learners wrote questions, interviewed workers, and took a
photographic tour a the plywood mill and finger joint operation. This led
to both an illustrated web site and a color brochure.
Students also added to the collection of large-format historic
photographs that classes have been placing in area businesses. Five new
photographs, including informational labels, were completed and placed at
Millworks West, A1 Conoco, Saverite South, Stimson Lumber Company, and
According to Jeff Gruber, the project begins to work "when students
realize that what they are doing is real work" and not just classroom
exercises. "I ask more of students in this class," he said, "And I meet
some resistance and arguments early in the year. But, as the year goes on,
most students begin to understand that it is a different class and that
there are different outcomes expected."
Each student did a culminating project based on research into a topic
of his or her choice. Each student presented the research question and the
findings to a Community Heritage Evening, held on April 25 and attended by
160 community members. Each student provided copies of the final research
essay, a photographic display, and a PowerPoint presentation. A replica of
a historic Kutenay canoe was on display. The presentations were
informative and entertaining, using both words and images, and many
community members stayed long after the presentation, examining displays
and interacting with learners. The final research products were donated to
the Heritage Museum.
An Expedition to World War II
Christa Umphrey, Ronan High School
During the 2001-2002 school year, forty freshmen in Christa Umphrey’s
English classes studied twentieth century wars and interviewed local
veterans as part of the Library of Congress Veterans History Project.
Before the interviews began, students read extensively, to develop
background knowledge. In small groups they chose nonfiction or historical
fiction books about the war to read together. The entire class read novels
based on war. Christa put a large world map on the wall and had learners
find out where at least one of their grandparents were during World War II
and to put a marker on that spot.
After September 11, the class interviewed community members about their
reactions. This allowed learners to become familiar with interviewing
procedures, the equipment used, and the process of turning transcripts
into narratives. They created web pages based on these interviews.
When it was time to interview veterans, many learners were reluctant,
especially those who had limited interaction with those two generations
older, so the first interviews were done at school. The local VFW sent
four veterans who spoke to the entire class then gave interviews to small
groups. Working through the VFW and the grandparents of some students, a
willing veteran was found for every student. The interviews were conducted
at school because freshmen are too young to drive. Some of the veterans
were as nervous as the students. Though the pairings between students and
veterans were for the most part random, each student seemed sure he or she
had been luckier than everyone else.
The least enjoyable part of the process of turning the interviews into
finished intellectual products was transcribing the audio tapes. Getting
from great stories full of details to texts on paper was a lot of work,
but having the information in text form made the next steps much easier.
Students selected important ideas or themes and interesting stories
from the transcripts and wrote narratives, which they took back to the
veterans to be checked for accuracy. Most veterans made few corrections.
Some added further stories that hadn’t been included in the first
Researchers requested photographs of their subjects during the war.
They revised their stories repeatedly, created web pages and then
worked on PowerPoint presentations to highlight excerpts from the
narratives to present to the public at a veterans appreciation celebration
at the school. "I learned how revisions and letting others read your work
can help you out a lot," noted R. J. Olsen. As the presentations were
readied, several practice and critique sessions were held. Students
reminded each other to speak up, to slow down, to speak more clearly. "By
practicing our presentations, we found out we needed to be louder and to
explain some things more," said Aaron Skogen. "Setting them up took some
time because we wanted them to be perfect."
After the presentations, many students were impressed with what they
had accomplished. "I didn’t think I was capable of making something turn
out that well," said Courtney Zimmerer. "I learned what makes a good
interview, a lot of information about World War II, and how to give a good
Most of the veterans attended the afternoon presentation in spite of
illnesses and other inconveniences. "The highlight of this project for me
was when we gave our veteran a copy of everything we had done," said Zak
Brandon. "It doesn’t matter what grade I get because I know I worked to
make this the best documentation of his military service that I could.
There were tears in his eyes when he said, ‘thank you.’"
Mischief on the Musselshell
Tim Schaff, Dale Alger, Toni Gies, Roundup High School
Forty-four students in the Local Legacies class, the English II class,
and the photography class completed a wide array of projects contributing
to Roundup’s knowledge of its heritage. Most of this work was guided by
English teacher Tim Schaff, librarian Dale Alger, and art teacher Toni
Roundup High School offers a Local Legacies class as an elective. The
nine students in this class taught by Tim Schaff worked in four major
areas that were related to each other: literature, archival work,
community contact and interviewing, and historical research.
Students began the year with extensive readings to gain basic knowledge
of the history of the region as well as a sense of the issues people here
face. They read all or part of the following works: The Ornery Bunch
(Falcon Press), Horizon's O'er the Musselshell, Montana, The
Greatest Generation, and Flags of Our Fathers. All learners
read all of Montana, A History of Two Centuries, and each student
had a choice of reading either Flags of Our Fathers or The
Greatest Generation. The last two books, dealing with World War II,
helped students prepare to interview local veterans.
Class members recorded interviews with eight veterans: Rudy Pfister,
John Liggett, Frank Fehernbach, Hazel Moore, Loren Erbe, and Merrill Lee
from World War II; and Glen and Mary Russell from Korea and Vietnam. They
used the Library of Congress Veteran's Project interview questions for
both civilians and veterans. All these interviews were transcribed.
Learners found the interviewing educative and personally gratifying.
"When we interviewed Mr. Erbe," said Gina Hansen, "We were there for 3 ½
hours. I was never bored for a second." Though Gina felt the same way
about doing the transcription of the tape, most students, like most oral
historians, felt that the transcription process was very tedious even
though they recognized its value.
As part of an ongoing service project, students made prints from copy
negatives of museum photographs created last year. Mr. Schaff and
librarian Dale Alger had about 300 negatives that needed to be printed.
Under Mr. Alger's supervision, students made and displayed 72 prints in
the fall quarter which were donated to the Musselshell Valley Historical
Museum. In the final quarter of the year, Sara Voise, Gina Hansen and
Destiny Feherenbach decided that their spring project for the final 3
weeks of the year would be to add an additional 15 prints each to the
collection. Sara added 36 on her own. Gina added another 28, and Destiny
added 22. They recorded the f-stop and exposure time for each print with
the negative number and roll number so that future copies can be made with
less effort. Their work put the photo archiving project over halfway to
completion. All the negatives are stored in acid free albums and archived
Each student also researched and wrote papers. As part of the "Mischief
on the Musselshell" project, class members researched nine murders that
occurred between 1911and 1935. They used court records and old newspaper
accounts to do the research. They discovered that newspaper accounts did
not always jibe with the court records. They also found that complete
transcripts of the cases usually did not exist. One case had a record of
witness testimony, but it was written in shorthand. They have not yet
found anyone who can translate it.
Twenty students in the English II class also contributed to the
heritage project. They began with a reading of Ivan Doig’s English
Creek for background history of the area. Learners then interviewed
family members to learn the stories of when family members first arrived
in the Musselshell Valley. Some of these stories went back five
generations while others had occurred very recently.
Learners also brought family artifacts to class and wrote 75-word
labels identifying their origin, history and family significance. Over 100
artifacts were prepared and a temporary museum was created. The class
invited the third and fourth grade students along with their parents and
grandparents to this museum. Fourth graders had been doing a family
history project, and they were invited to display their work as well.
Fifteen tables of displays were set up.
At the end of the unit, Tim Schaff observed that "Heritage work is full
of rewards and surprises. But it also has its frustrations, and it can
take tremendous amounts of time in and out of class, adding a lot of
stress to a teacher’s life."
Fifteen learners in Tony Gies’ photography class picked five historic
barns from the surrounding area to document. Photographers shot each barn
from five angles. They also shot the interior, drew the floor plan, and
researched the building dates and who the original builders were when
possible. The Simms barn in Ryegate, which now belongs to Jess Garfield,
was the most fully documented.
This barn was placed on the National Register of historic places by Mr.
Garfield and his wife. They were extremely knowledgeable about all the
buildings on their place. Jess has also lived his entire life in Ryegate,
and is a third generation Golden Valley County resident. He was very
willing to share his research. He didn’t communicate much when the tape
recorder was on but whenever it was off he shared a wealth of information.
The materials created as part of the heritage project will be archived
locally at the Musselshell Valley Museum as well as at the Montana
Historical Society in Helena.
Myth and Truth in the Sun River Valley
Dorothea Susag, Bill Durocher, Belinda Klick, Simms High
"I saw a lot of elderly people happy and excited to see young people
working so hard," said Kary Kolski. "By doing the heritage project, I
learned that elderly people have interesting stories to tell and it makes
them happen to know that we younger people do care." Community member
Butch Walker agreed: "This project brings together all generations of the
The heritage project in Simms was a cross-curricular effort involving
the junior English and history classes. Fifty-five students, four
teachers, and twenty-five community mentors participated.
One emphasis of the project was on what truths lie behind the myths we
have heard or known about our place. Learners read either Killing
Custer by James Welch or A Bride Goes West by Nannie Alderson
and Helen Huntington Smith and began identifying myths and forming
questions about them for research.
Another emphasis was upon collecting oral histories for the Veterans
History Project sponsored by the Library of Congress. Students were
divided into five groups, each for a different war. In addition to reading
extensively, students visited the Fort Missoula Museum, the Cascade County
Historical Society Archives, and Wohlgemuth’s World War II Museum in
Vaughn to research "their" war.
Working in groups of two and with an adult mentor, class members
interviewed more than thirty people who had served in the military or on
the home front during any of the wars of the Twentieth Century.
A selection of work from all the projects completed during the year was
published in the fifth literary magazine produced by the Simms Heritage
Project: Stories in Place, V. The junior class did the research and
writing then submitted it to the senior class, who did the editing and
The final major undertaking was to transform the quarter’s work into a
heritage fair for the entire community. Groups designed and created
booths, committees planned music and ways to honor veterans and other
community members who had helped, and all students helped write
invitations and make phone calls. This annual fair has become a community
tradition that brings 200 or more people to the high school gymnasium, and
students are aware of the high standard set by previous classes.
"One thing that won’t be on the Iowa Basics test is how important
communication with others is through a project like this one," said Kevin
Mellinger. Gordon Hawks went further, "I learned that even though history
and communication are good, they are nothing without a community to use